Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Why Shea Brennan From Yellowstone Prequel 1883 Looks So Familiar

In case you hadn't heard, the "Yellowstone" universe is about to get a little bigger in the guise of its very own spinoff series. That's hardly a surprise given the massive popularity of the Paramount+ Western series. What may prove surprising to some is that "Yellowstone" co-creator Taylor Sheridan is spinning off via a prequel series that's set to explore just how the Duttons came to own their vast Montana ranching lands. 

Titled simply "1883," the new series is set in that very year, and finds the distant ancestors of current "Yellowstone" Dutton Ranch warden John Dutton (Kevin Costner) making their way through uncharted Old West territories in search of land to call their own. Along the way, Sheridan and co. promise thrills and chills far more in line with classic Western cinema. They're promising a star-studded journey as well, with the likes of Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Billy Bob Thornton, Isabel May, and more joining the action.

If you've seen the series' trailer, you no doubt recognized the face of Shea Brennan, the lawman accompanying the wagon train on its perilous journey. That's because it belongs to a legendary character actor who's been working steadily in film and television since the 1960s. His name is Sam Elliott. Here's why he looks so familiar.

Sam Elliott shined in A Star is Born

As mentioned, Sam Elliott has been in the showbiz game for a few decades now, and has amassed more than 100 film and television credits over that span (per IMDb). He's been going through a major late-career renaissance, however, so it makes sense to jump in with some of his more recent appearances. And of Elliott's recent performances, few have been quite as well received as his turn in Bradley Cooper's Oscar-winning music drama "A Star Is Born."

That film found Cooper playing the roles of writer, director, and star, appearing as a veteran singer-songwriter whose career is in decline as that of his young ingenue and lover is on the rise. That star-on-the-rise was, of course, played by none other than Lady Gaga, who positively stole the show in one of her first legit big-screen dramatic roles. Sam Elliott was just as solid in the film, portraying the beleaguered, hard-nosed brother to Cooper's trouble-making singer. And just like his more famous co-stars, Elliott went on to receive an Academy Award nomination (the first of his storied career) for his work (via IMDb).   

He went back to his Western roots in The Hero

While "A Star Is Born" netted Sam Elliott a long-overdue first Oscar nomination, some might argue he should've landed one for a film he starred in a year prior. That film was 2017's stark romantic drama "The Hero," which saw Elliott portraying a fading movie star whose best work is well behind him. It also finds Elliott's jaded Lee Hayden essentially stuck playing the same character for the bulk of his career. 

It's sort of fitting then that Elliott is pretty much playing an alternate version of himself here, as he's often been plagued by type-casting in his own career. Even still, Elliott has arguably never been better in a film, bringing a weary sense of hard-earned wisdom to his role as the cancer-stricken Lee struggles with career woes, attempts to reconcile with his estranged daughter Lucy (Krysten Ritter), indulges in casual marijuana use with his dealer buddy Jeremy (Nick Offerman), and forges an unexpected romance with Charlotte (Laura Prepon), a woman less than half his age. In some hands, this sort of role might've played as caricature. In Elliott's, it rings as true as any performance in film history. 

He was also a cowboy in The Big Lebowski

Regarding the general type-casting of Sam Elliott as a world-weary cowboy over the years, it has a lot to do with his undeniably Western-y persona, his iconic mustache, and the fact that he's just proven exceedingly good at playing such characters since the early days of his career. Likewise, many films have made excellent use of Elliott's Western wiles (see "Gunsmoke," "Tombstone," "Justified," and more), though few felt quite as in on the type-casting joke as Joel and Ethan Coen's madcap 1998 crime comedy "The Big Lebowski."

Elliott seems to be in on the joke himself — a fact made clear by his not-quite-cheeky work as the film's pseudo-narrator, a mysterious cowboy known only as The Stranger. Sadly, Elliott's seemingly omnipotent, sarsaparilla-loving Stranger only had a couple of scenes in "The Big Lebowski." Still, the actor more than made the most of his limited screen time, delivering both a performance and a character as unforgettable as any in the film — which is saying a lot, since "The Big Lebowski" is absolutely bursting at the seams with unforgettable characters and show-stopping performances.  

Sam Elliott kicked butt in Road House

Though Sam Elliott had been a working actor for more than two decades prior to appearing in 1989's action bonanza "Road House," it's safe to say that the film served as the actor's hearty introduction to modern audiences. If you've somehow never seen "Road House," the film sees Patrick Swayze portraying Dalton, an enigmatic bouncer hired to clean up the Double Deuce, a roadside nightclub in a small Missouri town plagued by nightly outbursts of violence.

That noble endeavor proves more problematic than Dalton expected thanks to the interference of a gangster-ish local magnate named Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara), who control's most of the town's business ventures. In need of some serious backup, Dalton calls in Wade Garrett, his old partner and mentor for help. Yes, that was indeed Sam Elliott portraying the grizzled, quippy ass-kicker Wade Garrett in "Road House." And yes, he's basically just playing a different sort of cowboy in the film. Nevertheless, Elliott brings some serious verve to the role, making a three-dimensional person out of a character that was almost certainly relegated to one on the page.