‘1883’: Sam Elliott Told Isabel May He’s ‘Too F***in’ Old’ to Play Shea Brennan

1883 star Sam Elliott does not mince words. He said exactly what he thought about The Power of the Dog and the predecessor series Yellowstone, although he later apologized for criticizing Jane Campion’s film. 1883 co-star Isabel May got a taste of the gruff Elliott as soon as they began working together.

'1833': Sam Elliott stands in a field looking down
Sam Elliott | Emerson Miller/Paramount+

May was a guest on The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast on April 14. While discussing all things 1883, Elliott’s first words to her came up. They were as salty as anything else he’s said. 

Sam Elliott thought he was too old for ‘1883’ 

1883 stars Elliott as Shea Brennan, a guide through the frontier of the American west. The Dutton family rides with his caravan. At 77, Elliott has decades of western experience on which to draw. Indeed, Shea is the sort of character he might have played 30 years ago.

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“He looked at me and he said, ‘This is going to be a wild ride,” May said on Awards Chatter. “And then he went, ‘I’m too F***in’ old to be here’ because it was written for a 45-year-old, his role originally. And I think it is perfect that it was him because you needed that wisdom and that age. Man, did he blow everyone away.”

Sam Elliott was before Isabel May’s time 

Elliott’s career goes back to 1967. Some pre-1883 highlights include the western Tombstone and the comedy The Big Lebowski. May was born in November of 2000 after many of Elliott’s memorable movies came out. Even Lebowski was before her time but she has discovered it recently. 

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“I love The Big Lebowski, sure, but that was something I actually unfortunately became familiar with not too long ago,” May said. “Yeah, I knew Sam was really well known. I didn’t realize how legendary he was though. I did know that everyone talked about his voice all the time and how he spoke. All the time. He doesn’t get it either which is hilarious. He’s like, ‘I’m just saying words. Why is everyone freaking out?’ But it is really distinctive.”

Isabel May got it when they shared their first scene 

May recalled swooning for Elliott as soon as she saw him in action. Hearing about Elliott’s movies from the last century couldn’t prepare her for seeing Elliott in action, let alone getting a front row seat to him on the set of 1883.

“The first time I met him, he grabbed my hand and looked at me,” May said. “And I went oh God, I get it. I totally get it. Because I think what moved all of them about this, he’s received how many westerns in his life? He never read one like this. Certainly never one with an Elsa character before. That’s what moved them all was the narration, at least that’s what they told me. 

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