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'Urban Cowboy' Saved Scott Glenn's Career in Hollywood

Charles Sykes/Invision/AP / YouTube/Movieclips

Scott Glenn has largely credited his incredible decades-long career in Hollywood to luck. He's been in so many legendary films, including numerous Oscar winners, it's hard to even believe there was a time when he was once a struggling actor. Some of his most notable performances include -- Alan Shepard in The Right Stuff, Emmett in Silverado, Jack Crawford in The Silence of the Lambs, Commander Bart Mancuso in The Hunt for Red October, Roger in Training Day, John Adcox in Backdraft, and Christopher Chenery in Secretariat. But these just scratch the surface of his impressive catalog of characters from over the years. Despite his current success, there was a point early on in Glenn's career where he was getting in his own way and it looked like he didn't have much of a future in show biz.

Originally from Pittsburgh, Glen had a brief stint in the United States Marine Corps after college and later worked as a sports reporter in Wisconsin. It was only when he was trying to understand dialogue in order to become a writer that he started taking acting classes. Early in his career, in the '70s, following some time on Broadway in New York, Glenn appeared in a few films, including Nashville and Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now. By 1979, he had also been on a slew of TV shows like The Patty Duke Show and Ironside. But he moved up to Idaho with his wife Carol and decided he wanted a more low-key lifestyle.

"I had kind of walked away from having a career in the movies," Glenn explained in an interview with Entertainment Tonight.

"I was like really...arrogant. I was kicked out of Universal for getting in a fight with a director who, I told him he couldn't direct traffic. If I had to audition I said, you know, f*** that."

But despite the negative reputation that the still largely unknown actor was leaving in his wake, he had one person on his side. Director Jim Bridges whom Glenn had worked with years prior on The Baby Maker, Glenn's very first film in 1970. Little did he know at the time, but Bridges was going to change his life by bringing him onto the film Urban Cowboy.

"I was living in Idaho, I got a call and it was the director, Jim Bridges. He said will you come down to Houston, you're really perfect for the bad guy in this movie. And if you do this film, you'll never have to audition again for as long as you live. You can live in Idaho and you'll have a great life as an actor."

Read More: 'Urban Cowboy' Cast: Where Are They Now?

After initially declining the opportunity once, Glenn finally relented and drove down to Houston to be considered for the role of Wes Hightower. Paramount didn't want Glenn for the role since they didn't know him, but Bridges was confident that he could get the film's lead star on board since John Travolta had final approval of casting.

Since he was playing the role of a convicted bank robber, Glenn decided to stop off outside of Huntsville Prison. He ended up meeting a couple of men whom he had known previously through a friend who introduced him to a convicted bank robber that was getting out of prison that day. What are the odds? After spending about a day with the group of criminals as a character study, Glenn hopped back in his truck and headed to Houston to meet the cast and producer.

Once he made it to Houston, he was able to get producer Irving Azoff's approval in addition to Travolta and Debra Winger's sign-off. Ultimately, the decision was finalized and Glenn was officially cast in the film that would quite literally change the trajectory of his entire career.

"So kind of over Paramount's objections, they said yes and I started one of the three parts in my life that really played me." Glenn explained to GQ.

After Urban Cowboy, Glenn's career skyrocketed. In addition to some of his more well-known films, he's appeared in Freedom WritersNights in RodantheThe Virgin SuicidesMan on FireThe Paperboy, Buffalo Soldiers, Vertical Limit, and Courage Under Fire. He's also memorable for playing the CIA Director Ezra Kramer in The Bourne Ultimatum and The Bourne Legacy, as well as the Wise Man in Sucker Punch.

He's even kept active on TV. He starred as Kevin Garvey Sr. on the HBO series The Leftovers as well as Stick on Marvel's Daredevil and its spinoff series on Netflix, The Defenders. Most recently, he appeared in the Stephen King series Castle Rock on Hulu.

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'Urban Cowboy' Saved Scott Glenn's Career in Hollywood