Sam Rockwell
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Sam Rockwell

Sam Rockwell
Sam Rockwell (51492) (cropped).jpg
Rockwell at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival
Born (1968-11-05) November 5, 1968 (age 50)
ResidenceLos Angeles County, California, U.S.
Alma materRuth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts
Years active1988-present
Leslie Bibb (2007-present)

Sam Rockwell (born November 5, 1968) is an American actor. He became well 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), Moon (2009), and Seven Psychopaths (2012). He has also played supporting roles in The Green Mile (1999), Galaxy Quest (1999), Frost/Nixon (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Conviction (2010), and The Way, Way Back (2013).

In 2017, Rockwell's performance as a troubled police officer in the crime film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri won him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.[1][2][3][4] He was nominated in the same category the following year for his portrayal of George W. Bush in the political satire Vice.[5][6] In 2019, he portrayed Bob Fosse in the FX biographical miniseries Fosse/Verdon, earning him a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series.

Early life and education

Rockwell was born November 5, 1968 in Daly City, California.[7][8] He is the only child of actors Pete Rockwell and Penny Hess. After their divorce when he was five, he was raised by his father in San Francisco, and spent his summers with his mother in New York.[9] At age 10, he made a brief stage appearance playing Humphrey Bogart in an East Village improv comedy sketch with his mother.[10]

He started high school at the San Francisco School of the Arts with Margaret Cho and Aisha Tyler, but received his high school diploma from Urban Pioneers, an Outward Bound-style alternative school. Rockwell explained, "I just wanted to get stoned, flirt with girls, go to parties." The school "had a reputation as a place stoners went because it was easy to graduate."[11] The school ended up helping him regain an interest in performing. After appearing in an independent film during his senior year, he moved to New York to pursue an acting career.[12]


Early films

After his debut role in the horror film Clownhouse (1989) (produced by Francis Ford Coppola's production company), which he filmed while living in San Francisco, he moved to New York and trained at the William Esper Studios with teacher William Esper.[13] His career slowly gained momentum in the early 1990s, when he alternated between small-screen guest spots in TV series 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 (1994). During this time, Rockwell worked in restaurants as a busboy and delivered burritos by bicycle.[14] 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 film Box of Moonlight (1996), 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 newfound 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."[12]

He also received strong reviews for the film Lawn Dogs (1997), 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 Catalan 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 unlikable 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."[9]

Hollywood recognition

Rockwell at the 2009 premiere of Moon at the Tribeca Film Institute

After appearances as a bumbling actor in the sci-fi parody Galaxy Quest (1999), as Flute in the Shakespeare adaptation A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999), and as gregarious villain Eric Knox in Charlie's Angels (2000), Rockwell won the then-biggest leading role of his career as The Gong Show host Chuck Barris in George Clooney's directorial debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002). Rockwell's performance was well-received, and the film earned 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."[15] He received somewhat more mixed reviews as Zaphod Beeblebrox in the film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005). He then had a notable supporting role as Charley Ford, brother of Casey Affleck's character Robert Ford, in the well-received drama The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), 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 eventually appeared in Iron Man 2, 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 role and was unaware that Hammer is an old man in the comic books.

In addition to big-budget feature films, Rockwell has also appeared in indie films such as The F Word and played a randy, Halloween-costume-clad Batman in a short, Robin's Big Date, opposite Justin Long as Robin. He also starred in the film Snow Angels (2008) opposite Kate Beckinsale. He has 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 (2008), 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."[16]

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.[17] In 2009, he starred in the critically acclaimed science fiction film Moon, directed by Duncan Jones. His performance as a lonely astronaut on a long-term solo mission to the Moon was widely praised, with some critics calling for an Academy Award for Best Actor nomination.[18] 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.[19]

Rockwell also appeared in Martin McDonagh's Seven Psychopaths (2012),[20] as well as Nat Faxon and Jim Rash's The Way, Way Back (2013).[21] For his performance in The Way, Way Back, some critics felt he again deserved an Academy Award nomination.[22][23]

In January 2014, it was announced that Rockwell was cast in The Eel, in which he played an escaped convict. The film was produced by Kevin Walsh, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash, marking Rockwell's second collaboration with all three.[24] Additionally, Rockwell starred in the 2015 remake of Poltergeist. On May 3, 2016, it was announced that Rockwell would voice Mortimer Ramsey in the action video game Dishonored 2. Rockwell was cast along with other Marvel Cinematic Universe actors.[25]

Rockwell re-teamed with McDonagh for the 2017 film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. His performance as a racist, bullying police officer Jason Dixon won several accolades, including his first Academy Award, as well as the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture,[26] two Screen Actors Guild Awards and the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. In August 2017, Rockwell was cast to play George W. Bush in Adam McKay's Vice, a biopic of Dick Cheney; he received his second nomination for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award as a result.[27]


Since 1992, Rockwell has been a member of the New York-based 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. Rockwell workshopped a LAByrinth production, North of Mason-Dixon, which debuted in London in 2007 and then premiered in New York later the same year. Other plays in which Rockwell has performed include: Dumb Waiter (2001), Zoo Story (2001), The 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.

