Sam Bottoms grew up in a family of actors. All three of his brothers have tried their hand at the craft, with brother Timothy ("Johnny Got His Gun," "The Last Picture Show") the most well known. Sam's career, however, was distinguished by Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam War epic "Apocalypse Now," in which he played the California surfer turned riverboat gunner, Lance B. Johnson. The role of a So-Cal surfer was not far from Bottoms' real-life background; he had grown up as a surfer in Santa Barbara. Bottoms portrayed Johnson as a wide-eyed, eager-to-please greenhorn whose innocence seems to serve as his protection in the hostile jungle. Bottoms got his first acting job when he followed his brother down to the set of "The Last Picture Show." He was spotted hanging around, and wound up in the picture as Billy, the speech-impaired street sweeper. Bottoms also appeared in a couple of Clint Eastwood Westerns, "The Outlaw Josey Wales" and "Bronco Billy." He never really got to work on another film at the level of "Apocalypse Now," but he did have a solid career that, in later years, centered on television. He played Cal Trask in the TV miniseries version of "East of Eden" and guest-starred on episodes of "21 Jump Street," "Murder, She Wrote," and "NYPD Blue," among others. He died of a brain tumor at the age of 53.
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
First film appearance as the retarded Billy in Peter Bogdanovich's classic, "The Last Picture Show"; appeared in several scenes with older brother Timothy
Garnered notice playing Marty in "The Class of 44"
First collaboration with Clint Eastwood in "The Outlaw Josey Wales"
Played hotshot PFC Lance in Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now"; co-starred Marlon Brando and Martin Sheen
Again worked with Clint Eastwood on the Western comedy "Bronco Billy"
Starred in the TV-miniseries remake of "East of Eden" as Cal Trask, while his brother Timothy played his father, Adam Trask
Co-starred with brothers, Tim and Joseph Bottoms, in the short-lived TV pilot "Island Sons"
Re-teamed with director Francis Ford Coppola, to play the more sober-sided Lt. Webber in "Gardens of Stone"
Again collaborated with brother Joseph Bottoms in Philippe Mora's "Snide and Prejudice"
Appeared in the Gary Ross directed drama "Seabiscuit"
Cast in Anand Tucker's "Shopgirl"; film based on the novella by Steve Martin
Played Maggie Gyllenhaal's father in the independent drama, "Sherrybaby"