Sam Elliott chuckled softly as he was reminded — likely for the gazillionth time! — how his deep and sonorous voice was such a trademark for him. “Yeah, I’ve been lucky. These pipes have carried me well,” quipped the actor, gently punching his chest. “Lily seemed to like the voice too,” said Elliott, referring to Lily Tomlin, the star of his film “Grandma” (opening Friday).
In Chicago the other day with “Grandma” writer and director Paul Weitz (“About a Boy,” “Antz,” “In Good Company”), Elliott called making “Grandma” and working with Tomlin “a gift, a really great part. … As I’ve said so many times over the years, the thing for me [about doing a role] is what’s on the page. That’s again the way it was with this one. When I got the script, I knew I wanted to do it.
“Then to come to work and meet with Lily for the first time — except for at an awards show briefly a few years ago — it was great to feel we immediately connected, right from the get-go.”
Elliott plays a lover dumped by Tomlin’s character years earlier — before she had come out as a lesbian. What the actor loved about the moment he shared with Tomlin and actress Julia Garner, who plays her granddaughter in the film, “was the amazing arc Paul created for my character in that scene. There’s humor, but there’s also a lot of pathos and pain, as this guy clearly still is aching so deeply and still in love with Lily’s character.”
Weitz quickly jumped in at that point to note, “It might have been on the page, but what Sam did with it was more than I ever expected any actor would do.”
Already there is award-season buzz for Elliott, who quickly brushed aside such talk, seemingly more happy to chat about the number of ears of corn he had to eat shooting his scene with Tomlin. (As her character arrives to ask him for money, to help pay for an abortion for her granddaughter, Elliott’s Karl character is cooking up a big pot of freshly picked corn.)
“It was a lot, but I didn’t mind,” said Elliott with a wink. “That sure was good corn. I would’ve gone on eating it all day long, if I could have.”