When I first started reviewing and writing about movies for Redbox over ten years ago, we had a term for any actor who’d been in a ton of movies and whose face most people would recognize even if they couldn’t remember his name: “that guy.” Sam Rockwell definitely used to be “that guy.” He’s played the whole spectrum of bit parts to supporting characters to leading roles in everything from the Oscar‐nominated drama The Green Mile and the goofy comedy Galaxy Quest in 1999, to Charlie’s Angels the following year, to the con‐man comedy Matchstick Men opposite Nicolas Cage in 2003, to the Oscar nominated historical drama Frost/Nixon in 2008, to one of my personal favorites — the indie coming‐of‐age dramedy The Way, Way Back (if you haven’t seen it, YOU MUST) — in 2013.
In fact, he’d already been in 36 (!!!) movies by 2002 alone, when he starred as game‐show host and creator Chuck Barris in George Clooney’s directorial debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. That’s the point when more of the movie‐going masses started to know who he was. For me personally, it wasn’t until 2009’s Moon (a sci‐fi indie I probably wouldn’t have even heard about if I didn’t have this job) that I realized, “Wait a second, this guy is one of my favorite actors!” In Moon, Rockwell plays an astronaut who’s been alone in space for three years and starts to experience some sort of mental breakdown as his stint comes to an end. Pretty much no one else is in the movie with him. Not many actors could carry a film successfully on their own like that — Tom Hanks in Cast Away and Robert Redford in All is Lost come to mind, so we’re talking about the greats here! — but Rockwell just blew me away. Please check it out if you’ve never seen it. You can thank me later.
The industry finally took notice in 2017 when Rockwell won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (and a Golden Globe, two SAG awards and a BAFTA award) for his turn as racist cop Jason Dixon in the dark comedy (and Best Picture winner) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The following year, he’d be nominated again in the Supporting Actor category
for his portrayal of president George W. Bush in Vice.
And now Rockwell’s most recent film is at the Box and Redbox On Demand: The Best of Enemies. It tells the absolutely unbelievable — if it weren’t true — story of a former Ku Klux Klan leader in North Carolina (C.P. Ellis, played by Rockwell) who decides to work with a civil rights activist Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson) in 1971 before the area’s schools become desegregated. If you want to be inspired, or if you want to regain a little faith in what human beings can accomplish when we actually attempt to talk to each other, this is the real‐life story for you. Don’t miss it!
Since Rockwell is clearly one of the hardest‐working men in Hollywood, he’s also been trying his hand at the small screen. You may have caught him earlier this year on the FX series Fosse/Verdon as the famous director and choreographer Bob Fosse. The Emmy buzz is strong for Rockwell, but we’ll have to wait until nominations are out in September to find out if he has a shot at getting one step closer to an EGOT.
What’s up next for Sam? He’s got many projects in the works (no surprise there), but a standout I’m really interested in is that he’ll be the voice of Ivan the gorilla in the live‐action adaptation of the beloved 2013 Newberry Medal‐winning children’s book The One and Only Ivan, joining Angelina Jolie in the voice cast and Bryan Cranston in the acting cast. He is definitely not just “that guy” anymore.
What’s your favorite movie of his? You can browse all of the Sam Rockwell movies at Redbox here for inspiration!