Sam Elliott shines through in The Hero

Sam Elliott in The Hero. Courtesy of The Orchard

Sam Elliott delivers a shining performance in The Hero as Lee Hayden.

Written and directed by Brett Haley, The Hero stars Sam Elliott, Laura Prepon, Nick Offerman, Krysten Ritter, and Katharine Ross.

In the newest film from writer/director Brett Haley, Elliott gives one of the strongest performances I have seen so far during this year’s Chicago Critics Film Festival.  We all know his voice–it’s just as iconic as Morgan Freeman.  It’s one of two films that played in which actors play roles similar to their own lives.

Hayden confronts his own mortality when he gets diagnosed with cancer.  He’s not getting much work and spends his time hanging out with his former television series co-star, Jeremy (Nick Offerman).  Jeremy is his drug dealer and the two smoke a lot of weed together.  Through Jeremy, he meets stand-up comedian Charlotte (Laura Prepon) and the two start a relationship together even though he’s old enough to be her father.  After the diagnosis, Hayden works to fix his relationship with his daughter, Lucy (Krysten Ritter).  He wants to be a better father.  Go figure, he ends up missing a dinner with her.

Hayden receives a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Western Appreciation and Preservation Guild.  Because of where he is in his life, Hayden gives a speech that ends up going viral.  This leads to some opportunities coming in for work.  There’s one audition for a sci-fi film but Hayden breaks down during the audition and leaves.

Throughout all this, Hayden wants to find that one last role for his legacy.  This film is really a celebration of Sam Elliott’s life.  It’s about legacy.  What kind of mark do people want to leave and what does it mean to them?  This is the sort of thing that drives the film.

During the press tour for I’ll See You in My Dreams, director Brett Haley decided to craft a film around Elliott.

While Lee Hayden may be played by Sam Elliott, Hayden is really a hybrid of multiple actors, including Lee Marvin, Sterling Hayden, Robert Mitchum, James Coburn, and of course, Sam Elliott.  According to Haley, Hayden is “a version of Sam that exists in some alternative universe where every aspect of his life and career is backward and upside-down.”

Selected for both Sundance and SXSW, The Orchard will open The Hero in New York and Los Angeles on June 9th before a slow expansion begins on June 16th.  In Chicago, The Hero will play at AMC River East 21, Arclight Chicago, and Landmark Century Centre Cinema.  For my Kentucky readership, The Hero will open at Newport on the Levee on June 23rd.  Unfortunately, no listings are shown in Louisville at this time.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.