Sam Elliott’s distinctive drawl and charismatic presence has graced countless westerns since his film debut in Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid.
But in I’ll See You In My Dreams he’s no longer playing the cowboy but the romantic interest. And this veteran actor knocks it out of the park with his performance as the handsome older gentleman romancing Blythe Danner’s Carol, a 70ish woman living in California.
A refreshingly cliché-free film, I’ll See You In My Dreams not only deals with sex and attraction in a grown-up and sensitive fashion but also touches upon hope and loss without mawkish sentimentality.
Blythe Danner gives a critically acclaimed performance as Carol, a widow whose comfortable existence of routine and bridge games with the girls takes an unexpected turn after the death of her beloved pet dog – and the sudden appearance of two wildly different men in her life. A young pool cleaner called Lloyd (Martin Starr) and a prospective new love Bill (Sam) adding colour and drama to her life.
Related: Watch our video interview with Blythe Danner
In his trademark baritone drawl, Sam says “I’ve been a fan of Blythe’s forever. We’ve both been in the business about the same amount of time and we’ve never crossed paths before.”
Ah yes – the leading lady - Blythe Danner. Not only an award-winning stage actress and star of the hit comedies Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers, Danner’s also the mother of a certain well-known actress called Gywneth Paltrow.
The on-screen chemistry radiates between the two actors; they’re both touching, funny and attractive. So what was it like working with the luminous Danner?
Sam says, “She’s such a joy and so iconic on so many levels. Blythe’s a real lady. She’s not there to be a movie star, she’s there because she likes to act.”
I’ll See You In My Dreams shakes off the Hollywood syndrome of the male star pairing off with a woman who’s a good 20 or 30 years younger than him. And, more importantly, it sees a female lead in her 70s having romance and sex. Radical times indeed.
Sam happily disagrees with Hollywood’s take on romance. “We have this proclivity in Hollywood for an old guy to be with a young girl and that to me is an off-putting thing.
“I’ll See You In My Dreams is a much more realistic slice of life. It’s very kind of hopeful and there is, in fact, somebody out there for a woman in her 70s to have a love relationship.”
Another theme that surfaces is the ideal of ‘living in the moment’. Yet again, I’ll See You In My Dreams doesn’t fall into the lazy trap of beating everyone around the head to ‘seize the day’. But is it any easier and relevant to ‘live in the moment’ as you grow older?
“I think absolutely it does. Because the moments become fewer”, says Sam. “The older you get the quicker it goes, it’s absolutely true. I feel as if I don’t have enough time anymore.
“I can remember – it seems like for years I lazed around and time went by. But it didn’t matter because you had so much time to think about what you wanted to do and where you want to put your energies in life. Now, I feel - wow I’m on the short end - and it’s important to live it and to be in the moment. To live the best you can. It’s a choice.”
So with a screen career still going strong and Sam’s next project a role in a new Netflix sitcom The Ranch alongside the ex-Mr Demi Moore Ashton Kutcher, does this veteran actor intend to retire at any point?
“No I don’t. I don’t know what else I would do. I just feel so fortunate to be doing something that I wanted to do when I was a young kid.
“As long as they keep calling me, I’ll keep on answering if the material is good and there’s people I want to work with and stories I want to tell. I have every intention of keeping it up.”
Let’s hope this magnificent actor stays true to his word.
I’ll See You in My Dreams is on digital download on 22nd February and on DVD on 29th February.
Five fun facts about Sam Elliott
- His film debut was in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
- Married to Katherine Ross, star of The Graduate, since 1984
- Was the voice for Coors Beer
- Appeared in the final series of Mission Impossible in the 1970s
- Nominated for an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his role in ‘Buffalo Girls’
Related: 'The chemistry between Danner and Elliott is terrific; they’re a smart, funny, wildly engaging screen couple.' Read our film critic's assessment of I'll See You in My Dreams
I'll See You in My Dreams is available on digital download from 22nd February and on DVD from 29th February.