Tuesday, 1 June 2010

"Sam Rockwell? What's he been in?"

For years I have been waxing lyrical about the acting talent of Mr. Sam Rockwell, the Californian actor who was most recently seen in 'Iron Man 2'. But often when I tell people about how good he is I am struck by the fact that they don't have a clue who I am talking about. He's been in plenty of films, but when I come to explaining where people may have seen him I end up drawing a blank as despite his long and varied filmography he has not really been in many things you can guarantee people will have seen.

So here are five clips which act as a celebration of his range and talent and represent your guide to the essential Sam Rockwell:

One of my favourite films of last year, 'Moon' (directed by Duncan Jones), stars Rockwell as a man who works (in complete isolation) on the earth's moon. In this interesting piece of low-budget, British science fiction Rockwell is called upon to completely carry the movie and hold the audiences attention. I have chosen a clip which gives nothing away, but in doing so I can't really show you any of the most poignant or humourous moments. Anyway, here is Rockwell in 'Moon':

In 2001, he appeared opposite Gene Hackman in David Mamet's superior thriller 'Heist'. He more than holds his own in this dialogue heavy Mamet film and would steal the show if it weren't for Hackman. Here is a short (but funny) clip:

Probably my favourite scene from the brilliant 2007 Western 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford' (directed by Andrew Dominik) sees three really good actors sharing a tense scene. The main business here concerns Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck, but Sam Rockwell is really good too, giving the scene a real nervous tension and an anxiety as he finds himself trapped between two increasingly insane characters. He brings so much to a role which may otherwise have blended into the background:

Probably the most overlooked Charlie Kaufman screenplay (and disowned by the writer himself who disliked director George Clooney's take on the material) 'Confessions of a Dangerous Mind' (2002) starred Sam Rockwell as Chuck Barris, a gameshow host (indeed the real life creator of 'Blind Date' and 'The Gong Show') turned covert CIA agent. Here he is given the opportunity to be funny, insane, charismatic and dangerous in equal measure:

Whilst he is often called upon to be comic (broadly so in the likes of 'Galaxy Quest', 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' and 'Gentlemen Broncos'), he is sometimes given intense and purely dramatic roles, such as his turn in Ron Howard's 2008 film 'Frost/Nixon'. Here he is the morally indignant journalist who pressures David Frost into using his Nixon interview as a trial for the disgraced leader:

Of course, as I mentioned in the review, I really enjoyed him in 'Iron Man 2', which you can still see in cinemas. I highly recommend checking out any of the above also ('Frost/Nixon' is deeply floored, but still a decent film and the others are just great). His next "big" role is in another Jon Favreau directed comic book adaptation 'Cowboys & Aliens' - a film produced by Steven Speilberg and Ron Howard and co-starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford. A more low-key role will see him opposite Hilary Swank and Minnie Driver in the upcoming drama 'Betty Anne Walters'. Rockwell will ensure I go to see both of them!

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