Sam Elliott (left) and Patrick Swayze in Road House
Everett Collection


An amalgamation of epic fistfights, samurai honor and bare flesh, Road House — starring Patrick Swayze, Kelly Lynch and Sam Elliott — made no one’s list of best films of 1989 and grossed only a modest $30 million at the domestic box office. But 25 years after its theatrical release, the film has become a cult sensation, playing endlessly on late-night television and even inspiring an off-Broadway musical. The 69-year-old Elliott, currently seen in Kevin Costner’s Draft Day, portrayed the enigmatic bouncer Wade Garrett and still receives fan mail about it. Here, Elliott remembers the making of the film.

“No one’s ever going to accuse me of being a chameleon in my work. I am who I am, and I do what I do. So I had been sent the script for Road House, and I read it and had a good time with it — saw it for what it was — and Patrick Swayze was already tied to it, and I remember meeting with the movie’s producer, Joel Silver, and asking him specifically, ‘Why do you want me in this thing?’ And Joel said, ‘It’s all about your baggage, man. You’ve got great baggage.’ He knew what he was getting by hiring me to play Wade Garrett. So I took the job and had a great time. … I was in great shape in those days. I was a strong, flexible dude. I could bend down real good and kick guys in the head, and I did it in a pair of boots that weighed about 5 pounds apiece. I pulled the punches as well as I could. I’m not sure I always got the air, but I’m not telling. I could really get the legs up back in those days. You’d go home at night feeling great after shooting all day, but then the morning after was a whole world of hurt. Not every day, but enough of them.”