Actor Sam Elliott has appeared in numerous westerns across his career. But even he has his own favorite western stars and on-screen cowboys.
For Elliott, it doesn’t get better than actors of a bygone era. Elliott was a fan of John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, and Gary Cooper. In fact, Elliott used to watch Wayne movies when he was growing up. Two of his favorites were “Red River” and “The Searchers.”
“Oh God, I’ve got a lot of them. ‘The Searchers’ was probably a favorite as I was growing up, along with ‘Red River,'” Elliot told Zoomer. “And you know, I don’t just single out those two because John Wayne was in both of them. Jimmy Stewart was my guy and my favorite actor was probably Gary Cooper. He and Jimmy Stewart are guys that I most appreciated with the kinds of roles that they played. They always seemed to be guys with real integrity in their lives.”
When it came time to make movies himself, Elliott tried to emulate some of his cinematic heroes. He always chased after projects he found rewarding rather than the ones that were going to offer him the biggest payday.
“I had a conscious thought early on [in my career] that if I was going to have longevity then I needed to be careful about the kind of work that I did,” Elliott continued. “It was never about making money for me, it was about doing good films or TV projects. That’s not to say there aren’t a few stinkers out there, but for the most part, I’ve done stuff that I can hold my head up about.”
Sam Elliott Once Met John Wayne
In fact, Elliott actually met John Wayne once. Wayne had been working on “The Shootist,” which turned out to be his final role. The two didn’t appear on equal footing back then. Elliott was still just an aspiring actor trying to make it in the industry.
He approached Wayne as a fan in the 1970s, wanting an autograph of some John Ford paintings. Ford and Wayne had partnered together on several classic westerns.
“He was doing ‘The Shootist,’ his last film. I had this collection of water-colored prints called a John Ford Collection — beautiful paintings done by 14 of his favorite 20 actors he ever worked with,” Elliott told Southbend Tribune. “Wayne was among them. … I went in and talked with him for a few minutes. He didn’t know me from Adam but he knew I was an aspiring actor.”
Elliott would go on to star in a number of westerns and films himself, inspiring the next generation of cowboys and actors to do the same.