LOS ANGELES – It's been years since Sam Elliott was cast as the romantic leading man in a movie, but in the new romantic comedy "I'll See You in My Dreams," he's the hot heartthrob for Blythe Danner's character Carol.
"I have no idea why this came around for me," Elliott tells FOX411. "Actually, I know why it came, but on a bigger picture I just feel like I had this gift dropped on me last year. I thought [romantic leading man] was long gone, although I'm not sure he's the leading man, is he? I mean, there's more than one."
The other leading man (Martin Starr as Lloyd) in Carol's life is more like a leading boy, since he is young enough to be Carol's son, and is her pool maintenance man. But Carol, a widow, comes to depend upon Lloyd and enjoys his company following the death of her beloved dog, an event which leaves her with a hole in her life.
It is that sense of emptiness that spurs Carol to revitalize her life, which is how she meets Bill (Elliott), who is the most desirable, unattached male at a retirement community, where Carol's friends live. Like Elliott, Bill is a man that men want to be and women want to be with, and he helps Carol get back her joie de vivre.
"Bills footloose; he has no commitments," says Elliott, who is married to Katherine Ross with whom he has a daughter. "He doesn't have people relying on him. He doesn't have family. He has no one to leave his worldly goods to, which is very freeing, I think, on some level, at least for Bill. He's not worried about what he's going to do with it, he knows what he's going to do with it. He's going to enjoy it because he can't take it with him."
Bill's relationship with Carol moves very quickly from first laying eyes on each other, to meeting and then to jumping in bed together, but in "I'll See You in My Dreams," it is a reflection of the seemingly senior phenomenon: the older you are, the faster time goes by.
"It sure seems real. Whether it's imagined or not, I'm not sure," Elliott says. "I think with maturity, opportunities come to be more direct, you quit futzing around, and it's screw any issues. I think that was one of the things that appealed to me about Bill. He's very direct and, I think, that's one of the things that will be appealing about him from an audience perspective, as well."
"I'll See You In My Dreams" which also stars June Squibb, Rhea Perlman, Mary Kay Place and Malin Akerman, wasn't the only gift that fell into Elliott's lap last year. He also landed a part in the film "Grandma," opposite Lily Tomlin, which is scheduled for an August 21 release, and a role on the final season of FX's "Justified," for which Elliott was just nominated for a Critic's Choice Award.
But funnily enough, the man who is best known for his roles in Westerns, like "Conagher," "Tombstone," and "The Shadow Riders," wasn't hired to wear a cowboy hat. On "Justified," the hat is reserved for Timothy Olyphant.
"Avery Markham was just this incredible character that I got to play," Elliott says. "I got to change my look, be a Southern gentleman and pretend that I had it all together when he really had nothing together. This guy was deluding himself from the get-go to think that he was ever going to bring marijuana into Kentucky."
If 2015 doesn't bring Elliott the same good fortune with acting roles as did 2014, he's okay with that. Thanks to his distinctive, deep voice, he is currently pitching Dodge Ram trucks and Coors Beer, which allows him to be selective about the roles he accepts.
"Trucks and beer, that's what I'm selling," says Elliott, who says he doesn't see himself so much as a macho man as a truck driver, having always had one. "It's not that I get offered a lot of bad stuff, it's that I don't get offered a lot of good stuff that I want to do. I like living on the money that I'm making rather than the money I've saved. In order to do that, you need to work, and if the balance between the not good stuff and the good stuff is heavier on the not good stuff, if I didn't have the voiceovers, I'd be doing stuff I didn't want to do and that'd be a sad place to be. I would not want to be at that place. When it gets to that, I'm going to quit."
"I'll See You in My Dreams" opens in theaters on Friday, May 15.