So Much More Than Just A Red Shirt: Seven Amazingly Varied Roles of Sam Rockwell

gentleman remy

Sam Rockwell is one of those actors I just envy. The guy never picks bad roles, and somehow manages to inject a real sense of confidence and vulnerability into every role he chooses. He is an actor who defies all expectations. He ALWAYS looks like he just woke up and threw on some clothes, perhaps hitting a bong in between, and rushed to wherever he is. He SEEMS like he will be unprepared, yet is never less than an on-point in anything he touches. He has this sort of disheveled cool to him that  just wouldn’t work well if any other actor were trying it to pull it off, yet it is all Sam Rockwell.

Much like I did with Ryan Gosling and JGL, I will now point out some of Rockwell’s most diverse and enjoyable performances. While some say Rockwell always just plays Rockwell, the guy is cool enough to do that and have it always work, and how many actors can you really say that about?

Guy Fleegman: Galaxy Quest


If this point and smile doesn’t seduce you, you are far stronger than I.

How wonderful was Galaxy Quest? Such a genuinely surprising, consistently awesome film, and even among acting giants like Alan Rickman and the always lovely Sigourney Weaver, Rockwell pretty much owned this movie as the character who was CONVINCED he was going to be killed off at any moment. What a lot of people don’t know is that the paranoia he played through the whole film was based purely on the panicky Bill Paxton from Aliens. How fucking awesome is THAT? Just makes me like him more.

For a lot of us, this was our introduction to Sam Rockwell, and he went on to ensure that we would never forget him as “Crewman 6”, or should I say “Security Chief”. And this was just one in a long line of stellar Science Fiction performances. Speaking of which…

Sam Bell: Moon

oh look a writer

Hey, that is so weird, he looks just like a writer here.

If Galaxy Quest was Rockwell sharpening his knife using wit, Moon was Rockwell sharpening his knife using grit. Forced to play different versions of himself, cloned, we see across the span of this film just how broken the Sam Belle character becomes, and how the newer cloned version clashes with the older, deteriorating model. Though the story itself is amazing, it is just how much introspection we see in Rockwell that sells it all. This could have ended up being a farce, a movie about arguing clones, but Rockwell makes you feel it all and believe it. And the story is incredibly well written and well directed by David Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones.

Personal opinion: I really feel like this movie is Duncan’s version of his Dad’s seminal “Space Oddity” song. Man goes to space. Marvels over it. Realizes something is wrong, Sends and receives loving messages from fam. I know they are small coincidences, but are they really?

Billy Bickle: Seven Psychopaths

hey its me

In an odd coincidence, I own both that hat and that jacket. Pretty sure this is based on me.

Seven Psychopaths surprised me, though it shouldn’t have. To me, the trailers made it look like it was TRYING to be one of those kooky, crime capers, and that it may have been trying too hard, but once I saw it, all those fears were put to rest. And how could I doubt this? Starring Christopher Walken and Colin Farrell. Directed by Martin McDonagh of In Bruges fame. And ofcourse, all of this being held together by the insane glue that is Sam Rockwell as dog-napper Billy Bickle. And it was Rockwell who sold me on the film, entirely.

He plays a psychopath LIKE a psychopath. You can FEEL just how wonderfully manic he is, but as the film all starts to unfold, you can also see that he may actually be the most sane of the bunch, with a real good idea on how this will all play out. It was over-the-top at times, but Rockwell can do over-the-top with true conviction, and Seven Psychopaths stands as a testimony to that. It is also the last time you will see Rockwell cast as a “man-child”, or so he claims.

Victor Mancini: Choke

britta and sam

Why yes, that is BRITTA from Community. And you’re welcome.

I am fully aware I will catch heat for this, but I don’t care. I am a HUGE Chuck Palahniuk fan (Author of Fight Club, Invisible Monsters, Snuff, and this, among many others) and though I know the adaptation is way off from the source material, how the fuck are they supposed to make a movie about a sex addict who ends up falling in love with a time traveler after he kills his Mother? Sorry for the book spoilers there, but truth is, they did the best they could with the source material, and it was Rockwell who made the film shine. Especially the scenes taking place at his job as a “actor” at the old-school Colonial village (think Plymouth Plantation) where he smoked weed, screws, and listens to Radiohead to pass the time. Yeah, I don’t relate to ANY of that.

 Maybe it is just because I am recovering sex addict who also used to spend my free time smoking pot at Plymouth Plantation that makes me love this movie, or perhaps it is Britta from Community as a brainless stripper who evolves across the course of the film. I don’t know for sure, but it all worked, and worked well, for me. A dark and subversive story, but a role Rockwell owned, regardless.

Wild Bill: The Green Mile


The man is such a chameleon it is easy to forget he was even in The Green Mile.

Remember how slimy Sam Rockwell was as Wild Bill in The Green Mile? The man who was actually at fault for the crimes that the Michael Clarke Duncan character was in jail for? He played that greasy-haired, dead-eyed, no-soul so well, it makes it easy to forget some of the kooky, light-hearted stuff we have seen from him. But Wild Bill was a palpably evil man with no conscience, and you could feel that seeping from Rockwell’s sweaty, primal performance.

Also, he looked like he smelled. When I can look at a character you are playing, and I can smell BO, you are an unbelievable talent.

Head Thug: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

sam tmnt


As I sat there watching the original TMNT movie, I remember looking over at my Dad during one of the scenes and saying: Dad, who is that bad man? He seems so much more talented then the rest of the cast, and he seems like he should be doing something that would be far more fitting to his level of acting pedigree? And my Dad looked over at me and said: I wish your mother aborted you.


From that moment forth, I knew Sam Rockwell was a God among mortals.

Okay, none of that is true, but I thought it might surprise some of you who didn’t know this is where the master got his start. Damn right!

Honorable Mention: 

Everything he did in Gentleman Broncos. If you don’t know, now you know:


No one saw this film and that is just inexcusable.

Also, Rockwell was easily the best part of Iron Man 2, but that film wasn’t awesome enough to warrant a spot on the list. But when you can out-cocky Robert Downey Jr, you have a real gift.

Speaking of cocky, I would like to share a theory with you guys…


  1. J5 March 18, 2013
  2. Shiki March 18, 2013
  3. Cube March 18, 2013
  4. Remy Carreiro March 18, 2013
  5. Conrad March 19, 2013
  6. buddyandguy December 13, 2014

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