You can hear some sirens going off as I introduce Katharine Ross and Brett Haley before starting my interview with them on April 12, 2017. It’s the magic of on-location recording. It did nothing, however, to distract from the sparkling conversation about Haley’s film, THE HERO, co-starring Ross with her husband, Sam Elliot. It’s charming and bittersweet film about Lee Hayden, an actor, played by Elliot, who has seen better days. A new romance, or something like it, with a much younger woman, a brush with viral fame, and an unexpected medical diagnosis change Hayden’s outlook as he attempts to reconnect with his estranged daughter, and make some sort of peace with his ex-wife, played by Ross.
My first, and painfully obvious question, was about when Haley, whose previous film, I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS co-starred Elliot, realized that his next film would include not just Elliot, but also Ross.
We went on to talk about how they met over a terrific sandwich; the rapport between Ross and Elliot that brings more to a scene than mere dialogue could convey; how to get beard stubble just right (and consistent); the vulnerability of the audition process; and what it is about his subjects that so intrigues Haley.
We finished up with how he views his scripts; the inherent selfishness of the film business; how Haley’s films are conversations starters; analyzing the knee-jerk reaction; and the magic that is Edna St. Vincent Millay (and how she figures into what Haley would like to do next, and with Krysten Ritter).
THE HERO is a film of past, present, and uncertain future. Sam Elliot stars as Lee Hayden, an actor whose glory days are behind him, and whose daughter and his ex-wife, played by Ross, have been disappointed once too often by him. He dreams of just one more big script while supporting himself with voiceover work, and passes his days smoking pot at the home of his best friend and dealer. That’s where he meets Charlotte, the much younger stand-up comedian who takes a shine to him, as he does to her in a relationship that he finds enticing but confusing. When a troubling medical diagnosis, and an unconventional acceptance speech for a lifetime achievement award, knock him for a loop, the process of taking stock of his life also provides him with a catalyst to grab for what life is left to him.
The film co-stars Laura Prepon, Nick Offerman, and Krysten Ritter. Haley directed from a script he co-wrote specifically for Elliot with Marc Basch. His previous work includes I’ll SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS, and THE NEW YEAR. Ross’s previous work includes hopping on the back of the bus with Benjamin in THE GRADUATE, rode on the back of a bicycle with Paul Newman in BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, doctored the apocalypse in DONNIE DARKO, and signed on as Mayor West’s mother in television’s Family Guy.