Give Sam Rockwell Credit!

Some years ago I remember having a conversation with a co-worker about who is/was the greatest guitarist ever. He was convinced that the best guitarist was some guy who non of us had ever met and who wasn’t and isn’t famous and never will be. I argued with him on this point but as time has gone by I believe he is right. I believe the same may be true for actors. The best actor is probably some man or woman doing small theater in a nowhere town who doesn’t have the confidence to try and make it big. That’s not to say there aren’t some outstanding working actors. It’s also fair to say that some actors, including famous ones don’t get their due justice.

The focus here is to bring awareness to people who do and do not know who Sam Rockwell is and just how underrated his acting is. In all fairness to Sam there have been unwise choices but the great ones outweigh those. There are times that he acts for the love of acting or even for the experience of who he may be working with or for the enjoyment of playing the character he’s encompassing.

Most people first caught a glimpse of Rockwell in the Tom Hanks movie The Green Mile as Wild Bill Wharton. That same year he was in the cult comedy Galaxy Quest as Guy Fleegman. A couple years later he would make a small appearance in Jon Favreau’s indie hit Made. It may have been a small role but it was a hilarious and memorable scene as the hotel clerk. After a couple shorts films and some very indie movies he met George Clooney and eventually won one of his most defining roles. Clooney was about to embark on his first directing project, an adaptation of the Chuck Barris autobiography, Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind. Rockwell won the prized role of game show host and creator Chuck Barris. He nailed it. With one of the best acting performances of the year he made you feel like you were watching The Gong Show all over again and played the role of a CIA assassin to perfection.

He next teamed up with Nicolas Cage and Allison Lohman in the con man comedy, Matchstick Men. He career appeared to be on the rise. Then, as happens so many times, taking a role in what would be an epic failure. The highly anticipated adaptation of a beloved sci-fi classic novel and British mini-series, A Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. The moved fell to critical and financial dismay. The next couple years would be commercially lean for Rockwell and he wouldn’t grab notable recognition until he was in the independent western movie, The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford. He would play Robert Ford’s brother, Charley. The one trouble with the Jesse James film wasn’t critical acclaim or poor box office numbers because it exceeded everyone’s expectations in those areas. The problem was Casey Affleck was so good he stole the show including reception of his first Oscar nomination for best supporting actor. Rockwell was back in the shadows as fast as he came out. Make no mistake, Rockwell was every bit as good as Affleck just going unnoticed.

He continued to work and took a smaller but key role the next year in the critacly acclaimed Ron Howard project, Frost/Nixon based on the Broadway play. Once again acting out-shined Rockwell with stellar scenes that are instructional videos on great acting, between Frank Langella and Michael Sheen.

Returning to the indie scene he tackled his best role and by far his most challenging. The low budget sci-fi thriller, Moon, seemed doomed from the start. With a budget of only 5 million and filmed during the writers strike and at the helm was a first time director, it seemed destined to fail. The pressure weighed all on Rockwell’s shoulders. With at least 95 percent of the scenes being him alone talking to a computer voice only rock solid performance could save the movie. As far as indie movies go? It was a smash success! Sam had done it. He had saved the movie without question with a once in a lifetime performance. Sadly again not many knew about Moon nor did the awards committees see fit to honor the great role he made.

Rockwell has worked steadily including roles in Iron Man 2 and Cowboys and Aliens working with his good friend Jon Favreau. We can only hope that one day Mr. Rockwell will get his due justice, meanwhile keep your eyes open for what could just be his next great performance.

31 thoughts on “Give Sam Rockwell Credit!”

      1. Wow, embarrassing.

        “Interesting – I had no idea he danced. It’s always great to find out that actors you enjoy watching also happen to be amazing on the dance floor – Christopher Walken and Drew Carey come to mind.”

  1. Can’t agree more. I have to assume that you started this after seeing “Moon” – a completely breakout performance if ever there was one. Had similar thoughts about Missi Pyle today after seeing “The Artist” (and, coincidentally was also in “Galaxy Quest”). She’s not doing as well as Sam, but they both deserve to do much better.

