Rockwell at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival
November 5, 1968
Daly City, California, U.S.
|Education||Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts|
He is known for his leading roles in Lawn Dogs (1997), Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002), Matchstick Men (2003), The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005), Choke (2008), Moon (2009), Seven Psychopaths (2012) and Mr. Right (2015), as well as for his supporting roles in The Green Mile (1999), Galaxy Quest (1999), The Assassination of Jesse James (2007), Frost/Nixon (2008), Conviction (2010), Iron Man 2 (2010), Cowboys & Aliens (2011) and The Way, Way Back (2013).
Rockwell was born in Daly City, California, the son of actors who divorced when he was five years old. He was raised by his father, Pete Rockwell, in San Francisco, while his mother, Penny Hess, lived in New York (he spent his summer vacations with her). Rockwell had what The New York Times described in 1998 as a "footloose upbringing" and, at age 10, made his brief stage debut playing Humphrey Bogart in an East Village improv comedy sketch starring his mother.
He attended San Francisco School of the Arts with Margaret Cho and Aisha Tyler but dropped out before graduating. He later received his high school diploma after his parents enrolled him in an Outward Bound-style alternative high school called Urban Pioneers because, as Rockwell explained, "I just wanted to get stoned, flirt with girls, go to parties." The school, the actor said, "had a reputation as a place stoners went because it was easy to graduate," but the program ended up helping him regain an interest in performing. After appearing in an independent film during his senior year, he graduated and moved to New York to pursue an acting career.
After his debut role in the 1989 horror film Clownhouse (produced by Francis Ford Coppola's production company), which he filmed when based in San Francisco, he moved to New York and trained at the William Esper Studios, with teacher Terry Knickerbocker. His career slowly gathered momentum in the early 1990s, when he alternated between small-screen guest spots in TV shows like The Equalizer, NYPD Blue and Law & Order and small roles in films such as Last Exit to Brooklyn and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He also appeared as the title character in The Search for One-eye Jimmy. During this time Rockwell worked in restaurants as a busboy and delivered burritos by bicycle. At one point, Rockwell even worked as a private detective's assistant. "I tailed a chick who was having an affair and took pictures of her at this motel", he told Rolling Stone in 2002. "It was pretty sleazy." A well-paying Miller commercial in 1994 finally allowed him to pursue acting full-time.
The turning point in Rockwell's career was Tom DiCillo's 1996 film Box of Moonlight, in which he played an eccentric man-child who dresses like Davy Crockett and lives in an isolated mobile home. The ensuing acclaim put him front and center with casting agents and new-found fans alike, with Rockwell himself acknowledging that "That film was definitely a turning point...I was sort of put on some independent film map after 10 years in New York."
He also won strong reviews for the 1997 film Lawn Dogs, where he played a working-class lawn mower who befriends a wealthy 10-year-old girl (Mischa Barton) in an upper-class gated community in Kentucky; Rockwell's performance won him Best Actor honors at both the Montreal World Film Festival and the Catalonian International Film Festival. In 1999, Rockwell played prisoner William "Wild Bill" Wharton in the Stephen King prison drama The Green Mile. At the time of the film's shooting, Rockwell explained why he was attracted to playing such unlikeable characters. He said, "I like that dark stuff. I think heroes should be flawed. There's a bit of self-loathing in there, and a bit of anger... But after this, I've really got to play some lawyers, or a British aristocrat, or they'll put a label on me."
After appearances as a bumbling actor in 1999's science fiction satire Galaxy Quest, in the 1999 Shakespeare adaptation A Midsummer Night's Dream as Flute, and as gregarious villain Eric Knox in Charlie's Angels (2000), Rockwell won the biggest leading role of his career as The Gong Show host Chuck Barris in George Clooney's 2002 directorial debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. Rockwell's performance was well received, and the film received generally positive reviews.
Rockwell has also received positive notices for his role opposite Nicolas Cage in Ridley Scott's Matchstick Men (2003), with Entertainment Weekly calling him "destined by a kind of excessive interestingness to forever be a colorful sidekick." He received somewhat more mixed reviews as Zaphod Beeblebrox in the 2005 film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. He then had a notable supporting role as Charley Ford, brother of Casey Affleck's character Robert Ford, in the well-received 2007 drama The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, in which Brad Pitt played the lead role of Jesse James. According to an interview on The Howard Stern Show, director Jon Favreau considered casting him as the titular character in Iron Man as the studio was initially hesitant to work with Robert Downey, Jr., who had been considered for his role in The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. Rockwell appeared in the Iron Man sequel, released in 2010, as Tony Stark's rival weapons' developer, Justin Hammer. He is said to have accepted the role without reading the script. He had never heard of the character before he was contacted about the part, and was unaware that Hammer is an old man in the comic books.
