Last year, I pushed hard for Rebecca Hall to be nominated for Best Actress for her performance in the little-seen drama “Christine”. Hall did earn a handful of film critics circle wins and nominations, but outside of a Best First Screenplay Independent Spirit Award nomination, “Christine” and Hall were completely ignored by the biggies. Now, I’m asking awards voters to strongly consider Sam Elliott and his incredible performance in “The Hero”.
Both “Christine” and “The Hero” were distributed by The Orchard, an indie studio that needs a boost right now. Earlier this year, they purchased Louis C.K.’s directorial debut “I Love You, Daddy” for $5 million. They announced last week that they would no longer distribute the film, following high-profile news of C.K.’s actions involving five women.
Screeners of “I Love You, Daddy” had already been sent-out to Critics Choice Awards and Online Film Critics Society voting members, and many of them (including me) received the film either last Thursday or Friday – when the C.K. news broke and The Orchard cancelled its release.
But a bunch of other movies were included in The Orchard’s screener pack, including “The Hero”. So, why does Elliott deserve a Best Actor nomination?
Elliott is a legendary actor who’s never had a “role of a lifetime” kind of role… until now. “The Hero” was written specifically for him by Brett Haley (also the director). The two previously collaborated on 2015’s “I’ll See You in My Dreams”. Elliott plays Lee Hayden – a longtime actor mostly known for one film, a western called “The Hero”.
Hayden hasn’t been getting as many roles lately – mostly paying the bills with voice-over work. He receives some troubling news, is struggling with his relationship with his daughter (played by Krysten Ritter) and contemplates whether he has a “Final Act” in him. Some friends enter the picture, along with a lifetime achievement award from a western movie association, and they begin to change his perception on life, love and his career.
“The Hero” is essentially the calm, dramatic version of “Birdman”: about an actor looking for a comeback and to mend the broken-hearted. It’s only 93 minutes but a thorough, fulfilling showcase for Elliott. He captivates the screen and handles the delicate material with tenacity, warmth and honesty.
Everyone always asks, “What’s the nomination-worthy scene?” Well, Elliott’s got plenty of them – two in particular. Neither are available as clips online, though if Elliott starts receiving nominations, that could change.
As I watched the film for the first time this Spring, my heart was pounding during both of these scenes. The first is when Hayden accepts that life achievement award. Elliott’s speech is so real and true. A snippet:
“Awards are a strange thing. I mean, what does it say about you? Before I came here tonight, I looked-up achievement in the dictionary. It’s not a difficult word. We all know what it means. But I looked it up anyway. And it said, ‘the result of hard work.’ Well, I certainly have worked hard. But the thing is, I know there are a lot of others out there who are more deserving than I am of this award, and so I’m not sure why I’m standing up here right now. Not sure I deserve this – any of this.”
The second scene comes a little later, when Hayden and friend (Jeremy) (played by Nick Offerman) are reading lines for a role Hayden may audition for. During this scene, you lock-in on Elliott – and he blows you away (Offerman’s reaction adds to the proof).
Elliott told Charlie Rose earlier this year, “It’s the high point of my career.” When asked why, Elliott responded, “I think it’s the combination of the story… it’s an opportunity to do things that I’ve never done – I’ve never played an actor before – and I think the commonality of me, Sam, and Lee, this character… it just was the ideal situation.”
“The Hero” is on DVD and screener copies are now in the hands of hundreds of awards voters. Give Elliott and the film a chance. After the career that he’s had, a nomination for this performance is the perfect way to honor him.