Elliot Confirmed as Thunderbolt Ross

Monday, February 18 2002

Posted on Chicago Sun-Times

SAM THE MAN: For veteran actor Sam Elliott, the much-awaited flick "We Were Soldiers" wasn't just a movie. It was redemption. "When I was 18, I should have been in Vietnam. I was going to school at the University of Oregon and my dad died. I dropped out of school and was classified 1A, which means I could be sent to 'Nam. I was even seriously considering going, but after talking to my mom we decided I should get into the Air National Guard in Portland to fulfill my military obligation."

Elliott adds, "I always felt guilty." When "Braveheart" director Randall Wallace and bud Mel Gibson drafted him for the Vietnam movie "We Were Soldiers'' he jumped at the chance. "This gig was a way to purge my demons," he says.

During training for the film at Fort Benning in Georgia, Elliott "got a double hernia trying to crawl on my belly under barb wire. Even if I was the old guy, I wasn't going to be the last guy to cross the finish line." One operation later, he's on the mend and about to star in Ang Lee's "The Incredible Hulk."

"I play a general named Thunderbolt Ross. Ang called me, which is great after 32 years in this game.

"Ang said, 'I liked you in 'The Contender,' and I want you.' Those are magic words."

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