Personal life

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."[28] Rockwell has been in a relationship with actress Leslie Bibb since 2007, when they reportedly met in Los Angeles as he was filming Frost/Nixon. They both appeared in Iron Man 2 and Don Verdean.[29][30]



Year Title Role Director Notes
1989 Clownhouse Randy Victor Salva
1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Head Thug Steve Barron
1991 Strictly Business Gary Kevin Hooks
1992 Jack and His Friends Louie Bruce Ornstein
In the Soup Pauli Alexandre Rockwell
Light Sleeper Jealous Paul Schrader
Happy Hell Night Young Henry Collins Brian Owens
1994 Somebody to Love Polish Guy Alexandre Rockwell
The Search for One-eye Jimmy One-eye Jimmy Hoyt Sam Henry Kass
1995 Drunks Tony Peter Cohn
Glory Daze Rob Rich Wilkes
Mercy Matty Richard Shepard
1996 Bad Liver and a Broken Heart Broken Heart Terry Stacey Short film
Basquiat Thug Julian Schnabel
Box of Moonlight The Kid, a.k.a. Bucky Tom DiCillo
1997 Arresting Gena Sonny Hannah Weyer
Lawn Dogs Trent Burns John Duigan
1998 The Call Back Alan / Christopher Walken
Jerry and Tom Jerry Saul Rubinek
Louis & Frank Sam Alexandre Rockwell
Safe Men Sam John Hamburg
Celebrity Darrow Entourage Woody Allen
1999 A Midsummer Night's Dream Francis Flute Michael Hoffman
The Green Mile William "Wild Bill" Wharton Frank Darabont
Galaxy Quest Guy Fleegman Dean Parisot
2000 Charlie's Angels Eric Knox McG
102 Dalmatians Darwin Kevin Lima Voice
2001 D.C. Smalls Karaoke Singer Alexandra Valenti Short film
Pretzel Sam Jay Alaimo
BigLove Nate Leif Tilden Short film
Made Hotel Clerk Jon Favreau Uncredited
Heist Jimmy Silk David Mamet
2002 13 Moons Rick Alexandre Rockwell
Running Time The Hunted Warren Biro Short film
Welcome to Collinwood Pero Mahalovic Anthony Russo
Joe Russo
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind Chuck Barris George Clooney
Stella Shorts 1998-2002 Pizza Guy David Wain
Michael Showalter
Michael Ian Black
Short: "Bored"
2003 Matchstick Men Frank Mercer Ridley Scott
2004 Piccadilly Jim Piccadilly Jim / Jim Crocker John McKay
2005 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox Garth Jennings
The F Word Jeremy Jed Weintrob
Robin's Big Date The Bat-man James Duffy Short film
2007 Joshua Brad Cairn George Ratliff
Snow Angels Glenn Marchand David Gordon Green
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford Charley Ford Andrew Dominik
2008 Woman in Burka Sam Jonathan Lisecki Short film
Choke Victor Mancini Clark Gregg
Frost/Nixon James Reston Jr. Ron Howard
2009 The Winning Season Bill James C. Strouse Also producer
Moon Sam Bell Duncan Jones
G-Force Darwin Hoyt H. Yeatman Jr.
Gentlemen Broncos Bronco / Brutus Jared Hess
Everybody's Fine Robert Goode Kirk Jones
2010 Iron Man 2 Justin Hammer Jon Favreau
F--K Sam R.E. Rodgers Short film
Conviction Kenneth Waters Tony Goldwyn
2011 Gettysburg Narrator Adrian Moat Documentary
Cowboys & Aliens Doc Jon Favreau
The Sitter Karl David Gordon Green
2012 Seven Psychopaths Billy Bickle Martin McDonagh
2013 The Way, Way Back Owen Nat Faxon
Jim Rash
A Single Shot John Moon David M. Rosenthal
Trust Me Aldo Stankas Clark Gregg
A Case of You Gary Kat Coiro
Better Living Through Chemistry Douglas Varney David Postmentier
Geoff Moore
2014 Marvel One-Shot: All Hail the King Justin Hammer Drew Pearce Short film
Laggies Craig Hunter Lynn Shelton
Loitering with Intent Wayne Adam Rapp
2015 Digging for Fire Ray Joe Swanberg
Don Verdean Don Verdean Jared Hess
Poltergeist Eric Bowen Gil Kenan
Mr. Right Mr. Right / Francis Munch Paco Cabezas
2017 Axis Himself Aisha Tyler Voice
The Dark of Night Officer Witt Robin Wright Short film
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Officer Jason Dixon Martin McDonagh
Woman Walks Ahead Colonel Silas Grove Susanna White
2018 Blaze Oilman #1 Ethan Hawke
Mute Sam Bell Duncan Jones Uncredited cameo
Blue Iguana Eddie Hadi Hajaig
Vice George W. Bush Adam McKay
2019 The Best of Enemies C. P. Ellis Robin Bissell
Jojo Rabbit Captain Klenzendorf Taika Waititi Post-production
Richard Jewell Watson Bryant Clint Eastwood Post-production
2020 Trolls World Tour Hickory Walt Dohrn Voice; in production
The One and Only Ivan Ivan Thea Sharrock Voice; post-production


