Actor Sam Rockwell came to Sarasota for the first time Tuesday, Feb. 19, but, unless you are familiar with his films, you probably didn’t recognize him on the street.
“(People on the street either) don’t know who I am or they know exactly who I am; or sometimes they’ll think they went to high school with me,” he says.
Most recently, Rockwell played Colin Farrell’s best friend in “Seven Psychopaths.” He also played an astronaut in the 2009 sci-fi hit “Moon,” and Wild Bill Wharton in 1999’s “The Green Mile.”
After Tuesday, Ringling College of Art and Design filmmaking students know Rockwell a little better, thanks to the Ringling College Digital Filmmaking Studio Lab, the program that brings actors to the area via a collaboration with Ringling College and Future of Films LLC — a well-connected area consulting group.
Rockwell opened this year’s series, which began in 2010. In previous years, the program brought such well-known figures as Elijah Wood, Werner Herzog, Bill Paxton and Martha Stewart. Also on the docket for this season are actress Andie MacDowell, Billy Bob Thornton and Forest Whitaker.
A reception and screening of “Moon” took place first, followed with an audience-submitted Q&A session with Rockwell in the Academic Center, but the college awarded Diversions readers an exclusive Q&A:
So, you always play the offbeat character.
Yeah, I play a lot of anti-heros or villains ...
Is there a different type of character you’d like to play, or are you happy with where you are now?
I’m always looking to do different things. I’m always trying to shake it up a little bit. I’m working on “Hamlet.” I’m working on this play called “Mr. Roberts,” and I’m going to do a reading of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (are Dead)” with my friend Billy Crudup, who’s a really good actor, and this guy Denis O’Hare ... so those are things to shake it up and get the knife sharp.
How do you tap into the character?
It’s like a stew: You take all these elements and ingredients and it has to cook. The sauce is better if it cooks longer — it gets richer ... It’s digesting the material in an emotional and personal way.
What makes you say yes to a script?
That’s a very personal thing. You respond to the part, the role. And then there are all the other elements: Is it a good script in its entirety? Does it have good caches? Is the director good?; the cinematographer good? So, sometimes, you’ll show up for something that might be a supporting role, but Roger Deakins might be the cinematographer or Ron Howard is the director. So, you’re willing to take a supporting role because the elements are suggesting that there is a pretty good chance that it’s going to be a good movie.
This comment is circulating the Internet: ‘White people were born without rhythm because God was saving it all for Sam Rockwell.’
Oh, so I got all the rhythm of all the white people? (He laughs.) That’s a wonderful thing to say. But, what about Justin Timberlake? Fred Astaire?
What’s your history with bustin’ moves? You dance quite a bit in your films.
I used to hang out with a different crowd in middle school and I used to break-dance, or, you know, at least try to break-dance ... (I have) no formal training as a dancer; I just kind of picked it up.
And you worked with Christopher Walken a few times?
He’s a trained dancer. You ever see the Fatboy Slim video (featuring Walken)?
You and Walken did a play ‘Behanding in Spokane’ and the movie ‘Seven Psychopaths’ — is he on your speed dial yet?
He’s a friend of mine. I talk to him at least once a month, I’d say. We talked about doing something else together, but we’re looking for the right thing.
And no Oscar yet? I always read ‘underated’ in regard to your talent. Does it ever get frustrating when you totally nail a role?
I used to get frustrated with that stuff, but it is what it is. It’s silly stuff because it’s mainly about if the movie was a popular movie, and sometimes there are a lot of good movies that weren’t popular at the get go, like “The Big Lebowski”... and a lot of my career has been afterlife in a way that’s kind of cool. Movies live on.
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Daylight Saving Time starts 2 a.m. Sunday, so be sure to set your alarm accordingly.