Sam Rockwell seems to be in the most unique situation of talented, working actors in Hollywood. His story seems very reminiscent to that of Mark Ruffalo as he’s been around for years, delivering solid performances time and time again but stars don’t seem to align for Oscar. Academy Award Winner Cate Blanchett used to be in this same boat but along with Ruffalo, they found their way out of the box.
Rockwell has been acting consistently for nearly thirty years getting little work in films like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) and Strictly Business (1991). Most of Rockwell’s respect and success has come from his independent works and his ability to inhabit any character he portrays. While he’s shown range in works like Frank Darabont’s The Green Mile (1999), George Clooney’s Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002), and Ridley Scott’s Matchstick Men (2003), Rockwell has always gained minimal traction on the awards circuit. He won Best Actor at the Berlin Film Festival for his portrayal of Chuck Barris in Clooney’s film but didn’t translate in a strong year of lead actors.
He’s had two big opportunities at Oscar glory so far — for his incredible turn as Sam Bell in Duncan Jones’ Moon (2009), a performance positively received by critics and won several festival and critics awards during its run. His other work in Tony Goldwyn’s Conviction (2010), which was well-received but the film got mixed reviews from critics didn’t have his buzz sustain throughout the awards season despite a nomination from the Critics Choice Movie Awards and win from Boston Film Critics.
This year, Rockwell has proved once again to standout even when standing next to the likes of Academy Award Winner Christopher Walken and Woody Harrelson. What he exhibits in Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths, a performance that has been nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, has Rockwell only showing us the tip of the iceberg of his talents. Joey Magidson mentioned on a podcast that “Rockwell is a future Best Actor winner…” and I wholeheartedly agree. Oscar-winner Philip Seymour Hoffman had a similar beginning to his career as he was delivering in films likeFlawless, Almost Famous, and Boogie Nights but was having trouble gaining the traction needed. It took the role of a lifetime as Truman Capote in Bennett Miller’s Capote (2005) to have his peers and critics notice him over stiff competition like Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix. Could a role like that be in Rockwell’s future?
Maybe performing the “Chastain Movement” will help him gain recognition for 2013. The Chastain Movement is when an actor or actress has multiple films open in the same year, usually anywhere from three to seven films, but there is one performance that critics can pin-point as the sole representation of the year. The beautiful Jessica Chastain had this happen for her in 2011 when she appeared in six films (Coriolanus, Take Shelter, Texas Killing Fields, The Tree of Life, Wilde Salome, The Debt, and her Oscar-nominated work in The Help). The movement often encompasses a least two or three works that are deemed “Oscar-worthy.” The opposite side of the this I would call the “Law Breakdown.” In 2004, Academy Award Nominee Jude Law appeared in six films (Alfie, The Aviator, Closer, I Heart Huckabees, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow). It’s argued that the world of cinema had such Jude Law overkill, as he was fine in nearly all those roles but a majority of them received mixed reviews, that when it came time to name a performance that would represent him for the calendar year, multiple categorizations and lackluster reviews ultimately damned him.
Could any of those treatments work or damn Rockwell this year?
He has a role opposite Olivia Wilde, Ray Liotta, and Michelle Monaghan in the upcoming Better Living Through Chemistry. Oscar-winning screenwriters Jim Rash and Nat Faxon will be directing him alongside Steve Carell in The Way, Way Back due to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival later this month. His big shot could be in the role of John Moon in David M. Rosenthal’s adaptation of A Single Shot with William H. Macy and Melissa Leo, a cat and mouse story. He will also have two roles in comedy films later this year, Trust Me with Amanda Peet and A Case of You with Vince Vaughn and Peter Dinklage.
ADVICE: I’m not sure you need advice in particular Mr. Rockwell. I think you’ve done incredibly well thus far even in blockbuster films like Charlie’s Angels (2000). You have a lot of comedies in your future slate and while I can understand it’s likely because you need to pay your mortgage, films with you in the lead role like the upcoming A Single Shot could break you out in a big way. When that day comes, and I believe it will, where you have “the role”, you have to play the circuit and use that charm you use in movies and make audiences melt (a.k.a. AMPAS members). My advice is more towards studios and casting agents. You have a gem right in front of you. Utilize him. I think Hollywood wants to reward you. They like you. We all like you. Maybe you’re not at the front of the line, but you’re pretty close. Your moment will come.