Sam Elliott leads cast in ‘The Hero’
Director Brett Haley’s second Sundance film will premiere in the U.S. Dramatic Competition category
January 17, 2017
When director Brett Haley saw an opportunity to "give the world 90 minutes of Sam Elliott" in his new feature film "The Hero," that's what he did.
"I think he is an icon and I think he is someone that is beloved. But I also don't really think he has gotten his due or had the opportunities that other men in his generation have gotten," Haley said in a telephone interview with The Park Record from Los Angeles. "But I do think he is a leading man, so Marc Basch and I decided we are just going to write something for Sam.
"This movie really came about as me, a fan of Sam, just wanting to see him perform," he said.
"The Hero" follows Elliott's character Lee Hayden, an aging Western actor forced to reexamine the legacy of his career, or lack thereof, and his interactions with those around him. The film also stars Elliott's real-life wife Katharine Ross, Laura Prepon, Krysten Ritter and Nick Offerman, as his best friend and drug dealer.
"The film is about legacy and it is about what kind of a mark you leave in this world and what people say about you after you are gone," Haley said. "I think all actors, artists, and writers, are thinking about that to some degree.
"And even though the film is about a stoner ex-Hollywood aging actor who is kind of looking back on his life, I think everyone can relate," he said.
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Haley, along with co-writer Marc Basch, said he wanted to create a movie that contained the perfect trifecta: comedy, emotion and affirmation. He described Elliott's character's journey as "exciting, funny, weird and sad."
"It is a great ride and people will get engaged in those universal themes," Haley said.
After watching Offerman and Elliott's "bromance" on the TV drama "Parks and Recreation," Haley said he was inspired to get the actors together again.
"What's great about Nick is he would say he stumbled into the comedy world, but he is actually an actor's actor and he is phenomenal," Haley said. "When "Parks and Rec" put them together so beautifully, there is something to be said about great pairs. Seeing him and Sam Elliott smoke joints together is pretty enjoyable."
Like Elliott, Haley said the rest of the film's actors were cast in the exact roles he envisioned for them. Haley said Prepon was the only actress who could stand up to Elliott, adding "I think she will really surprise people with this role."
"She has a very unique and singular role that I don't think many other actors could have pulled off," Haley said. "She has to play opposite of Sam Elliott and they have an interesting, odd, loving and contentious relationship. It has a lot of movements and I needed a woman who could do that."
Haley said the scenes between Ritter and Elliott are some of the most emotional interactions in the film. However, he said the chemistry between Elliott and Ross is palpable.
"You have to remember that Katharine Ross is from "The Graduate" and "Butch Cassidy." She is an icon in her own right and they have been married for a really long time. When I say they don't have to say anything in a scene it's obviously there," Haley said. "I'm really excited to just have Katharine back. She is an icon and someone I respect so much."
Haley commended the entire cast on their performance in the film, but said "Sam's performance has to carry it."
"I wanted to give him something that I think was missing in this world. Sam will have a legacy, he already does have one because he is already an icon," Haley said. "But he has never been given a vehicle where he is the driver. Where he is everything and I love doing that for actors."
"The Hero" is the 33-year-old director's second feature film to appear at the Sundance Film Festival. His film “I'll See You in My Dreams," starring Blythe Danner, premiered in 2015.
"The Hero" is being screened in the Sundance Film Festival's U.S. Dramatic Competition category. It will be shown:
Saturday, Jan. 21, 9 p.m. at the Library Center Theatre
Sunday, Jan. 22, 9 p.m. at the Sundance Mountain Resort Screening Room
Monday, Jan. 23, 8:30 a.m. at the Prospector Square Theatre
Thursday, Jan. 26, 3:15 p.m. at the Eccles Theatre
Friday, Jan. 27, 9:15 p.m. at The Grand Theatre
Saturday, Jan. 28, 4 p.m. at the Redstone Cinema 2