When Sam Elliott was first presented with a project titled “The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot,” he was initially turned off by the pulpy premise.
But after reading writer-director Robert Krzykowski’s mythical tale about an ex-military man, who, decades after assassinating the Führer, is recruited by the FBI and Royal Canadian Mounted Police to take out a murderous Bigfoot, he knew it was the right track to take.
“When I first heard the title, I thought, ‘Really?’” says the veteran actor, nominated for an Oscar for his supporting role in 2018’s “A Star Is Born.”
“But then I looked at the story, and that character who never wanted to kill, and thought, ‘Maybe this is a good tale to tell. Maybe it’s the right film for the right time.’”
“The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot” — which opens the Roxie’s programs Thursday at the 21st San Francisco Independent Film Festival (running Wednesday through Feb. 14 at the Roxie and Victoria theaters) is a heartfelt character study about a lonely man, grieving a lost love and hunting for acceptance.
In preparing for the part, Elliott, who appeared in “Mask,” “Roadhouse” and “The Big Lebowski,” among many others, remembered his late father, who decades ago worked as a predator control specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“I thought about my dad a number of times when we were on the hunt for Bigfoot, because I was out there sneaking around and carrying a weapon trying to kill something,” says Elliott, who spent time out on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada with his dad, seeing the poison and traps his father laid out to rid the region of coyotes and mountain lions in service of cattlemen and sheepmen.
Calvin Barr, Elliott’s character in “The Man Who,” is not so comfortable with killing creatures, having taken the job mostly to serve his country.
In one particularly moving scene, he touches the wounded Bigfoot, looks at his face and starts sobbing.
“There was just something about looking down at that hand and looking at that face that overwhelmed him,” says Elliott. “It was a real vulnerable moment.”
That tenderness, along with Barr’s selflessness in sacrificing his own physical and emotional well-being to serve humanity, makes him an inspiration in these trying times.
“Once you buy into the incredibly mythical story, there are a lot of real-life things to be taken from it, such as [Barr’s] goodness,” Elliott says. “More today than ever because of the political climate that we’re in where everybody feels that they can do anything. There are still people out there today with that same mentality as Hitler’s. It’s a terrible reality in the world. That’s why I think this film is a great thing.”
IF YOU GO
San Francisco Independent Film Festival
Where: Roxie, 3117 16th St., S.F.; Victoria, 2961 16th St., S.F.
When: Jan. 30 to Feb 14
Tickets: $13 to $18 most single programs; $45 to $250 for passes
Contact: (415) 863-1087, (415) 863-7576, sfindie.com
Note: The Man Who Killed Hitler And Then The Bigfoot screens at 7 p.m. Jan. 31 at the Roxie, with an after party at Gestalt, 3159 16th St., S.F.; tickets are $13.
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