Throughout the years, several veteran actors have enjoyed late-career renaissances in Hollywood. And given the praise he has earned for his performance in 2018’s A Star Is Born, Sam Elliott appears to be among that number. Perhaps chief among Elliott’s supporters, though, is Bradley Cooper, who delivered an emotional speech at a special ceremony honoring his co-star.
In October 2018 A Star Is Born – Cooper’s directorial debut – was released in theaters across the U.S. The star wasn’t just behind the camera during production, however, as he also took on the lead role of musician Jackson Maine.
And Cooper wasn’t the only big name to appear in the remake: Dave Chappelle, Alec Baldwin and Elliott all appeared in supporting roles, too. Elliott arguably took on one of the film’s most important parts, though, as he played Jackson’s older brother Bobby.
But when it came to casting the film’s co-lead Ally, Cooper had an ace up his sleeve: he recruited pop superstar Lady Gaga for the part. It’s worth noting, however, that the singer/songwriter had past acting experience. After appearing in The Sopranos back in 2001, she had gone on to feature in movies such as Machete Kills and Muppets Most Wanted in the following years.
Then, in 2015, Gaga earned one of the leading roles in the fifth season of anthology show American Horror Story. Taking on the character of The Countess, she starred in several episodes that year before briefly returning in another part for the following season.
Some two years on from that, Gaga then scored the pivotal role of Ally in A Star Is Born. Alongside Cooper, she helped carry the film with a powerful performance that also ended up showcasing her musical skill. And perhaps down in no small part to its leads, A Star Is Born was ultimately very well received, with both critics and moviegoers having showered the movie with praise.
A Star Is Born has been a box-office hit, too, with a worldwide gross to date of over $417 million. Then there’s the awards honors it has received. The movie earned five nominations at the 2019 Golden Globes, for example, and ultimately won the Best Original Song category.
Elsewhere, Cooper’s film has racked up an additional seven nominations at the BAFTAs as well as another four at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards, with he and Gaga up for gongs at both for their performances. But the two leads aren’t the only stars to have been honored in this way.
Yes, after being snubbed by both the Globes and the BAFTAs, Elliott earned a nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the SAG Awards. He could potentially take home two prizes at that ceremony, too, as A Star Is Born is also in contention in the Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture category.
And Elliott’s importance to A Star Is Born can’t be underestimated – not least because Cooper apparently took inspiration for Jackson’s voice from the veteran actor’s own recognizable vocals. The director had yet to cast Elliott in his role, though, at this point.
“We had never met. And so I felt like I was taking a gamble,” Cooper told Variety of his initial conversation with Elliott. “I said, ‘I’m going to play something for you, and this might sound weird.’” Cooper then showcased the work that he had put into Jackson’s voice, drawing an acute observation from his future co-star.
“I figured if [Cooper] committed to my voice, I had a good chance of getting the part,” Elliott told Variety in January 2019. And after scoring the role, the California native went on to deliver one of the best performances of his career, ably supporting both Cooper and Gaga.
However, while A Star Is Born was being lavished with award nominations, Elliott earned an honor of a very different kind in January 2019. After a long, successful career in Hollywood, the actor was set to have his hands and footprints immortalized in cement outside the iconic TCL Chinese Theatre.
And the significance of that ceremony certainly wasn’t lost on Elliott, it seemed. “You can’t be cynical about this one. It’s just an honor,” the veteran star said to Variety. “That’s about as good as it gets in terms of recognition.”
Born in August 1944, Elliott had grown up in Sacramento, California, with aspirations of becoming an actor. As a youngster, you see, he had envisioned exactly what it would be like to appear on the big screen. “I had a pretty clear vision of thinking, ‘That looks like fun. I want to do that,’” Elliott later recalled to Variety.
And even after Elliott relocated to Portland, Oregon, his passion for acting continued to grow. The aspiring performer ultimately became a student at the University of Oregon while also trying his hand at civic theater. Still, before long, he moved back to California to pursue a potential career in Los Angeles.
At that time, Elliott subsidized his acting studies with a construction job – but that soon changed after a chance conversation. A friend of one of his roommates had been preparing for an audition to get into the famed Film Industry Workshop and had required some assistance. With that in mind, she therefore asked Elliott for help.
However, the audition didn’t go quite according to plan. “She didn’t get in,” Elliott said. “But they called and asked if I wanted to do it.” Off the back of that, he secured a deal with 20th Century Fox, making his television debut in The Felony Squad in 1968.
During that period, Elliott went on to feature in other TV shows, such as Judd for the Defense, Land of the Giants and Lancer. And as the actor continued to gain more experience on the small screen, he also began to enjoy some other personal perks.
“It was great for a guy who just got into town from Portland, Oregon,” Elliott told Variety. “I was in the business, you know.” He added, “I was getting $85 a week and paying $85 a month for a bachelor apartment. I was in hog heaven.”
