Sam Elliott made his way into the film industry at the age of 23, playing an uncredited role as "Missouri Townsman" in the Kirk Douglas/Robert Mitchum-starring 1967 western The Way West. He has been credited with at least one film or television project every year since then, with many notable titles appearing on his resume. He is one of Hollywood's great supporting actors, and yet in more than 50 years as a professional performer he has never been nominated for an Academy Award.
This year Sam Elliott has been stirring up a lot of award season heat thanks to his role opposite Bradley Cooper in A Star Is Born, but it has led us to notice that he has been underappreciated over the years by the groups that make up the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. While his small screen work has been celebrated by both the Golden Globes and the Emmys, where he has been a past nominee, the man has gone his whole career without attention from the Oscars.
Of course, part of this stems from the roles that Sam Elliott typically chooses to play. He may be incredibly talented, but he's also basically always played supporting parts -- which is a field in which it's harder to earn awards attention because there is an extra stress on really standing out. Furthermore, with his gruff voice, big mustache, and head made for a Stetson, he's always particularly shined in westerns, and that's a genre that the Academy has paid a lot less attention to since he came into the business.
It seems crazy that Sam Elliott could do so much great work and not earn recognition at the highest level -- but the reality of the situation is that he's not alone. There are many fantastically talented performers, particular character actors Elliott, who have also been overlooked by the Academy Awards time and time again. This is a list that includes Steve Buscemi, Alfred Molina, Jean Smart, Donald Sutherland, John Goodman, Judy Greer and John Tuturro, which puts the Big Lebowski star in some pretty good company.
Of course, all it takes is one year to turn it all around. In the years since I wrote this feature, both Allison Janney and Jennifer Jason-Leigh have both been put up for the prize, and the former actually won. As long as he's still acting, Sam Elliott has a chance at an Oscar, and as mentioned above, 2019 could be his time.
In A Star Is Born, Elliott plays Bobby Maine, the older brother and manager of Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper). The sibling's relationship is seriously strained, both by their differences in ages and Jackson's substance abuse problems, but it's something that they still fight to maintain. The 74-year-old actor has earned wide-spread acclaim for his performance, solidified by a particularly emotional moment that plays out towards the end of the movie.
Nothing is guaranteed, however, as while Sam Elliott's A Star Is Born performance would probably be a lock most years, the past 12 months have been incredible for supporting turns. Elliott's work is great, but the same can be said of the work done by Mahershala Ali, Timothee Chalamet, Adam Driver, Richard E. Grant, and Sam Rockwell in Green Book, Beautiful Boy, BlacKkKlansman, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, and Vice respectively (they were the stars picked over Elliott for the Golden Globes this year).
So will this be Sam Elliott's year to earn his first Academy Award nomination? We don't have too much longer to wait until we find out for sure. While the show itself isn't going to be held until Sunday, February 24th, we will find out the candidates in all categories in just a few days, with the announcement scheduled for the morning of Tuesday, January 22nd.
Do you think Elliott's name will be mentioned, or do you think there were too many other great supporting actor performances in 2018? Answer our poll below, and hit the comments section with all your thoughts, opinions, and feelings.
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Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.