Sam Rockwell

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Sam Rockwell
Sam Rockwell (8279227257).jpg
BornSamuel Rockwell
(1968-11-05) November 5, 1968 (age 46)
San Mateo, California, U.S.
EducationRuth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts
Years active1989–present
Partner(s)Leslie Bibb (2007–present)
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Sam Rockwell
Sam Rockwell (8279227257).jpg
BornSamuel Rockwell
(1968-11-05) November 5, 1968 (age 46)
San Mateo, California, U.S.
EducationRuth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts
Years active1989–present
Partner(s)Leslie Bibb (2007–present)

Sam Rockwell (born November 5, 1968) is an American actor 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) and Seven Psychopaths (2012), as well as for his supporting roles in The Green Mile (1999), Galaxy Quest (1999), The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), Frost/Nixon (2008), Conviction (2010), Iron Man 2 (2010), Cowboys & Aliens (2011) and The Way, Way Back (2013).

Early life[edit]

Rockwell was born in Daly City, California,[1] the son of actors who divorced when he was five years old.[2] He was raised by his father, Pete Rockwell, in San Francisco, while his mother, Penny Hess, stayed behind 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.[3]

He attended San Francisco School of the Arts with Margaret Cho 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."[4] 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.[5]

Acting career[edit]

Early films[edit]

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. 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.[6] 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."[5]

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."[2]

Hollywood recognition[edit]

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

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."[7] 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."[8]

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.[9]

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.[10]

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.[11]

Rockwell also appeared in Martin McDonagh's Seven Psychopaths,[12] as well as Nat Faxon and Jim Rash's The Way, Way Back.[13]

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.[14]


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.

Personal life[edit]

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."[15]

Sam 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.[16]


1989Last Exit to BrooklynAl
1990Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesHead Thug
1991Strictly BusinessGary
1992Jack and His FriendsLouie
1992In the SoupPauli
1992Light SleeperJealous
1992Happy Hell NightYoung Henry Collins
1993Law & OrderOfficer WeddekerEpisode 3.21 "Manhood"
1994Somebody to LovePolish Guy
1994Search for One-eye Jimmy, TheThe Search for One-eye JimmyOne-eye Jimmy
1995Glory DazeRob
1996Bad Liver and a Broken HeartBroken Heart
1996Box of MoonlightThe Kid, aka Bucky
1997Prince StreetDonny HansonSeries regular
1997Arresting GinaSonny
1997SUBWAYStories: Tales from the UndergroundMan EatingTelevision film
Segment: Sax Cantor Riff
1997Lawn DogsTrentBest Actor Award at the Sitges Film Festival
Best Actor Award at the Montreal World Film Festival
1998Call Back, TheThe Call BackAlan/Christopher Walken
1998Jerry and TomJerry
1998Louis & FrankSam
1998Safe MenSam
1998CelebrityDarrow Entourage
1999Midsummer Night's Dream, AA Midsummer Night's DreamFrancis Flute
1999Green Mile, TheThe Green MileWilliam 'Wild Bill' WhartonNominated — Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
1999Galaxy QuestGuy Fleegman
2000Charlie's AngelsEric Knox
2001D.C. SmallsKaraoke Singer
2001BigLoveNateShort film
2001MadeHotel clerkUncredited
2001HeistJimmy Silk
200213 MoonsRick
2002Running TimeThe HuntedShort film
2002Welcome to CollinwoodPero
2002Confessions of a Dangerous MindChuck BarrisBerlin 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
2002Stella Shorts 1998–2002Pizza GuyDirect-to-video
Short: Bored
2003Matchstick MenFrank MercerNominated — Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
2004Piccadilly JimPiccdilly Jim/Jim Crocker
2005Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, TheThe Hitchhiker's Guide to the GalaxyZaphod Beeblebrox
2005F Word, TheThe F WordJeremy
2005Robin's Big DateThe Bat-manShort film
2007JoshuaBrad CairnBest Actor Award at the Sitges Film Festival
2007Snow AngelsGlenn Marchand
2007Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, TheThe Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert FordCharley Ford
2008Woman in BurkaSam
2008ChokeVictor ManciniSundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize for Best Ensemble Cast
Nominated — Satellite Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
2008Frost/NixonJames Reston Jr.Nominated — Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
2009The Winning SeasonBillAlso producer
2009MoonSam BellBest 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
2009G-ForceDarwinVoice only
Also in the video game
2009Gentlemen BroncosBronco/Brutus
2009Everybody's FineRobert
2010Iron Man 2Justin Hammer
2010F—KShort film
2010ConvictionKenneth WatersBoston 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
2011Cowboys & AliensDoc
2011Sitter, TheThe SitterKarl
2012Seven PsychopathsBilly BickleNominated — Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male
2013The Way, Way BackOwenNominated — 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
2013A Single ShotJohn Moon
2013Trust MeAldo
2013A Case of YouGary
2013Better Living Through ChemistryDouglas Varney
2014Marvel One-Shot: All Hail the KingJustin HammerShort
2014Loitering with Intent
2015Digging for Fire
2015Don VerdeanDon Verdean
2015PoltergeistEric BowenFilming
2015Mr. RightFilming

