Sam Rockwell filmography and biography
Date of birth: 5 November 1968, Daly City, California, USA
Sam Rockwell biography
Sam Rockwell was born on November 5, 1968, in Daly City, California, the
child of two actors. The family moved to New York when he was two years
old, living first in the Bronx and later in Manhattan. When Sam was
five years old, his parents split up, at which point he and his father
moved to San Francisco, where he subsequently grew up, while summers
and other times were spent with his mother in New York.
He made his acting debut when he was ten years old, alongside his mother, and later attended J.E. McAteer High School in a program called SOTA. While still in high school, he got his first big break when he appeared in the independent film Clownhouse. The plot revolved around three escaped mental patients who dressed up as clowns and terrorized three brothers home alone--Sam played the eldest of the brothers. His next big break was supposed to have come when he was slated to star in a short-lived NBC TV-series called Dream Street, but he was soon fired.
After graduating from high school, Sam returned to New York for good and for two years he had private training at the William Esper Acting Studio. During this period he appeared in a variety of roles, such as the ABC After-School special _Over the Limit (1990) (TV)_; _Dead Drunk (1993)_ / "Dead Drunk: The Kevin Tunell Story Season 1, Episode 7: 15 March 1993" episode of HBO's Lifestories: Families in Crisis; the head thug in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; and a guest-star turn in an Emmy-winning episode of Law amp; Order, while working a string of regular day jobs and performing in plays.
In 1994, a Miller Ice beer commercial finally enabled him to quit his other jobs to concentrate on his acting career, which culminated in him having five movies out by 1996: Basquiat; The Search for One-eye Jimmy; Glory Daze; Mercy; and Box of Moon Light. It was the latter film that would prove to be his real break-out in the industry. In Tom DiCillo's film, he found himself playing an eccentric named the Kid, a man-child living in a half-built mobile home in the middle of nowhere with a penchant for dressing like Davy Crockett, who manages to bring some much-needed chaos into the life of an electrical engineer played by John Turturro. The movie was not a box-office success, but it managed to generate a lot of critical acclaim for itself and Sam.
In 1997 he found himself the star of another critically lauded film, Lawn Dogs. Once again he portrayed a societal outcast as Trent, a working-class man living in a trailer, earning a living mowing lawns inside a wealthy, gated Kentucky community. Soon Trent finds himself befriended by 10-year-old Devon (Mischa Barton), and the movie deals with the difficulties in their friendship and the outside world. He also gave strong performances in the quirky independent comedy Safe Men, in which he plays one half of a pretty awful singing duo (the other half being played by Steve Zahn) that gets mistaken for two safe-crackers by Jewish gangsters; and the offbeat hit-man trainee in Jerry and Tom against Joe Mantegna.
After a few smaller appearances in films such as Woody Allen's Celebrity and the 1999 version of A Midsummer Nights Dream, in which he played Francis Flute, he had larger parts in two of the bigger hit movies to emerge in 1999: The Green Mile and Galaxy Quest, wowing audiences and critics alike with his chameleon-like performances as a crazed killer in the former and a goofy actor in the latter.
More recently, he appeared in another string of mainstream films, most notably as Eric Knox in Charlies Angels and as Zaphod Beeblebrox in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, while continuing to perform in smaller independent movies. After more than ten years in the business, Sam has earned his success.
Sam Rockwell trivia
- Told Carson Daly in a talk-show appearance that he dropped out of G.I. Jane because he didn't want to get cold filming the night time SCUBA scenes.
- Filmed his scenes for Jarhead in one day. His scenes were later deleted.
- To memorize lines, he says he dictates them into a tape recorder in a monotone, so he won't get used to any inflection before he's had a chance to consider which speech pattern would be appropriate for the character.
- Had a minor appearance in Killer Klowns from Outer Space but his part was removed from the final cut. The scene was the one of the "lover's lane" of sorts, when the Terenzi brothers drive up in their ice cream truck.
- Is close friends with actor Justin Long (I) and Jonathan Togo.
- Is an only child.
- Parents separated when he was 5 years old.
- Son of actor Pete Rockwell and Penny Hess.
- Improvised most of his lines in Made.
- Boyfriend of Leslie Bibb.
Sam Rockwell quotes
- Sarita (Sarita Choudhury) was the one that got away. She was amazing, really amazing. I loved Sarita. She was my pal.
- [On his role in Galaxy Quest]:That part is kind of an homage to Bill Paxton in Aliens. I definitely stole some moves from my buddy [actor] Steve Zahn and Bill Murray (I)'s lounge singer character from Saturday Night Live is in there somewhere. Plus a little Michael Keaton in Night Shift and definitely some Richard Pryor. I get a lot from Richard Pryor actually. How agile he is, vulnerable.
- I really believe that people like Bill Murray (I) or John Belushi are just as great and just as valid as Robert De Niro or Al Pacino. And I don't think you can say One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest is a better movie than Animal House; they're different genres. I think they're both examples of great craftsmanship.
- I have a constant sort of melancholy approach to acting that fuels me. I want to do everything.
- [Recalling a period he went through when he was 18]: I watched Raging Bull like 50 times. I wanted to be Italian. For a year I was Italian; that's all I did. I could do all that New York street stuff to the point where I would get feedback from my auditions, "He's too New York, he's too urban" and I was from San Francisco, really.