In addition to big-budget feature films, Rockwell also appears in indie films such as The F Word and he played a randy, Halloween-costume-clad Batman in a short, Robin's Big Date, opposite Justin Long as Robin. He also starred in the 2008 film Snow Angels opposite Kate Beckinsale. He had worked on several occasions with the comedy troupe Stella (Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter and David Wain), making cameo appearances in their short films and eponymous TV series.
Rockwell played Victor Mancini in the film Choke, based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk. Critic Roger Ebert said of his performance that he "seems to have become the latter-day version of Christopher Walken – not all the time, but when you need him, he's your go-to guy for weirdness."
In 2007, Rockwell guest-starred in the Web series Casted: The Continuing Chronicles of Derek Riffchyn, Greatest Casting Director in the World. Ever. He appears opposite Jonathan Togo as Derek and Justin Long as Scott. Rockwell plays an aspiring young actor named Pete Sampras.
In 2009, he starred in the critically acclaimed science fiction film Moon, directed by Duncan Jones. His performance was widely praised, with some critics calling for an Academy Award for Best Actor nomination.
On May 3, 2010, it was announced that Rockwell would team up again with Iron Man 2 director Jon Favreau, for Favreau's adaptation of the graphic novel Cowboys & Aliens. He played a bar owner named Doc who joins in the pursuit of the aliens.
Rockwell also appeared in Martin McDonagh's Seven Psychopaths, as well as Nat Faxon and Jim Rash's The Way, Way Back. For his performance in The Way, Way Back, some critics felt he again deserved an Academy Award nomination.
In January 2014, it was announced that Rockwell was cast in the upcoming film The Eel, in which he will play an escaped convict. The film will be produced by Kevin Walsh, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash, marking Rockwell's second collaboration with all three. Additionally, Rockwell starred in the 2015 remake of Poltergeist.
Since 1992, Rockwell has been a member of the LAByrinth Theater Company, where John Ortiz is a co-artistic director. In 2005, Philip Seymour Hoffman directed him in Stephen Adly Guirgis' hit play, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. This past August, Rockwell work-shopped an upcoming LAByrinth production, North of Mason-Dixon, scheduled to debut in London in 2007 and then premiere in New York City later the same year. Other plays in which Rockwell performed are: Dumb Waiter (2001), Zoo Story (2001), Hot L Baltimore (2000), Goosepimples (1998), Love and Human Remains, Face Divided, Orphans, Den of Thieves, Dessert at Waffle House, The Largest Elizabeth, and A Behanding in Spokane.
Rockwell has never been married and stated in a 2007 interview, "I definitely don't want to become a parent. It's not my bag."
|2010||A Behanding in Spokane||Mervyn|
|2014||Fool for Love||Eddie|
|1989||Last Exit to Brooklyn||Al|
|1990||Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles||Head Thug|
|1992||Jack and His Friends||Louie|
|1992||In the Soup||Pauli|
|1992||Happy Hell Night||Young Henry Collins|
|1994||Somebody to Love||Polish Guy|
|1994||Search for One-eye Jimmy, TheThe Search for One-eye Jimmy||One-eye Jimmy|
|1996||Bad Liver and a Broken Heart||Broken Heart|
|1996||Box of Moonlight||The Kid, aka Bucky|
|1997||Lawn Dogs||Trent||Best Actor Award at the Sitges Film Festival
Best Actor Award at the Montreal World Film Festival
|1998||Call Back, TheThe Call Back||Alan/Christopher Walken|
|1998||Jerry and Tom||Jerry|
|1998||Louis & Frank||Sam|
|1999||Midsummer Night's Dream, AA Midsummer Night's Dream||Francis Flute|
|1999||Green Mile, TheThe Green Mile||William 'Wild Bill' Wharton||Nominated — Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture|
|1999||Galaxy Quest||Guy Fleegman|
|2000||Charlie's Angels||Eric Knox|
|2001||D.C. Smalls||Karaoke Singer|
|2002||Running Time||The Hunted||Short film|
|2002||Welcome to Collinwood||Pero|
|2002||Confessions of a Dangerous Mind||Chuck Barris||Berlin International Film Festival – Silver Bear for Best Actor
Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Actor
Nominated — Satellite Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
|2002||Stella Shorts 1998–2002||Pizza Guy||Direct-to-video
|2003||Matchstick Men||Frank Mercer||Nominated — Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture|
