Close up with Sam Rockwell
Time Out chats to the industrious character actor
There was a risk ‘Conviction’ could have become overly melodramatic. How did you counter that?
‘Tony Goldwyn, the director, said something very important. He told us, “Whatever happens, you’re not feeling sorry for yourself.” It’s an emotional story, but the characters are very resilient, they’re always trying to help each other. Even in the prison scenes, they’re in pain but they’re trying to take care of the other person, they’re not just worried about themselves. I think that’s key to the film working as well as it does. My character is no boy scout; he’s self absorbed to some extent, but he loves his sister – there’s an undying devotion to her.’
Tony Goldwyn is an actor himself, appearing in the likes of ‘Nixon’ and ‘Law and Order’. How did that affect your working relationship?
‘It was invaluable. He knows what you’re going through, what the process is like, how emotionally naked you are, how vulnerable. He’s very collaborative, very open to ideas, but he’s also spent a lot of time with the material so he knows what he wants.
’Did you find playing a real person at all limiting?
‘Well, because Kenny’s not around any more I had a little more liberty than, say, Hilary did. But even though Kenny’s sister Betty Anne was on the set she never interfered with the process, she was always really encouraging. We could defer to her but she was never intrusive. But of course, we both felt a big responsibility.’
Kenny Waters died shortly after his release from prison, but the film keeps quiet about that information. Why?
‘Tony struggled with that quite a bit. Originally they put it in the end scroll, and Tony was even thinking of shooting a scene. But the studio did test screenings and the audience loved the movie, then when they saw that Kenny died it was almost like they’d been punched in the gut. It erased the positive experience of the film. And that’s not what the film is about. It’s about this relationship, this love story between a brother and sister.’
You had quite an unconventional upbringing, travelling the US with your parents and acting at a young age. Does that help when playing outsider characters like this?
‘Hilary and I both had a few hardships in our childhood, and I think that informs characters like this. We can identify with them. I’m drawn to these sorts of people; there has to be something personal about it or it’s not going to work.’
What can you tell me about ‘Cowboys and Aliens’, which you’ve just finished shooting with Jon Favreau?
‘It’s a John Ford western with aliens. “Unforgiven” meets “Close Encounters”. It’s played straight. Harrison Ford is John Wayne, Daniel Craig is Steve McQueen in “The Magnificent Seven” and I’m Jimmy Stewart in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”. I think that’s the best way to describe it.’
Which do you prefer, Hollywood luxury or indie freedom?
‘I like a movie like “Conviction” or “Snow Angels” [a 2007 film by David Gordon Green] where we have a medium amount of time. A movie like “Cowboys and Aliens” is perhaps too much time, a 30-day shoot like ‘Moon’ is too little. I’m happiest in the middle.’
Read our review of 'Conviction'
Author: Interview: Tom Huddleston
Director Tom Hooper and his cast tell us how they turned the super-musical into movie blockbuster.
The Time Out film team weighs in on the nominees for the 2013 Academy Awards
Get ready for the big guns… Spielberg, Tarantino and Bigelow
Daniel Craig’s 007 comeback, a genius indie romcom and all the mysteries behind ‘The Shining’ unravelled.
The results of our study on the state of films and filmgoing in 2012.
Read 'Time Out film debate 2012 highlights'
'The Hobbit' actor tells us why he wouldn't have a pint with Bilbo Baggins.
Dave Calhoun speaks to the director of 'Skyfall' about the latest film in the Bond franchise.
The genre-hopping director tells us how he invented a new genre with 'Life of Pi'
The twice Palme d'Or-winning director discusses 'Amour'.
Read our interview with Michael Haneke
The Danish director talks about his powerful new drama 'The Hunt'.
Read our interview with Thomas Vinterberg'
Time Out looks back at the impact of the 'Twilight' saga.
Discover what 'Twilight' has done for us
Time Out heads to the Lake District to visit director Ben Wheatley on set.
Read about our visit to the 'Sightseers' set
The director talks about 'Frankenweenie', which he describes as 'the ultimate memory piece'.
Read our interview with Tim burton
Our pick of the best films showing over the festive period.
Read 'The top ten Christmas films of 2012'
Mean Girls? Dirty Dancing? Tell us your favourite film guilty pleasure.
Read 'Film guilty pleasures'
What will Disney do to 'Star Wars'?
Read about the new 'Star Wars' trilogy
Ten young actors come of age on the silver screen.
Read 'When teen stars turn serious'
From Connery to Craig, we revisit all 22 Bond films.
Read '50 years of James Bond'
The director talks Scientology and working with Joaquin Phoenix.
Read the interview
Ten funny horror movies which went spectacularly off the rails.
Read 'Hilarious horror films'
The director talks psychopaths and theatre – 'my least favourite artform'.
Read the interview
We round-up the five best horror movies of Autumn 2012.
Read about this Autumn's best horror movies
Time Out visits Istanbul to see the latest Bond movie being made.
Read 'On the set of Skyfall'
Does Skyfall refresh or rehash the James Bond franchise?
The British director explains why 'Ginger and Rosa' is her most mainstream film yet.
'I’m almost as in demand as Brad Pitt’