Some people think that cowboys are going extinct. Not only in real-life characterization, but on the screen as well. One of the great cowboys on the screen is Sam Elliott — known for his deep and sultry voice, overall stoic personality, and a mustache so iconic that it could win him a shootout.
Elliott has made a career as being perceived as the ultimate Western star. He’s been in titles like “Conagher,” “You Know My Name,” “Tombstone,” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” He was also in the series called “The Ranch.”
Sam Elliott Talks Decline of Cowboy Films
For someone relatively typecast, Elliott spoke about where he thinks the genre is going.
“Hollywood’s forgotten about the western genre, and that’s unfortunate. Cowboy movies are really hard work, but I’d love to do another one. I have a great simpatico for the Old West. We need to stay true to those old values,” Sam Elliott said to AARP in 2015.
There is a theory that the Western genre is “dying” slowly. While some actors and industry members support this claim, others do not.
Many people consider Sam Elliott a cowboy himself. However, as he told Cowboys & Indians in 2013, being a cowboy doesn’t make him a cattle grower. He considers that a life made up of hard work. Rather, Elliott greatly aligns with the kind of mentality that goes into the Western film.
“It’s a set of values that you’re introduced to or you adopt during your lifetime. In my case, my folks all came from the Southwest. My mom and dad both grew up in El Paso, Texas, and there were a couple of generations before them in Texas. Somebody fought at the Battle of San Jacinto, somebody was killed by Indians, and somebody got shot off his horse after coming out of a bar in Giddings, Texas. It’s a heritage that I’ve always been proud of and something I was aware of early on,” Elliot said.
Elliott on His Western Career
The Western genre has started to slow down in the 1970s, 1980s, and into the 1990s. The last few Westerns have flopped in theaters. Although, many directors and writers have taken on a more “neo-Western” way of creating that cowboy-appearing movie.
This includes projects like HBO’s “Westworld” and even aspects of AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” More recent movies like “True Grit,” “The Magnificent Seven,” “3:10 to Yuma,” and even “Nomadland,” showcase the themes of the land and the adventure that happens on them.
Although Sam Elliott thinks it’s a shame that Westerns are not as common, he also was skeptical of what direction he saw his career going at one point.
“Yeah – I got pigeonholed in the western role. There’s no doubt about that. I used to bristle at that on some level, like I was sold short as a one-note actor. Like I could only do the cowboy thing and that’s it. But then I got out of that. I got cast in The Contender and a couple of things I was proud of and totally different,” Sam Elliott said to Collider in 2017.
He also said he grew to be more thankful for his Western roles and reunited with his inner cowboy many times on the screen.