In November 2018 California was left devastated by two massive wildfires. While the Camp Fire raged in the northern region, those living in Los Angeles, California, had to contend with the Woolsey Fire. Hollywood actor Sam Elliott was one of those individuals, as his house was in the direct path of the blaze.
Entering the world in August 1944, Elliott grew up in Sacramento, California, with early aspirations to become a performer. Indeed, after his stint with a local choir, the youngster started to attend the cinema regularly, enjoying a variety of movies. At that point, something seemingly clicked in his mind.
“I had a pretty clear vision of thinking, ‘That looks like fun, I want to do that,’” Elliott recalled to Variety magazine in January 2019. That passion only grew in the next few years, as the Sacramento native retained his dream while at high school. However, those aspirations caused some tension within his family.
Elliott’s mom was very encouraging about his acting aspirations, but the same couldn’t be said of his dad. He strongly believed that his son wouldn’t be able to make anything of himself in that profession. Despite those doubts, though, the youngster refused to be deterred in pursuing his ambition.
“[My dad] gave me that proverbial, ‘You’ve got a snowball’s chance in hell of having a career in that town,’” Elliott told The Hollywood Reporter in January 2019. “I don’t think that his skepticism ever made me veer, one way or the other, off my chosen path.” At that point, his life then took an interesting turn.
During Elliott’s teenage years, his family relocated to Portland, Oregon, leaving behind the bright lights of California. He still managed to keep his dream alive, though, as the aspiring actor started to perform at a local theater. As well as having that experience, he also enroled at two colleges.
Indeed, Elliott became a student at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington, and the University of Oregon. However, life changed for the Sacramento native in 1966, when his dad suffered a fatal heart attack. And he considered that his father had not been dissuaded from his stern stance in the past few years.
“[My dad] died thinking, ‘Man, this kid is going to go down the wrong path,’” Elliott said in an interview about his father. “And I think on some levels that was either hard on me or made me more focused in my resolve to have a career.” On that note, the future film star then made a bold decision.
Elliott moved back to California after his dad’s passing, while his mother remained in Portland. He continued his acting studies during that time, alongside a construction job in Los Angeles. In 1967, though, the young performer finally made his big-screen debut in a western titled The Way West.
While it was only an uncredited role, Elliott then went on to score a deal with Hollywood studio 20th Century Fox. Off the back of the contract he signed, the actor was cast in television shows such as Judd for the Defense and The Felony Squad at that time. However, the excitement didn’t end there.
Elliott went on to bag his second movie role in 1969, when he briefly appeared in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. “I had one line, off-camera,” he recalled to Variety. “‘I’ll take two.’” After that, the Sacramento native featured in further TV shows, before his life took another interesting turn.
Elliott’s contract at 20th Century Fox was essentially ripped up due to the end of the Hollywood studio system. Despite that disappointment, though, he refused to get downhearted, instead focusing on the positives. In his mind, this would open the door to new opportunities in the business.
“Getting let go from the program was just another chapter,” Elliott told The Hollywood Reporter. “It was exciting. I was going to get to go outside the studio and go on interviews.” The Los Angeles resident was right to feel optimistic, as he continued to establish himself throughout the 1970s.
Elliott was to appear in shows such as Gunsmoke, Mannix and Mod Squad. But before that, he earned a recurring role in Mission: Impossible. Taking on the character of Doug Robert, he featured in more than a dozen episodes of the spy series, with his last appearance coming in 1971. Off the back of his TV work, the actor then scored a significant big-screen part.
Indeed, Elliott was cast as the lead in 1976’s Lifeguard, for which he joined a cast that included the likes of Kathleen Quinlan and Anne Archer. From there, he returned to the small screen for a few more years, with the Sacramento native earning plenty of spots in TV movies and mini-series.
However, Elliott bagged a part in 1985 that turned his career around, as he was cast in the drama Mask. Starring alongside Cher and Eric Stoltz, his performance in that film opened the door to several supporting roles in the next few years. Most of those characters had one thing in common, though.
Elliott found himself typecast as an intense, quiet performer, with his characters often fitting the stereotype. Despite that perception, the actor didn’t have a problem with the label. “I think it’s the way initially that it worked out, but now it’s what I gravitate toward,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.
“I just think there’s something about somebody that’s not flapping his lips all the time, that is a little more thoughtful about what comes out of his mouth, that is often more interesting,” Elliott added. However, there did come a point when he looked to branch away from those roles, most of which were coming in western films.
“I’d always loved doing it,” Elliott said. “I loved being outdoors, I loved the fact that the outdoors was a primary character in the western genre. I loved the men that gravitated towards those, I loved the horses, I loved the whole thing – I loved the simplicity of the form.”
“There wasn’t a lot of gray-area – it was black and white,” Elliott continued. “But I did get to a point where I thought, ‘How the f*** am I ever going to get out of this thing?’ Because it’s what I was doing [exclusively].” After a memorable appearance in 1998’s The Big Lebowski, though, he continued to take on roles of that type, fully embracing the image.