Year Title Role Notes
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 Subway Stories 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) 26 episodes
2016 Inside Amy Schumer Sam Episode: "Fame"
2018 Saturday Night Live Himself (host) Episode: "Sam Rockwell/Halsey"
2019 Fosse/Verdon Bob Fosse 8 episodes

Video games

Year Title Role
2009 G-Force Darwin
2016 Dishonored 2 Mortimer Ramsey


Year Title Role
2001 Zoo Story Jerry
Dumb Waiter Gus
2010 A Behanding in Spokane Mervyn
2014 Fool for Love Eddie

Awards and nominations


  1. ^ "Sam Rockwell". Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Retrieved 2018.
  2. ^ "The 24th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards". Screen Actors Guild. Retrieved 2018.
  3. ^ "Film - Supporting Actor in 2018". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved 2018.
  4. ^ "THE 90TH ACADEMY AWARDS - 2018". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 2018.
  5. ^ "Sam Rockwell". Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Retrieved 2019.
  6. ^ "Film - Supporting Actor in 2019". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved 2019.
  7. ^ Barney, Chuck (March 4, 2018). "Oscars 2018: Bay Area's Sam Rockwell wins best supporting actor". The Mercury News. Archived from the original on February 20, 2019.
  8. ^ Neal, Rome (January 22, 2003). "Sam Rockwell's 'Confessions'". CBS News. Archived from the original on February 20, 2019.
  9. ^ a b "Sam Rockwell; One-Man Gallery of Rogues, Crooks and Oddballs". by Laura Winters, The New York Times. September 13, 1998. Retrieved 2008.
  10. ^ "Sam Rockwell," by Miranda Spencer. Biography, January 2003.
  11. ^ "Today's Buzz Stories: Rockwell turned around". CNN Showbuzz. December 23, 2002. Archived from the original on July 20, 2007. Retrieved 2007.
  12. ^ a b Weinraub, Bernard (January 23, 1998). "AT THE MOVIES; Looking Back At 2 Classics". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015.
  13. ^ "Sam Rockwell | The Talks". The Talks. Retrieved 2017.
  14. ^ "Sam Rockwell," by M.B. Rolling Stone, 10/3/02.
  15. ^ "Movie Review: Matchstick Men". by Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly. September 10, 2003. Retrieved 2007.
  16. ^ "Choke". Chicago Sun-Times. September 25, 2008.
  17. ^ Casted: Episode 2 - Enter The Sampras! (with Sam Rockwell) on YouTube
  18. ^ Moon. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved on 2012-08-18.
  19. ^ Flores, Ramses (May 3, 2010). "Sam Rockwell cast in COWBOYS & ALIENS". Retrieved 2015.
  20. ^ "Martin McDonagh Helms 'Seven Psychopaths', Colin Farrell among all-star cast". May 12, 2011. Retrieved 2015.
  21. ^ Mele, Rick (July 5, 2013). "Sam Rockwell in 'The Way, Way Back': Will It Be His Breakout Role?". Moviefone. AOL. Archived from the original on February 11, 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  22. ^ Seibert, Perry. "The Way Way Back Review". Retrieved 2015.
  23. ^ "The Way Way Back - Movie Review". Retrieved 2015.
  24. ^ Fleming, Jr., Mike (January 17, 2014). "Sundance: 'Laggies' Sam Rockwell Sets 'The Eel' To Reunite With 'Way Way Back' Gang". Deadline Hollywood. PMC. Retrieved 2014.
  25. ^ "Dishonored 2 Taps Vocal Talent From Game Of Thrones, Daredevil, And The Wire". Game Informer.
  26. ^ Lawrence, Derek (January 7, 2018). "Sam Rockwell wins best supporting actor at Golden Globes". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2018.
  27. ^ Kit, Borys (August 31, 2017). "Sam Rockwell to Play George W. Bush in Adam McKay's Dick Cheney Biopic (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2017.
  28. ^ Chrissy Iley (November 11, 2007). It's scary in here.... Interview - Retrieved on 2012-08-18.
  29. ^ Tom Shone (December 3, 2012). "Sam Rockwell: Hollywood's odd man out". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2015.
  30. ^ Brody, Richard (December 17, 2015). "Jared Hess's Bitter Religious Satire, "Don Verdean"". The New Yorker. Condé Nast. Retrieved 2018.

External links

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