I first began noticing Sam Rockwell fairly recently with the release of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford in 2007. He was really brilliant in the role. There was no ego to be seen, no obvious pretence – he had just transitioned in to the character of Charley Ford utterly convincingly. It stood out as a good performance, but perhaps not exceptional – until I started seeing him, or rather noticing him, in other things too.
I rewatched The Green Mile and he was there, grotesque and despicable as ‘Wild Bill’. In Frost/ Nixon as determined researcher James Reston, and then came Moon. Wow! What a tour de force. He really blew me out of the water with that one. To steer a film through an hour and a half single handedly and bring it out the other side with critical acclaim is talent indeed. He cropped up again in Everybody’s Fine alongside De Niro and he was totally different again. I had managed to hold back tears in that film until one scene where Rockwell makes the smallest and most subtle gesture to prevent himself tearing up. It was so natural I ended up weeping like a child! And now as if to show the other side of the coin he plays Justin Hammer in Iron Man 2. And what a bloody brilliant performance executed with what can only be called ‘panache’. He was stylish and comically charismatic to a T. Actors just don’t get better than that.
Look over his film listing on IMDB. An unbelievably prolific actor and particularly in the latter years he’s featured in generally lauded films.
I once heard someone say, Michael Caine I think, that he didn’t want people to sit there and think “wow, what good acting” because then he hasn’t done his job, he wanted people to believe he was the characters he played. If that’s true, maybe I’ve overrated Sam Rockwell, but if there’s any leniency in such a statement, and surely there must be or actors would never receive acclaim, then I believe Rockwell to be one of the highest caliber actors I’ve been fortunate enough to watch.
And I haven’t seen Choke (2008) yet. Maybe I’ll knock back with a glass of rum and enjoy that now…