At 70, Sam Elliott can still flirt with the best of ’em. He’s a charmer, all right.
Despite the full head of hair and signature bushy mustache having gone completely gray, Elliott has stepped into one of his sexiest roles yet.
In I’ll See You in My Dreams, out Friday, the actor plays Bill, the cocky hot guy at the local retirement community. He hits on widow Carol (Blythe Danner), while she’s perusing vitamin supplements at the pharmacy with the line, “You don’t need all that. You’re just right the way you are.”And really, who can resist?
Bill is confident and brash and chomps on an unlit cigar thanks to an oral fixation (yowza!). Carol is intrigued by the cowboy-cool, ruggedly handsome stranger who helps her get over the recent death of her dog — as well as with — wink-wink — other things.
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“If it clicks, it clicks,” Elliott says during an interview at the 1 Hotel South Beach. “The chemistry was there.”
Amazingly, these two acting veterans had never had the chance to work together before. Never even met.
“It’s one of those odd things that happens in this game,” he says of Danner. “We’ve both been at it for around 50 years, and you’d think in all that time you’d have the occasion to at least cross paths. But I’ve admired her from afar for a long, long time like a lot of other people. Then came this piece of material that brought us together thanks to this guy.”
Elliott points at Brett Haley, who directed and co-wrote I’ll See You in My Dreams. At just 32, Haley has a freakishly good handle on what make seniors tick. And no, Carol’s character is not based on his own mother, though she does work at a vitamin store and “has a lust for life.”
“This plot is 100 percent imagined,” insists Haley. “My co-writer [first-timer Marc Basch] and I just sort of explored some themes we thought needed talking about. Hopefully it feels authentic and not too manipulative or dramatic. I’m happy with the results.”
So is Elliott, who jumped at the chance to play the romantic lead in this sweet, endearing indie.
“This is a real-life story about real people with real problems,” he says. “It’s an everyman tale. We’re all getting older. We're all going to have trials and loss and we’re also going to regain things like love.
“It’s a journey we're all gonna share; some are just going to go more gracefully than others. You’re just lucky to make the journey.”
Despite the fact that Elliott’s at an age when he could easily retire, his career has gotten a boost in the last few years with voiceover ads hawking everything from cars to beef plus a meaty role in FX’s Justified as pot dealer Avery Markham.
But being in this movie apparently didn’t really feel like work, even though it was shot in a rapid-fire 18 days.
“It didn’t ever seem like we were on that tight of a budget,” says Elliott, who has been married to actress Katherine Ross since 1984. “It was just a well-oiled machine, whether you were in front of the camera or behind it. We were all invested and the experience was just a joy.”
Haley was inspired by Clint Eastwood, who is well known for keeping his sets organized yet relaxed.
“The whole thing was very civilized,” Haley says of the movie, which premiered to standing ovations at Sundance in January and costars Rhea Perlman, Malin Akerman and Mary Kay Place. “We never did more than an 11-hour day in a five-day workweek. You just have to be really decisive and stick to the plan. You don’t want the actors thinking there is chaos!”
Haley, who also directed the 2005 horror-thriller The Ridge and 2010 dramedy The New Year, was glad to be in Miami; the folks live in Pensacola. Dad is Dennis Haley, special agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
“He’s still working — he just won agent of the year. I’m really proud. My next movie may be about him. There’s a lot of material.”