  2. Thanks for highlighting Sam Rockwell’s career. I saw him also in “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” and “Matchstick Men” and was impressed (funny I don’t remember him “Green Mile”…). Then it did seem like he disappeared as I’ve not heard of “Moon” and haven’t kept up with a lot of indie films in recent years. Glad to know that he is still working and in high regard by some at least.
    P.S. Thanx also for liking my recent post.

  3. Completely agree. Totally underrated actor. The Green Mile, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and most importantly. Moon. What a film. Great post.

  4. Thanks for the background on an overlooked actor. There are quite a few movies I’ve seen where a minor character gave such a memorable perfornance that I can still recall it vividly years later. Thanks for visiting my blog.

  5. Good ole Sam. Did you know there is a myth he dances in all of his movies one way or another? Not true but he does in most of them. Good job and check out for my Galaxy Quest review

  6. Very cool article – I love Sam Rockwell; Matchstick Men is one of my favorite movies of all time. Moon was an outstanding achievement for all involved, as well – and I think he was a big part of what made Iron Man 2 not totally suck. His bit part in Gentlemen Broncos was also pretty memorable.

  7. He’s my favorite character in Hitchhiker’s Guide; actually he stole the show, but I still like Alan Rickman better. And Gentlemen Broncos was interesting in a campy, weird sort of way.

  8. I know Hitchhiker’s was panned by just about everyone, but honestly, it’s one of my favorite movies of all time. I thought every actor in the movie was cast perfectly, and I loved watching them in the behind-the-scenes bits talking about how they decided to play their characters. It was the film that made me notice Sam Rockwell in the first place. 🙂 Can’t wait to see what films he does in the future.

  9. I don’t doubt that Rockwell is a fine actor but raising him so high seems… a little silly. But let me be silly. Except that I’m serious. The greatest actor since Brando is James Garner. Maverick. Rockford Files. And a whole slew of romantic comedies and wonderful dramas. The guy can deliver long stretches of dialogue and makes you believe that he’s making it up as he goes. Watch the Americanization of Emily. The Skin Trade. Decoration Day. Support Your Local Sheriff. and many many more.

    1. Thanks for your views! I’m not sure that I ever compared Rockwell to Brando but that he mearly doesn’t get the credit he deserves.
      I could make a case for many more actors above a TV star for greatest actor after Brando such as Pacino, DeNiro,Nicholson,Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman, Ben Kingsley even DiCaprio. Garner was fine as a mid level star but was more of a glorified character actor in roles that could have easily been played by George Segal

      1. Can’t agree with you. Not that the list of people you mentioned aren’t great actors. Watch a film with Paul Muni and then one with Clark Gable. Muni was one of the great actors of his time but Gable is much more entertaining to watch. Even John Wayne in the Ford films is much more interesting than some of the character actors of the day.

      2. Entertaining and interesting is the whole point of show business and movies. John Wayne was never a great actor just a great personality much like Steve McQueen. Clark Gable was a great star not a great actor. He had looks and charm unlike most ever.

      3. Everything is and can be a form of art. A great stock broker can be an artist with his portfolio. That’s why the term “a work of art” is used so much. Someone who can embody a different place and person to the point that it captures your imagination and emotions had made it into an art for while being REALLY good at pretending. To people who are pationate about it, it is art. That’s like saying a writer isn’t an artist just a good story teller or a painter isn’t a good artist just good with colors.

      4. Cooking is not art. A lot of things are done with passion. That doesn’t make them art. But we don’t agree. I can see that. And I’m getting to serious about this. Which is against my doctor’s orders.

      5. High end fine dining meals ARE works of art. They are culinary masterpieces. There are plates and meals that look so good they almost shouldn’t be eaten

  10. Has anyone seen Choke? It’s based on the book by Chuck Palahniuk, and scripted and directed by Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson himself!) Be warned, it’s not for the timid — but there are some genuine moments in the film — mainly between Rockwell’s character and his ailing mother, played by Anjelica Huston. Sam is incredible in it, as always.

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