Katharine Juliet Ross first came to prominence with her role in The Graduate in which she starred alongside Dustin Hoffman. The role earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and a Golden Globe nomination for New Star of the Year.
The film was a huge success, grossing $104.9 million in the United States and Canada and making it the highest-grossing film of 1967. The ending of The Graduate remains a mystery as it shows Benjamin, played by Hoffman, rescuing Elaine, played by Ross, from her wedding. The two are then seen sitting on a city bus with expressions on their faces that not many expected.
“You are always told you just keep going in a scene until the director says ‘cut.’ Well, Mike didn’t say it for the longest time. We ran out of dialogue, but the camera kept running. What do I think? I think Elaine got off at the next stop,” Ross said of the role which turned her into a star.
“[Dustin Hoffman] was this New York stage actor. He looked like he had rolled out from under a rock, he was so pale. He just wanted to get back to some play off-Broadway he was doing. Although we ended up getting to know and like each other, what I thought that first day was, “Oh my God — this guy is dressed all in black, and he is white as a sheet,” Ross recalled in an interview with the Houston Chronicle.
“You know Dustin’s one-time roommate Gene Hackman was cast as my father. I don’t know exactly what the deal was, but he bowed out.”
Ross made professional acting debut in 1962 with the Television role in Sam Benedict and her film debut with Shenandoah along with James Stewart.
At the start of her rich and successful career, Ross appeared in a number of movies, including Hellfighters, Fools, The Final Countdown, A Climate for Killing, and many more, but being an actor during the ’60 wasn’t an easy thing.
“I remember doing a screen test for the only film that Samuel Goldwyn Jr. ever directed: The Young Lovers. It was to star Peter Fonda, but he wasn’t available to do the screen test with me, so they brought in Chad Everett. He didn’t know that the role was cast, and he was putting everything he had into the screen test. I didn’t have the heart to tell him the truth. I went through a series of sessions with a hairdresser to get my look the way Sam wanted it. When they were finished, they had hacked off all of my hair. And they wound up casting someone else,” she once shared with Variety. “I’ll tell you what was great about it,” she continued. “It was a time when the old studio system was in its dying throes, and they were just starting to try new approaches, and the little $1 million budget films were being seen as the way to go. And that did turn out to be the progenitor of a great new era that eventually became the indie film movement.”
In 1969, she landed another very significant role. She was cast in the now-legendary film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, in which she featured in one of the most iconic scenes ever when she balanced on the handlebars of a bicycle pedaled by actor Paul Newman.
For the last 40 something years, Ross has been happily married to actor Sam Elliott. Before tying the knot with him, she was married four times, and with Elliot, she finally found true love.
The two first worked together in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but he was an extra in the film and didn’t have the courage to approach her. He got smitten by her and it was the start of one of the most beautiful romances Hollywood has ever seen.
“My wife, Katharine Ross, and I both worked on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but I didn’t dare try to talk to her then. She was the leading lady. I was a shadow on the wall, a glorified extra in a bar scene,” Elliott told AARP The Magazine in 2015.
“It was a great opportunity, though, because being an extra on the show and being a contract player (with Fox) allowed me to get in and watch ’em make the film. I spent a lot of time over in a dark corner watching Katharine and the rest of ’em work while they were in L.A,” he told The Oklahoman.
Some ten years later, they found themselves working together yet again, this time in the Gothic horror movie The Legacy.
They welcomed daughter Cleo Rose Elliott and went on to starre in a number of films together, including Travis McGee, Houston: The Legend of Texas, and Conagher. In 2017, the two starred together in The Hero, where Elliott starred as an aging Western film star and Ross as his ex-wife.
“I think we just like making movies and having that creative experience together is the best,” Elliott told the Los Angeles Times in 2016.
“It’s just fun. It’s a whole different kind of energy to go home with some you’re working with rather than go home to somebody who isn’t working. It’s a totally positive experience.”
Speaking of the secret to a long and happy marriage, Elliot once said, We have a common sensibility, but we also work at being together. You work past the s–t; you don’t walk away from it. That’s how relationships last.”