Awards and nominations[edit]

1997Montreal World Film FestivalBest ActorLawn DogsWon1–0
1997Catalonian International Film Festival (CIFF)Best ActorLawn DogsWon2–0
2000Screen Actors GuildOutstanding Performance By A Cast In A Theatrical Motion PictureThe Green Mile (w/ Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Morse, James Cromwell, Patricia Clarkson, Jeffrey DeMunn, Graham Greene, Bonnie Hunt, Michael Jeter, Doug Hutchison, Barry Pepper, Harry Dean Stanton)Nominated2–1
2003Berlin International Film FestivalBest ActorConfessions of a Dangerous MindWon3–1
2003Phoenix Film Critics Society AwardsBest Actor In A Leading RoleConfessions of a Dangerous MindWon4–1
2003Satellite AwardsBest Performance By An Actor In A Leading Role, Musical Or ComedyConfessions of a Dangerous MindNominated4–2
2004Satellite AwardsBest Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role, Musical Or ComedyMatchstick MenNominated4–3
2007CIFFBest ActorJoshuaWon5–3
2008Satellite AwardsBest Actor In A Motion Picture, Musical Or ComedyChokeNominated5–4
2008Sundance Film FestivalSpecial Jury PrizeChoke (w/ Anjelica Huston, Kelly Macdonald, Brad William Henke)Won6–4
2009Screen Actors Guild AwardOutstanding Performance By A Cast In A Motion PictureFrost/Nixon (w/ Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt, Toby Jones, Matthew Macfadyen, Rebecca Hall)Nominated6–5
2009Seattle International Film FestivalBest ActorMoonWon7–5
2009CIFFBest ActorMoonWon8–5
2009Scream AwardsBest Sci-Fi ActorMoonNominated8–6
2009British Independent Film AwardsBest ActorMoonNominated8–7
2009Detroit Film Critics Society AwardBest ActorMoonNominated8–8
2009The Golden Schmoes Movie AwardsBest ActorMoonWon9–8
2009Saturn AwardBest ActorMoonNominated9–9


  1. ^ "California, Birth Index, 1905-1995". FamilySearch. Retrieved January 27, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Sam Rockwell; One-Man Gallery of Rogues, Crooks and Oddballs". by Laura Winters, The New York Times. September 13, 1998. Retrieved March 25, 2008. 
  3. ^ “Sam Rockwell,” by Miranda Spencer. Biography, January 2003.
  4. ^ "Today's Buzz Stories: Rockwell turned around". CNN Showbuzz. December 23, 2002. Archived from the original on July 20, 2007. Retrieved February 10, 2007. 
  5. ^ a b Scott, A. O. (January 23, 1998). "AT THE MOVIES; A Career Picks Up". by Bernard Weinraub, The New York Times. Retrieved February 10, 2007. 
  6. ^ “Sam Rockwell,” by M.B. Rolling Stone, 10/3/02.
  7. ^ "Movie Review: Matchstick Men". by Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly. September 10, 2003. Retrieved February 10, 2007. 
  8. ^ "Choke". Chicago Sun-Times. September 25, 2008. 
  9. ^ Casted: Episode 2 – Enter The Sampras! (with Sam Rockwell) on YouTube
  10. ^ Moon. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved on 2012-08-18.
  11. ^ "Sam Rockwell cast in COWBOYS & ALIENS". Retrieved May 11, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Martin McDonagh Helms ‘Seven Psychopaths’, Colin Farrell among all-star cast". Retrieved May 13, 2010. 
  13. ^ Mele, Rick (June 5, 2013). "Sam Rockwell in 'The Way, Way Back': Will It Be His Breakout Role?". Moviefone. AOL. Retrieved January 19, 2014. 
  14. ^ Fleming, Jr., Mike (January 17, 2014). "Sundance: ‘Laggies’ Sam Rockwell Sets ‘The Eel’ To Reunite With ‘Way Way Back’ Gang". PMC. Retrieved January 19, 2014. 
  15. ^ Chrissy Iley (November 11, 2007). It's scary in here.... Interview – Retrieved on 2012-08-18.
  16. ^ "She's still his leading lady! Sam Rockwell and girlfriend Leslie Bibb cosy up on the red carpet as he promotes Seven Psychopaths". Daily Mail (London). 

External links[edit]