Filmmaker Brett Haley wrote the script for his latest film, “The Hero,” with two muses in mind: veteran character actor Sam Elliott and the marijuana strain Platinum Cookies.
Elliott stars as Lee Hayden, an over-the-hill Western actor exiled to voiceover work who smokes weed with his dealer Jeremy (Nick Offerman) and dreams of once and future on-film glory. When he’s diagnosed with cancer, Lee is forced to come to grips with his mortality, past sins and lost opportunities.
Platinum Cookies makes its silver screen debut in this exclusive clip shared with The Cannabist by Haley and entertainment company The Orchard, which bought the rights to “The Hero” following its 2017 Sundance premiere. The film will be released in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, June 9, followed by a national rollout beginning July 4.
“Platinum Cookies is an indica-sativa hybrid I came across in my travels,” Haley told The Cannabist. “It was a fun, chill weed — and I liked the name.”
The strain name’s cadence made sense for this scene introducing Jeremy as Lee’s only friend, Haley said.
“Platinum Cookies, the real good shit,” a stoned Lee deadpans in his gravelly drawl to Jeremy, as if in the voiceover booth. It’s the only scene in which the film’s hero seems to find joy in his iconic voice.
Marijuana keeps Lee in the clouds, disconnected from the reality of his lonely life and, now, his devastating cancer diagnosis, Haley said.
It also fuels his dreams — an imaginary film shoot that Lee flashes in and out of — where he grapples with past glories, missed opportunities and hopes for one last shot at his brass ring.
Haley has said that he wrote “The Hero” as a love letter to Elliott, who also starred alongside Blythe Danner in Haley’s 2015 film, “I’ll See You in My Dreams.” But after reading the script, the veteran actor was a bit surprised by the amount of marijuana his character smoked, Haley said.
“‘Can people really smoke this much?'” Haley recalled Elliott asking him. When Haley told him he knew people who smoked that much weed, Elliott responded: “‘If that’s how you want the guy, I’ll give it to you.'”
“And that’s just Sam,” Haley said. “His star is brighter than it’s ever been, and I loved writing for him and working with him.”
Despite death’s long shadow, “The Hero” doesn’t linger on Lee’s mortality. Instead, the aging movie star’s arc shows that legacy isn’t defined by movie roles or awards, but in one’s personal connections in this world. As Lee deals with his cancer diagnosis, he rediscovers romance when he meets Charlotte (Laura Prepon), a stand-up comic with “a thing for old guys.” He also begins an emotional reconciliation with his estranged daughter, Lucy (Krysten Ritter).
Near the film’s conclusion, Lee is back in the sound booth, enduring yet another voiceover session; nothing has changed, yet Lee is a transformed man.
“Escaping in a film can also mean engaging in truthful, honest characters that make you think of your own life,” Haley said. “At the end of this film, I want people to say, ‘I’m glad I spent this time with Sam Elliott.'”