|2004||Piccadilly Jim||Piccdilly Jim/Jim Crocker|
|2005||Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, TheThe Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy||Zaphod Beeblebrox|
|2005||F Word, TheThe F Word||Jeremy|
|2005||Robin's Big Date||The Bat-man||Short film|
|2007||Joshua||Brad Cairn||Best Actor Award at the Sitges Film Festival|
|2007||Snow Angels||Glenn Marchand|
|2007||Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, TheThe Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford||Charley Ford|
|2008||Woman in Burka||Sam|
|2008||Choke||Victor Mancini||Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize for Best Ensemble Cast
Nominated — Satellite Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
|2008||Frost/Nixon||James Reston Jr.||Nominated — Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture|
|2009||The Winning Season||Bill||Also producer|
|2009||Moon||Sam Bell||Best Actor Award at the Sitges Film Festival
Golden Space Needle Award for Best Actor
Nominated — British Independent Film Award for Best Actor
Nominated — Irish Film and Television Award for Best International Actor
Nominated — Saturn Award for Best Actor
Nominated — Scream Award for Best Sci-Fi Actor
Also in the video game
|2010||Iron Man 2||Justin Hammer|
|2010||Conviction||Kenneth Waters||Boston Film Festival Award for Best Actor
Hollywood Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated — Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated — Detroit Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated — Iowa Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated — St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated — Utah Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated — Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
|2011||Cowboys & Aliens||Doc|
|2011||Sitter, TheThe Sitter||Karl|
|2012||Seven Psychopaths||Billy Bickle||Nominated — Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male|
|2013||The Way, Way Back||Owen||Nominated — Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor in a Comedy
Nominated — Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated — Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated — San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
|2013||A Single Shot||John Moon|
|2013||Trust Me||Aldo Stankas|
|2013||A Case of You||Gary|
|2013||Better Living Through Chemistry||Douglas Varney|
|2014||Marvel One-Shot: All Hail the King||Justin Hammer||Short|
|2014||Loitering with Intent||Wayne|
|2015||Digging for Fire||Ray|
|2015||Don Verdean||Don Verdean|
|2015||Mr. Right||Mr. Right / Francis|
|2017||Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri||Officer Jason Dixon||Post-production|
|2017||Woman Walks Ahead||Post-production|
|2017||Mute||Sam Bell||Post-production; cameo|
|1988||The Equalizer||Slick||Episode: "The Child Broker"|
|1989||Dream Street||Joey||Episode: "Girl's Talk"|
|1990||ABC Afterschool Special||Jason||Episode: "Over the Limit"|
|1992, 1993||Law & Order||Randy Borland / Officer Weddeker||2 episodes|
|1993||Lifestories: Families in Crisis||Kevin Tunell||Episode: "Dead Drunk: The Kevin Tunell Story"|
|1995||NYPD Blue||Billy||Episode: "Torah! Torah! Torah!"|
|1997||SUBWAYStories: Tales from the Underground||Man Eating||Television film
Segment: "Sax Cantor Riff"
|1997–2000||Prince Street||Donny Hanson||6 episodes|
|2005||Stella||Gary Meadows||Episode: "Office Party"|
|2012||Napoleon Dynamite||Filson (voice)||Episode: "FFA"|
|2015||Drunk History||Bugsy Siegel||Episode: "Las Vegas"|
|2015–present||F is for Family||Vic (voice)||6 episodes|
|2016||Inside Amy Schumer||Sam||Episode: "Fame"|
|2016||Dishonored 2||Mortimer Ramsey (voice)|
Awards and nominations
|1997||Montreal World Film Festival||Best Actor||Lawn Dogs||Won|
|1997||Catalonian International Film Festival (CIFF)||Best Actor||Lawn Dogs||Won|
|2000||Screen Actors Guild||Outstanding Performance By A Cast In A Theatrical Motion Picture||The Green Mile (shared with cast)||Nominated|
|2003||Berlin International Film Festival||Best Actor||Confessions of a Dangerous Mind||Won|
|2003||Satellite Awards||Best Performance By An Actor In A Leading Role, Musical Or Comedy||Confessions of a Dangerous Mind||Nominated|
|2004||Satellite Awards||Best Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role, Musical Or Comedy||Matchstick Men||Nominated|
|2008||Satellite Awards||Best Actor In A Motion Picture, Musical Or Comedy||Choke||Nominated|
