Most of my disposable income goes towards movies. Over the past three years I've kept a running list of movies I'm interested in seeing, want to see again, and want to own. These movies range from Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright's Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy to Mark Wahlberg thrillers like Shooter and Broken City and on to independent films like Zach Braff's Kickstarter-funded Wish I Was Here. Along the way I found myself watching movies that I was interested in because of the concept or lead cast members, but the majority of my enjoyment came from Sam Rockwell's performances, who I recognized from Iron Man 2. He has since become one of my all time favorite actors, and here's why.
1) Iron Man 2: He's the villain you love to hate
Rockwell has been acting since the 80s, playing a small part in an episode of The Equalizer and playing Randy in Victor Salva's horror flick Clownhouse. His career gained momentum over the next decade, with roles including a thug in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), guest spots in NYPD Blue and Law and Order, and eventually he began to appear in bigger movies, playing "Wild Bill" Wharton in The Green Mile and Eric Knox in Charlie's Angels (2000). The role most of us recognize him from is that of Justin Hammer, cocky and conniving weapons manufacturer and rival of Tony Stark in Iron Man 2. Rockwell blends power and wealth together with ruthlessness perfectly in this vein, creating a persona such that we despise the character and praise the actor. In an interview during the shooting of The Green Mile, Rockwell explains his pursuit of unlikable characters: "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." I wholeheartedly enjoy Rockwell's antagonist roles, but I'm sure I would enjoy him in nearly any role, which brings me to my next point.
2) Seven Psychopaths: He can play any character
From powerful war monger Justin Hammer to easy living water park manager Owen to oddball actor Billy, Rockwell does it all, and he does it well. I often find myself watching a movie and the mannerisms of the actor break through the character, making said actor easily recognizable and cracking the illusion of the story. Yet I've seen Rockwell play an Old West barman, a Hollywood agent and a blue collar astronaut, and every time he is a different man, a different person. The way he portrays each character is different from the others, and I find myself believing wholeheartedly in Owen, in Billy, in the story itself. His acting works as a pillar, reinforcing the people around him. Each of his performances is spectacular, which makes a few stand out even more.
3) The Way Way Back: His rare "good guy" roles
In the midst of all the conniving, deranged, sleazeball characters, my two favorite Rockwell performances are as Owen in the coming-of-age drama The Way Way Back and Sam Bell in sci-fi drama Moon. Getting to see Rockwell portray the happy-go-lucky Owen is delightful, and watching Sam Bell living on the moon with his houseplants and a robot voiced by Kevin Spacey is as well. Not used to watching Rockwell display kindness or help, Owen's support of protagonist Duncan (played by Liam James) was that much more believable. Likewise the life of Sam Bell is interesting in and of the fact that for much of the film, Rockwell has no one to react to or play off of but himself, and he does so magnificently. His portrayal of mild-mannered Doc in Cowboys and Aliens is enjoyable, as well as his Zaphod Beeblebrox in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, but in my book nothing compares to Owen or Sam.
4) Moon: He plays ping pong against himself
This scene is arguably my favorite scene in any movie. Ever.
What's your favorite Rockwell performance? Sound off in the comments if you don't see yours in the poll!