Sam Elliott plays a faded movie star in the new film The Hero, opening in limited release this week. Elliott’s Lee Hayden has been trading off a breakout role decades ago in a western that forged his reputation, but that legacy isn’t resulting in much work in the present day and Hayden finds himself longing for the good old days as well as a chance to go out and once more prove himself.

A sense of urgency is added when he’s diagnosed with cancer. Not only does he want one last shot at the spotlight, he wants to try and reconnect with his estranged daughter Lucy (Krysten Ritter). Complicating matters somewhat is an odd friendship he’s beginning with a young stand-up comic named Charlotte (Laura Prepon).

The Posters

The first poster is great, showing Elliott’s Hayden from behind as he sits on a set chair that’s placed in the shallow water off a beach so that he’s looking at the seaside homes that are in the near distance. The movie’s festival credentials are at the top and while there’s no explanatory copy there’s plenty here to convey the basic idea of the movie’s story.

A second poster takes a different approach, showing Elliott in profile, looking down with a playful smile on his face. The palm trees in the background identify it as taking place in California, but there’s nothing else here that offers any insights or clues as to the story. It’s pretty generic, unfortunately.

The Trailers

We meet Lee Hayden in the trailer as he’s recording a commercial and soon see he’s a fading actor who’s struggling with not being as active as he once was. His friend Jeremy introduces him to Charlotte, who accompanies him to awards and other events and the two form an unusual friendship. Suddenly a career revitalization beckons, as does the potential to reconcile with his estranged daughter.

It’s a moving trailer that’s all about getting old and making peace with the past while trying to live in the present. Elliott, of course, looks great here as the faded western movie star who’s struggling with getting older and running out of time to make a lasting impression. There are just enough hints as to the rest of the story to offer an intriguing complete package.

Online and Social

The official website opens with a big image of Elliott’s face alongside the title and prompts to Play Trailer or Get Tickets. Those same two CTAs are in the upper right alongside links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds.

Scroll down the site and there’s not a whole lot more going on. A “Synopsis” gives you a good overview of the story and why the characters are acting in the way they do and “Cast” just has photos and the names of those who are featuring in the movie. There are a couple pull quotes from early reviews scattered across the page but that’s about it.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing here, at least not that I’m aware of.

Media and Publicity

The first bit of publicity came when it was announced the movie would have its official premiere at Sundance 2017. The mixed word-of-mouth out of that screening didn’t stop The Orchard from picking it up for eventual distribution.

Elliott did a bit of press in the last few weeks with interviews like this one that had him not only talking about this movie but also his career as a whole. Writer/director Brett Haley also got a bit of the spotlight as he talked about why he wrote the movie specifically for Elliott and how they worked together.


There’s a cool story here that’s being sold. The campaign makes it clear that Elliott’s character wants to go out if not on top at least active. He wants to die, to coin a phrase, with his boots on. Interestingly the marketing never mentions that he’s dying, just that he’s reached a point where he wants to put the pieces of his life back together and make amends with those he’s wronged. That, along with the friendship – it’s never really clear if it’s more – with the young lady he’s introduced to mean he’s feeling the years but not yet succumbing to them.

Basically though the movie is sold as Elliott’s career summation. With a character that’s not far (at least not in his public persona) from the person the audience knows and by focusing on age as the major plot point, we’re meant to be drawn into him putting a cap on his filmography. If anything the marketing plays that hand a little too strongly, but still presents an interesting option for anyone who’s followed the actor to date and wants to see him bringing his easy charm to the screen.

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