Elliott also made his big-screen debut in 1969 after being cast in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. And as it turned out, his role in that movie resulted from a failed audition for another character. “I think [the director] took pity on me and hired me for the part of Card Player No. 2,” the actor later revealed.
And from there, Elliott slowly established himself on the big screen through appearances in films such as Lifeguard, The Legacy, Mask and Road House. However, the star’s movie career has seemingly been defined by one genre in particular: westerns.
“I think it’s in my blood in some ways,” Elliott said to Variety of his personal connection to western films. “My family is all from the Southwest. My great-great-grandfather was at the Battle of San Jacinto with Sam Houston. So it runs deep.”
Ultimately, though, Elliott was wary of being stereotyped as an actor who only fit into the western genre. And it looked as if he may be able to diversify, too, when he received Joel and Ethan Coen’s script for The Big Lebowski.
“I thought, ‘The Coen brothers! I’m finally going to get out of this western thing!” Elliott told Variety. “I read this thing, and it’s talking about a voice. In the background, ‘Tumbling Tumbleweeds’ is playing. Then it says something like, ‘A Southern voice, sounding not unlike Sam Elliott…’ So I knew something was up.”
“I read further to where the guy shows up at the bowling alley,” Elliott continued. “‘Here’s The Stranger, looking not unlike Sam Elliott.’ [I] chose to kind of put that western thing to bed after [The Big Lebowski]. It served me well, and I’ve been very fortunate.”
And after Elliott’s memorable performance in that movie, his big-screen career continued to flourish through roles in films such as The Contender, Hulk, Ghost Rider and The Golden Compass. The California native also returned to television in 2012, kicking off a run of appearances on the small screen.
After a turn on Robot Chicken, Elliott went on to win parts in Parks and Recreation, Justified, Grace and Frankie and The Ranch. With all that work in mind, his honoring at the TCL Chinese Theatre perhaps doesn’t come as a real surprise.
And ahead of Elliott’s ceremony, several stars came out to support him, including both Cooper and Gaga. Ashton Kutcher also appeared at the TCL Chinese Theatre, as he has worked with Elliott on The Ranch since 2016. In particular, though, the director of A Star Is Born had some special words for his co-star at the event.
Standing in front of the assembled media, Cooper delivered a heartfelt speech about Elliott before introducing him at the ceremony. “Sam is one of the most talented, generous [and] humble actors I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with,” he said. “And acting alongside him was a dream fulfilled for me.”
“[Elliott] is the kind of guy who raises the bar for everyone, whether you’re in front of the camera or behind the camera,” Cooper continued. “Directing Sam was and will remain one of the highest points of my career.” And the kind words didn’t end there.
Cooper then reflected on the positive reaction to A Star Is Born – for which his co-star, he said, was partly responsible. “Personally, I owe a lot to Sam for the success of this film,” the director told the crowd. “Not only because of his brilliant performance, but because, if he hadn’t agreed to it – honestly, I don’t know what I would’ve done.”
“Thank you, Sam, for saying yes, for trusting me,” Cooper added. “Thank you for letting me steal your voice.” And at that point, the star began to speak about his relationship with Elliott away from the camera, with the moment bringing Cooper to the verge of tears.
“You know, in the movie, Jack may struggle with telling his brother how he feels about him,” Cooper continued. “I’ve got no problem telling you, Sam, just how much I love and admire you. You are my brother. You’ve received many honors in your career, [and] I know you will receive many more. But this one, my friend, is written in stone.”
At that point, Elliott made his way up to the podium before sharing a warm hug with Cooper. And it appeared that the veteran actor also had to hold back the tears as he devoted part of his speech to the director.
“Bradley… if you look [at] what’s behind me here, I’d say it’s safe to say that the reason I’m here is because of your film,” Elliot said, referring to the posters of A Star Is Born on the stage. “And I love you too, pal.”
Then, after the emotional speeches, Elliott posed for pictures alongside his co-stars Cooper and Gaga. The pop star had been sharing the event via an Instagram story, and she was therefore able to capture the moment when the actor was about to place his hand in the cement.
Gaga herself doesn’t have any future movie projects in the pipeline so far, although both Elliott and Cooper do have more work on the way. Cooper is set to appear in Avengers: Endgame in April 2019, for example, while his second directing gig, titled Bernstein, has also been announced.
As for Elliott, he is currently shooting the final season of The Ranch. He has another film on the way, too: The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot is due to be released in February 2019, ahead of his appearance in The Gettysburg Address.
However, Elliott believes that A Star Is Born will remain one of the biggest highlights of his career. “You can’t look at it and say the next time has to be as good or better,” he told Variety. “Because I don’t think there’s ever going to be anything as good or better. This is it.”