Lawn Dogs Star
“I've been in more than 20 movies. You just do the best you can and try to make a living. Whether it's 'The Green Mile' (1999), 'Galaxy Quest' (1999) or 'Lawn Dogs' (1997). There's no difference, not for me.” Sam Rockwell.
Making his debut in 1989's “Last Exit to Brooklyn,” Sam Rockwell began collecting moviegoers' attention in the 1990s when he starred in the films "Lawn Dogs" (1997), "The Green Mile" (1999), and "Galaxy Quest" (1999). He has since continued to amaze both audiences and critics with his performances in the next years' films "Charlie's Angels" (2000), "Heist" (2001), "Welcome to Collinwood" (2002), "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" (2002), "Matchstick Men" (2003), "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (2005), "Joshua" (2007), "Snow Angels" (2007), "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" (2007), and "Choke" (2008).
“I want to be a character actor, but I also want to make some money.” Sam Rockwell.
This 40-year-old player, who has never been married, will star in the upcoming films "Frost/Nixon," "Moon," "Everybody's Fine," "Gentlemen Broncos," and "End Zone."
“I've seen a lot of people change into double-glazed celebrities. Sudden fame is a really hard test of character. I wouldn't want to be Leonardo DiCaprio, much as I like him, because it can't be good for you at that age. I actually think that no-one should be allowed to be famous until they're 30.” Sam Rockwell.
Childhood and Family:
“I'm originally from San Francisco. I might move there some day. But, I like LA, I have fun in LA. It's a fun town if you've got money in your pocket. It's a good town.” Sam Rockwell.
The only child of actors Pete Rockwell and Penny Hess, Sam Rockwell was born on November 5, 1968 in Daly City, California. When he was two years old, Sam followed his family moved to New York, living in the Bronx and then in Manhattan. When he was five years old, his parents separated and Sam followed his father moved to San Francisco. He also spent time with his mother in New York during summers and other times.
Sam attended School of the Arts High School, San Francisco, with Margaret Cho, but dropped out before graduation. He later received his high school diploma after his parents enrolled him in the somewhat controversial Outward Bound-style alternative high school in San Francisco called Urban Pioneers. He then returned to New York and had private training at the William Esper Acting Studio.
“I watched RAGING BULL (1980) like 50 times. I wanted to be Italian. For a year I was Italian; that's all I did. I could do all that New York street stuff to the point where I would get feedback from my auditions, 'He's too New York, he's too urban' and I was from San Francisco, really.”
Sam is close friends with actors Justin Long and Jonathan Togo. He has never been married and stated in a 2007 interview, "I definitely don't want to become a parent. It's not my bag." Sam Rockwell.
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
“I did the odd bit of theater from the age of ten, but I spent most of my time doing the usual teenage things - you know, thinking I was black, trying to break dance and smoking a lot of dope.” Sam Rockwell.
Beginning acting at age 10 appearing in a play with his actress mother, Sam Rockwell got his first big break while still in high school when he appeared in the independent horror film "Clownhouse" (1989). In the Francis Ford Coppola-produced film written and directed by Victor Salva, Rockwell played Randy, the eldest of the home alone brothers being menaced by three escaped mental patients who dressed up as clowns. The film was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize in the dramatic category at the 1989 Sundance film festival.
“I worked in a lot of restaurants. Busing, mostly. I was a food runner. I was an extra on soap operas. An extra on commercials. Typical actor, huh? I delivered burritos by bicycle. All that stuff. My last real job was delivering food for this trendy restaurant. That sucked. Jobs suck! I hate jobs. This is better. I've got to remind myself, because I get b****y sometimes. It could be a lot worse.” Sam Rockwell.
After playing a tiny role in Uli Edel's film adaptation of Hubert Selby, Jr.'s 1964 novel, "Last Exit to Brooklyn" (1989; starring Jennifer Jason Leigh and Stephen Lang), Rockwell made his TV debut in an ABC Afterschool Special titled "Over the Limit" (1990). He then returned to the big screen in Paul Schrader's crime/drama "Light Sleeper" (1992; starring Willem Dafoe, Susan Sarandon, David Clennon, and Dana Delany) and made his first feature with director Alexandre Rockwell in the independent comedy "In the Soup" (1992; with Steve Buscemi, Jennifer Beals, and Seymour Cassel).