Indeed, Elliott gained similar roles in movies such as The Golden Compass, Ghost Rider and Thank You for Smoking in the next few years. However, although he could have been forgiven for believing these 1990s and the 2000s parts would be the pinnacle of his career, the Los Angeles resident was to enjoy a resurgence of sorts in 2015.
That year, Elliott appeared in three movies that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. After that, he was cast in projects such as The Hero and Rock Dog, while also featuring in TV shows such as Grace and Frankie and The Ranch. His efforts certainly didn’t go unnoticed, as Bradley Cooper got in touch during that period.
Elliott was eventually cast in Cooper’s directorial debut A Star Is Born, taking on the character of Bobby Maine. The film received plenty of acclaim upon its release in October 2018, with the drama earning more than $40 million over its opening weekend. Since then, its takings have topped $200 million domestically.
However, just a month after A Star Is Born came out, Elliott and his family faced down a terrifying threat. On November 8, 2018, a wildfire began in Woolsey Canyon, California, before spreading throughout the southern region of the state. After that beginning, the fire caused incredible amounts of damage.
Referred to as the Woolsey Fire, the blaze spread across close to 100,000 acres of California land, while also laying waste to more than 1,500 buildings. As for casualties, three people died in the wildfire. Due to the severity of it, a mass evacuation followed, with close to 300,000 residents fleeing their homes.
Among those numbers were several celebrities, with the likes of Miley Cyrus, Gerard Butler and Robin Thicke all leaving their houses. Elliott was another one, as he and his family had to abandon their ranch in Malibu, California. As a result of that, his wife Katharine Ross also had to cancel a scheduled appearance in San Luis Obispo, California.
After nearly two weeks of chaos, the Woolsey Fire was finally contained on November 21, 2018. However, a few days before that, Elliott’s daughter Cleo Rose Elliott took to Instagram to share an update with her followers. Thankfully, it was some very good news regarding her family’s house.
“I am forever grateful to the amazing firefighters, our gardener Juan and his son Johnny, and especially my dad for saving our home,” Cleo wrote on the social media website in November 2018. “But it’s hard to rejoice when so many have lost so much. My hearts are with you all.”
Alongside that heartfelt Instagram message, Cleo also posted a photo of Elliott as he stands by a firefighter near their home. Elliott and the emergency worker pose behind one of the fire engines; meanwhile, the smoke is still clearly visible in the background, and the pair sport scarf-like masks around their necks.
Cleo’s post resonated on social media, as online users flocked to offer her their support. The message gained more than 600 likes on Instagram, while also generating more than 50 comments, all of which praised the efforts of Elliott and the firefighters. “Stay safe and I love your father, he’s the best!” wrote one user in the comments section.
Those words were echoed by another user, who had previously worked with Elliott on a past project. “Beautifully stated, Cleo, regarding the context of it all,” they wrote. “I was your dad’s assistant many, many years ago on HBO’s film Dogwatch. My deepest respect to him and your whole family.”
The user continued, “Sending strength and support as well to those who have lost so much locally and in [Northern California].” Further, they added, “Thank you for the update.” Meanwhile, a third online user also shared some kind words about Elliott, before touching upon the desperate situation that California faced.
“So glad you guys are safe,” another Instagram user wrote in the comments. “Tell your old man that I’ve always been a big fan and love him on the show The Ranch. Sorry for what you [have] all been going through. Wish I could of been able to be out there helping.”
On that note, another user wrote a heartfelt message in response to Cleo, talking about the reaction from the locals to the wildfire. “Thank you kindly for the update,” they said on the social media website. “I still can’t believe it, it shocks me to the core. Stay strong, as a community you are already pulling together.”
“Amazing acts of kindness from all,” the online user added. “All heroes in my opinion, God bless in these trying times. Glad your family [and] home are safe. Respect [as] always to your dad, he’s a good man.” Since those dramatic scenes in November 2018, Elliott has faced a whirlwind few months.
Indeed, Elliott has been nominated for several awards for his performance in A Star Is Born, including a nod at the 2019 Screen Actors Guild Awards. However, the Sacramento native was also honored in a very different way in January 2019. His hand and footprints were imprinted in cement outside the famous TCL Chinese Theater.
“Not even remotely have I ever been involved in anything like this, and don’t expect that I ever will be again,” Elliott told The Hollywood Reporter of that special ceremony. “It feels good. That kind of recognition where you know that it’s from the heart and it’s not bull**** that somebody’s given you? It’s a wonderful thing.”
As for Elliott’s work on A Star Is Born, he struggled to contain his emotions when he watched it for the first time. Cooper’s movie was featured at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2018. And the results had left his veteran co-star in tears on viewing it, he was later to reveal.
“It just destroyed me,” Elliott admitted to The Hollywood Reporter. “Because it was all there, and I realized that I was a part of something really unbelievable, and what a gift [Cooper] had given me.” While the actor has faced a busy few weeks in early 2019, there could be more to come.
Indeed, Elliott earned his very first Academy Award nomination for A Star Is Born. And the Oscars ceremony is set to take place in February 2019. Some two weeks prior to that, his newest film was also released in theaters across the country, titled The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot.