Skip to main content
Exclusives / Movies

‘Prancer’ Star Recalls Lifelong Lessons From Sam Elliott and Cloris Leachman – ‘They Taught Me so Much of What I Know’ [Exclusive]

'Prancer' star Rebecca Harrell Tickell recalled how her work alongside legendary actors Sam Elliott and Cloris Leachman made her the trailblazing documentary filmmaker and storyteller she is today.

Prancer star Rebecca Harrell Tickell said working alongside actors Sam Elliott and Cloris Leachman inspired her to later create groundbreaking documentaries like Kiss the Ground and Fuel.

Tickell was a child when she played Jessica in the Christmas film Prancer. Elliott played her grief-stricken, gruff father, and Leachman took on the role of an eccentrically reclusive neighbor, Mrs. McFarland. Tickell recalled how Elliott remained in character even when cameras weren’t rolling. And she recalled how both acting legends, along with the writers and producers, set in motion the career she has today.

‘Prancer’ stars Sam Elliott and Cloris Leachman taught Rebecca how to make a great movie

While some child actors may have been taken aback working with such high-profile actors – especially with Elliott constantly in character – Tickell leaned into the experience.

Rebecca Harrell Tickell holds Prancer's face in the 1989 film 'Prancer'
Rebecca Harrell Tickell and Prancer | Orion/Getty Images

“Even with Sam being gruff and Cloris being crazy on set, I loved every second of it,” she recalled to Showbiz Cheat Sheet. “They taught me so much of what I know around how to make a great movie. And I carried all of those lessons that I learned from these Hollywood legends, including the director John Hancock and producer Raffaella De Laurentiis.”

Tickell recalled how Elliott stayed in character throughout the experience of shooting Prancer. “From day one, he acted like my dad, who was really tough on me,” she recalled. “And if I messed up, he was relentless as somebody who was supporting me to rise to the occasion in that role.”

‘Prancer’ set up Rebecca Harrell Tickell to create movies that make a difference

Essentially, her work on Prancer is the reason why she and her husband Josh Tickell make trailblazing films like Kiss the Ground and their upcoming release, On Sacred Ground.


Giada De Laurentiis’ Aunt Raffy Is ‘Famous’ for Her Holiday Salad and It’s Easy to See Why

“I feel like that whole experience set me on this pathway to make movies that make a difference,” she said, reflecting on her work on Prancer. “And that’s what my whole world is about. It’s like every little thing that made Prancer so magical, from the effects to the cast to the great story that was written by Greg (Taylor), and then John allowing us to improvise on the set, which created all these really real moments between us.”

‘Prancer’ got storytelling ‘just right’

To this day, Tickell thinks of the cast and crew as family. “I have to this day such love for the people that I had the chance to work with in the film, including Abe Vigoda, and Cloris Leachman, who passed away recently,” she said. “And I get to talk to Sam every now and then. It really is like coming home.”

“(Prancer) showed me how when you get it just right, that storytelling can touch people’s hearts and it can change the world,” she said. “And I saw that with Prancer. I saw so many people, communities, and families get so deeply moved by Prancer.”

“You have a family who is struggling and who finally find that human connection again, after all seems lost. And it just made me want to make films that could touch humanity in other ways,” she said. “Around not just family, but around our love for the environment and our love for our First Nations People, which led us to the work we’re doing today.

Prancer is currently streaming on HBO Max and Amazon.