In 1994, Rockwell re-teamed with director Alexandre Rockwell for his drama film "Somebody to Love," starring Rosie Perez, and appeared in a TV commercial for Miller Ice beer. He then was cast as one of two who kidnapped John Rubinstein in Richard Shepard's independent thriller "Mercy" (1995) and worked with John Turturo for the first time in Sam Henry Kass' classic cult comedy film "The Search for One-Eye Jimmy" (1996), in which he played the title role. He also delivered critically-acclaimed performance opposite John Turturo in Tom DiCillo's "Box of Moonlight" (1996) and appeared as man eating in the segment "Sax Cantor Riff" of HBO's "SUBWAYStories: Tales from the Underground" (1997).
1997 saw Rockwell starred as working-class lawn mower Trent Burns who bonded with a rich but lonely 10-year-old girl (played by Mischa Barton), in John Duigan's dramatic film "Lawn Dogs." His brilliant performance won him Best Actor award at the Montréal World Film Festival and at the Sitges - Catalonian International Film Festival.
That same year, Rockwell also won raves for his stage performance as a Cockney salesman in the off-Broadway production of "Goose-Pimples" by Mike Leigh He also told Carson Daly in a talk-show appearance that he dropped out of Ridley Scott's action movie starring Demi Moore, "G.I. Jane" (1997) because he didn't want to get cold filming the night time scuba scenes.
He said, “I gave them no alternative, because I didn't want to learn how to scuba dive. I wouldn't mind learning in the Bahamas, but I didn't want to learn at three o'clock in the morning.”
Rockwell spent the rest of the 1990s starring as Jerry, a novice hitman, opposite Joe Mantegna's Tom, a veteran hitman, in Saul Rubinek's film adaptation of Rick Cleveland's play, "Jerry and Tom" (1998), and co-starred with Steve Zahn as a pair of aspiring lounge singers who are mistaken for ace safe crackers in John Hamburg's crime/comedy movie "Safe Men" (1998).
“'Safe Men' (1998) was exhausting, although I had a great time on it. I have a special place in my heart for Safe Men. That was a true independent film, in a budget sense. There were no trailers. Steve [Steve Zahn] and I were hanging out. It was guerrilla filmmaking. But we had a blast. And such good actors. For such a low budget, we had top rate actors, Michael Lerner, Harvey Fierstein. Steve Zahn, by far, one of the best actors I have ever worked with. He is a truly gifted actor. Skilled. He comes from the stage, he's from ART (American Repertory Theater). He's a farm boy turned theater actor, turned film actor. He builds barns and hunts deer and drinks beer and drives a Chevy Nova. He's a man, he's a real man.” Sam Rockwell.
Rockewell then was cast as a bumbling actor in Dean Parisot's “Star Trek” satire, "Galaxy Quest" (1999; with Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, and Alan Rickman). About his role in the film, Rockwell said, “That part is kind of an homage to Bill Paxton in 'Aliens' (1986). I definitely stole some moves from my buddy [actor] Steve Zahn and Bill Murray's lounge singer character from 'Saturday Night Live' (1975) is in there somewhere. Plus a little Michael Keaton in 'Night Shift' (1982) and definitely some Richard Pryor. I get a lot from Richard Pryor actually. How agile he is, vulnerable.”
He also played psychotic killer and villain William 'Wild Bill' Wharton in "The Green Mile" (1999) opposite Tom Hanks. His performance in the film earned him a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Theatrical Motion Picture.
“I guess Wild Bill is a disgusting, racist, pedophile freak. But I'd been wanting to play a psycho, a juicy one. I saw him as Huck Finn meets Satan. The kind of part Gary Oldman or John Malkovich might play. It's just a cool part.” Sam Rockwell.
Hitting the new millennium, Rockwell played villain Eric Knox in McG's big screen version of the late 1970s series, "Charlie's Angels," starring Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu. He then went to the stage in 2001 and acted in Harold Pinter's 1957 one-act play "The Dumbwaiter" and Edward Albee's first play written in 1958, "The Zoo Story," at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.