|2008||Sundance Film Festival||Special Jury Prize||Choke (shared with cast)||Won|
|2009||Screen Actors Guild Award||Outstanding Performance By A Cast In A Motion Picture||Frost/Nixon (shared with cast)||Nominated|
|2009||Seattle International Film Festival||Best Actor||Moon||Won|
|2009||Scream Awards||Best Sci-Fi Actor||Moon||Nominated|
|2009||British Independent Film Awards||Best Actor||Moon||Nominated|
|2009||Detroit Film Critics Society Award||Best Actor||Moon||Nominated|
|2009||Saturn Award||Best Actor||Moon||Nominated|
|2010||Washington DC Area Film Critics Association Awards||Best Supporting Actor||Conviction||Nominated|
|2010||Utah Film Critics Association Awards||Best Supporting Actor||Conviction||Nominated|
|2010||St. Louis Film Critics Association||Best Supporting Actor||Conviction||Nominated|
|2010||Irish Film and Television Awards||Best International Actor||Moon||Nominated|
|2010||Hollywood Film Awards||Supporting Actor of the Year||Won|
|2010||Chlotrudis Awards||Best Actor||Moon||Nominated|
|2010||Boston Film Festival||Best Actor||Conviction||Won|
|2010||Saturn Awards||Best Actor||Moon||Nominated|
|2011||Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards||Best Supporting Actor||Conviction||Nominated|
|2011||Iowa Film Critics Awards||Best Supporting Actor||Conviction||Nominated|
|2012||San Diego Film Critics Society Awards||Best Ensemble Performance (w/ cast)||Seven Psychopaths||Nominated|
|2012||Boston Society of Film Critics Awards||Best Ensemble Cast (w/ cast)||Seven Psychopaths||Nominated|
|2013||Independent Spirit Awards||Best Supporting Male||Seven Psychopaths||Nominated|
|2013||Newport Beach Film Festival||Best Actor||A Single Shot||Won|
|2013||Online Film Critics Society Awards||Best Supporting Actor||The Way Way Back||Nominated|
|2013||Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards||Best Actor in a Supporting Role||The Way Way Back||Nominated|
|2013||Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards||Best Acting Ensemble (w/cast)||The Way Way Back||Nominated|
|2013||San Diego Film Critics Society Awards||Best Supporting Actor||The Way Way Back||Nominated|
|2014||Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards||Best Actor in a Comedy||The Way Way Back||Nominated|
|2014||Chlotrudis Awards||Best Supporting Actor||The Way Way Back||Nominated|
- "California, Birth Index, 1905-1995". FamilySearch. Retrieved January 27, 2014.
- "Sam Rockwell; One-Man Gallery of Rogues, Crooks and Oddballs". by Laura Winters, The New York Times. September 13, 1998. Retrieved March 25, 2008.
- “Sam Rockwell,” by Miranda Spencer. Biography, January 2003.
- "Today's Buzz Stories: Rockwell turned around". CNN Showbuzz. December 23, 2002. Archived from the original on July 20, 2007. Retrieved February 10, 2007.
- Weinraub, Bernard (January 23, 1998). "AT THE MOVIES; Looking Back At 2 Classics". The New York Times. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
- "Sam Rockwell | The Talks". The Talks. Retrieved 2017-02-24.
- “Sam Rockwell,” by M.B. Rolling Stone, 10/3/02.
- "Movie Review: Matchstick Men". by Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly. September 10, 2003. Retrieved February 10, 2007.
- "Choke". Chicago Sun-Times. September 25, 2008.
- on YouTube
- Moon. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved on 2012-08-18.
- Flores, Ramses (May 3, 2010). "Sam Rockwell cast in COWBOYS & ALIENS". collider.com. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
- "Martin McDonagh Helms 'Seven Psychopaths', Colin Farrell among all-star cast". iftn.com. May 12, 2011. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
- Mele, Rick (July 5, 2013). "Sam Rockwell in 'The Way, Way Back': Will It Be His Breakout Role?". Moviefone. AOL. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
- Seibert, Perry. "The Way Way Back Review". Retrieved 13 August 2015.
- "The Way Way Back - Movie Review". Retrieved 13 August 2015.
- Fleming, Jr., Mike (January 17, 2014). "Sundance: 'Laggies' Sam Rockwell Sets 'The Eel' To Reunite With 'Way Way Back' Gang". Deadline.com. PMC. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
- Chrissy Iley (November 11, 2007). It's scary in here.... Interview – Film.guardian.co.uk. Retrieved on 2012-08-18.
- Tom Shone (3 December 2012). "Sam Rockwell: Hollywood's odd man out". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
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