In Praise of Sam Rockwell

I am slowly working my way through the Sam Rockwell catalog. Basically, I want to see anything he’s been in. Doesn’t matter if it was a bit part, because Rockwell’s genius is stealing scenes no matter the role. He’s easily one of the best character actors working today, and also, bonus, he is extremely attractive.

No foolin'

Apparently his mainstream breakthrough was as a vile criminal in The Green Mile, but I remember first seeing him in Charlie’s Angels, in which he plays a shaggy, soft-spoken geek who turns out (11-year spoiler alert) to be the ruthless villain. For a summer popcorn film directed by a man known only by his made-up last name, this actually showed Rockwell’s range nicely. He was easily the shy nerd kissing Drew Barrymore, and just as easily the pompadoured cad shooting her through a window and lighting up a cigarette.

Also, the dancing. He famously loves dancing, and shows off his fancy footwork at every opportunity. I’ve seen him shake it in Charlie’s Angels, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Moon, Iron Man 2, and The Winning Season. No, watch, he’s really good:

I don’t think I’ve seen him in a movie in which he wasn’t unhinged or just a little off. At some point in every film, his eyes go wild with desperation or dark with hopelessness. He often plays someone with a hidden side (Charlie’s Angels, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind), or a dangerous side (Snow Angels, The Green Mile), or both (Moon). He invests his characters with such emotion and commitment that I find myself marveling at the humanity he reveals in even his most despicable characters. I’ve read actor interviews about treating their villainous character as the hero of the story in order to find their motivations, but I didn’t really get what that meant til I saw several Rockwell movies close together. He’s never smarter than his sadsacks or kinder than his killers; instead, he knows his sadsack’s frustrations and his killer’s sick itch. He must be a novelist’s dream actor, since he so easily conveys the paragraphs of internal turmoil and meditation usually lost in translation from page to screen.

I’d love to see him on stage and see how his intensity plays out there. But until I get that chance, I’ll be looking out for him in whatever projects he chooses next. Coming soon, Cowboys & Aliens! I’ll be enjoying him, whether he’s looking like this:

Poor clone man, what is your identity now?

or this:

You still look a little lost. I will definitely help you find your way.

Photo 1 from here.
Photo 2 from here.
Photo 3 from here.

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