“I prefer film over TV. I don't prefer film over theater. With TV there's less time to shoot and everything is rushed. You have too many hands and cooks. There's the network and the producer and the writers. Too many people getting involved and stirring the mix. It doesn't make for good art.” Sam Rockwell.
After portraying Danny DeVito's hotheaded nephew Jimmy Silk opposite Gene Hackman in David Mamet's crime thriller film "Heist" (2001), Rockwell landed a breakthrough role as controversial 'Gong Show' host, Chuck Barris, who claimed to have also worked as an assassin for the CIA during the 1960s and the 1970s, in George Clooney's directorial debut, "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" (2002). His outstanding performance in the film won him Best Actor awards from the Phoenix Film Critics Society and at the Berlin International Film Festival. He was also nominated a Golden Satellite Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical.
Meanwhile, Rockwell played Pero in the Russo brother's heist comedy movie "Welcome to Collinwood" (2002; alongside William H. Macy and Isaiah Washington), a remake of the 1958 italian movie "I soliti ignoti" by Mario Monicelli, and starred alongside Nicolas Cage in Ridley Scott's crime/drama/comedy film based on the novel by Eric Garcia, "Matchstick Men" (2003). For his solid turn as Frank Mercer, the partner and protégé to Cage's troubled con artist character, Rockwell received a Golden Satellite Award nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, Comedy or Musical.
In 2005, Rockwell was cast as Zaphod Beeblebrox, the two-headed, three-armed, ex-hippie President of the Galaxy, in Garth Jennings' science fiction comedy film based on the book by Douglas Adams, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," with Martin Freeman, Mos Def, and Zooey Deschanel.
Rockwell recently co-starred as Charles Ford, Robert's (played by Casey Affleck) brother in Andrew Dominik's Western drama film adapted from Ron Hansen's 1983 novel, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" (2007; starring Brad Pitt), and co-starred with Vera Farmiga as the title role's parents in George Ratliff's Sundance-screened psychological horror/thriller "Joshua" (2007; Jacob Kogan played the title role), which won him Best Actor award at the Sitges - Catalonian International Film Festival.
2008 saw Rockwell played an estranged husband who tries to reconnect with his wife in David Gordon Green's Sundance-screened film adaptation of Stewart O'Nan's 1994 novel, "Snow Angels," opposite Kate Beckinsale. That same year, he also received a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival for his portrayal of Victor Mancini, a sex addict who cons others by intentionally choking at restaurants to get money from his rescuers and use the money to support his hospitalized mother (played by Anjelica Huston), in Clark Gregg's dark comedy from the 2001 novel by Chuck Palahniuk, “Choke.”
Rockwell has completed his new film, "Frost/Nixon," Ron Howard's drama film based upon the play of the same name by Peter Morgan starring Frank Langella and Michael Sheen in which Rockwell portrays author James Reston Jr. He is currently working on Duncan Jones' aci-fi/thriller film "Moon," in which he stars as an astronaut who has a quintessentially personal encounter while stranded on the moon for a three-year period, and Kirk Jones' drama/comedy movie "Everybody's Fine," in which he co-stars with Robert De Niro, Kate Beckinsale, and Drew Barrymore.
He is also filming the upcoming film projects "Gentlemen Broncos ," a comedy by Jared Hess, and "End Zone," a novel-based football comedy by George Ratliff featuring Kat Dennings and Josh Hartnett.
“I have no skills. There's absolutely nothing I know how to do. So I'd be f***ed otherwise. I'm very fortunate to be an actor. I know I'm very lucky to be doing this. And though I'm not sure where I'm going to end up -- whether it's in major films, independents, or theater work -- I'm just happy getting to do roles that are really juicy, meaningful and allow me to keep adventuring the way I have been.” Sam Rockwell.
Sundance Film Festival: Special Jury Prize - Dramatic, “Choke,” 2008
Sitges - Catalonian International Film Festival: Best Actor, “Joshua,” 2007
Phoenix Film Critics Society: Best Actor in a Leading Role, “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” 2003
Berlin International Film Festival: Best Actor, “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” 2003
Montréal World Film Festival: Best Actor, “Lawn Dogs,” 1997
Sitges - Catalonian International Film Festival: Best Actor, “Lawn Dogs,” 1997