- [On what he would do if he wasn't an actor]: I have no skills. There's absolutely nothing I know how to do. So I'd be fucked otherwise. I'm very fortunate to be an actor. I know I'm very lucky to be doing this. And though I'm not sure where I'm going to end up -- whether it's in major films, independents, or theater work -- I'm just happy getting to do roles that are really juicy, meaningful and allow me to keep adventuring the way I have been.
- [On his part in The Green Mile]: I guess Wild Bill is a disgusting, racist, pedophile freak. But I'd been wanting to play a psycho, a juicy one. I saw him as Huck Finn meets Satan. The kind of part Gary Oldman or John Malkovich might play. It's just a cool part.
- I've been in more than 20 movies. You just do the best you can and try to make a living. Whether it's The Green Mile, Galaxy Quest or Lawn Dogs. There's no difference, not for me.
- I want to be a character actor, but I also want to make some money.
- I think of myself as a journeyman actor. I've got some talent and I work hard, but people like Brando or Pacino-those people are touched by God.
- Money is power and power gives you choice.
- I've played so many hicks and country bumpkins. It's hilarious, because I've always lived in cities.
- [2002 Quote]: I'm originally from San Francisco. I might move there some day. But, I like LA, I have fun in LA. It's a fun town if you've got money in your pocket. It's a good town.
- [On why he was fired from G.I. Jane]: I gave them no alternative, because I didn't want to learn how to scuba dive. I wouldn't mind learning in the Bahamas, but I didn't want to learn at three o'clock in the morning.
- I feel a little strange all the time, a little bit off-center. I never feel that people are as nutty as me.
- Safe Men was exhausting, although I had a great time on it. I have a special place in my heart for Safe Men. That was a true independent film, in a budget sense. There were no trailers. Steve [Steve Zahn] and I were hanging out. It was guerrilla filmmaking. But we had a blast. And such good actors. For such a low budget, we had top rate actors, Michael Lerner (I), Harvey Fierstein. Steve Zahn, by far, one of the best actors I have ever worked with. He is a truly gifted actor. Skilled. He comes from the stage, he's from ART (American Repertory Theater). He's a farm boy turned theater actor, turned film actor. He builds barns and hunts deer and drinks beer and drives a Chevy Nova. He's a man, he's a real man.
- I really want to work with Gary Oldman. I want to play his brother or something. Or have him direct me or I just want to get inside that guy's head, you know and I know, I just feel that I know the guy even though I don't know him. I feel like I know him. If he reads this, it's going to freak him out, he's gonna want to stay away from me, "Oh, Jees, this guy's a psycho!" I love his ballsiness. Whether you agree with his choices or not, the guy's got 'cajones' -- he's got balls. And you know, he goes for it. I just think he's great.
- [1999 Quote]: I'd like to be an action hero, but I don't think they'd ever make me that type of leading man. I'm too quirky. If they put me in Speed 3, two days later they'd go, "Yep, we're gonna have to fire him now. Can we get someone more mainstream?" I like to make weird choices. If you watch Paul Newman (I), or even Cary Grant, they weren't always thinking good things. Who knows what the hell Cary Grant was thinking? He could be smiling at a woman and having some really dirty, nasty thoughts. That's what made them interesting leading men.
- Stage is where it really happens for an actor because it makes full use of whatever you have to give.
- [1998 Quote]: I just see myself as a character actor. I'd like to be a star in the same way as Gary Oldman or John Malkovich are famous, who get to do character pieces and not act like movie stars.
- I've seen a lot of people change into double-glazed celebrities. Sudden fame is a really hard test of character. I wouldn't want to be Leonardo DiCaprio, much as I like him, because it can't be good for you at that age. I actually think that no-one should be allowed to be famous until they're 30.
- I do prefer theater. The whole process of film is just so tedious. You're there for 18 hours a day, there's so much idle time. You just burn out. Also, there isn't the camaraderie you get in the theater.
- I prefer film over TV. I don't prefer film over theater. With TV there's less time to shoot and everything is rushed. You have too many hands and cooks. There's the network and the producer and the writers. Too many people getting involved and stirring the mix. It doesn't make for good art.
- When I took acting classes and being drunk was the assigned impediment of the day, a lot of people would go out the night before and get drunk. That's not research! Research is going to bar... and drinking coffee.
- I did the odd bit of theater from the age of ten, but I spent most of my time doing the usual teenage things - you know, thinking I was black, trying to break dance and smoking a lot of dope.
- After a while, you stop thinking that the film you're in is going to be your big break. I mean, I was sure that the TV show I did in 1989 was going to make me.
- I worked in a lot of restaurants. Busing, mostly. I was a food runner. I was an extra on soap operas. An extra on commercials. Typical actor, huh? I delivered burritos by bicycle. All that stuff. My last real job was delivering food for this trendy restaurant. That sucked. Jobs suck! I hate jobs. This is better. I've got to remind myself, because I get bitchy sometimes. It could be a lot worse.
- God, I hate LA. It's an evil place. So uncreative. You can't walk anywhere, that's what really gets me. I lived there for eight months. It's something that you've really got to do when you're starting out. You join the scrum of pilot season. Even as an unknown, you can make the most phenomenal amount of money. But it's so awful. You go in to a room with 20 network executives, who are all holding popcorn and they watch your screen test in total silence. Not even a chuckle. It's all very businesslike.
- I definitely don't want to become a parent. It's not my bag. - Interview with Chrissy Iley, November 11, 2007.
- [On the death of his Louis amp; Frank co-star Tony Curtis (I)] The guy was such a sweetheart. Beautifully neurotic, in a very endearing, kind of Woody Allen way.