Sam Rockwell (born November 5, 1968) is an American actor. He became well known for his leading roles in Lawn Dogs (1997), Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002), Matchstick Men (2003), The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005), Moon (2009), Seven Psychopaths (2012), Mr. Right (2015), and Richard Jewell (2019). He has also played supporting roles in The Green Mile (1999), Galaxy Quest (1999), Frost/Nixon (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Conviction (2010), and The Way, Way Back (2013). He is also renowned for his portrayal of "Head Thug" in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990).

Sam Rockwell
Sam Rockwell (51492) (cropped).jpg
Rockwell at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival
Born (1968-11-05) November 5, 1968 (age 51)
Alma materRuth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts
Years active1988–present
Partner(s)Leslie Bibb (2007–present)

In 2017, Rockwell's performance as a troubled police officer in the crime film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri won him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.[1][2][3][4] He was nominated in the same category the following year for his portrayal of George W. Bush in the political satire Vice.[5][6] In 2019, he portrayed Bob Fosse in the FX biographical miniseries Fosse/Verdon, earning him a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series.

Early life and educationEdit

Rockwell was born November 5, 1968, in Daly City, California.[7][8] He is the only child of actors Pete Rockwell and Penny Hess. After their divorce when he was five, he was raised by his father in San Francisco, and spent his summers with his mother in New York.[9] At age 10, he made a brief stage appearance playing Humphrey Bogart in an East Village improv comedy sketch with his mother.[10]

He started high school at the San Francisco School of the Arts with Margaret Cho and Aisha Tyler, but received his high school diploma from Urban Pioneers, an Outward Bound-style alternative school. Rockwell explained, "I just wanted to get stoned, flirt with girls, go to parties." The school "had a reputation as a place stoners went because it was easy to graduate."[11] The school ended up helping him regain an interest in performing. After appearing in an independent film during his senior year, he moved to New York to pursue an acting career.[12] He later enrolled in the Professional Actor Training Program at the William Esper Studio in New York[13].


Early filmsEdit

After his debut role in the horror film Clownhouse in 1989, which he filmed while living in San Francisco, he moved to New York and trained at the William Esper Studios with teacher William Esper.[14] His career slowly gained momentum in the early 1990s, when he alternated between small-screen guest spots in TV series like The Equalizer, NYPD Blue and Law & Order and small roles in films such as Last Exit to Brooklyn and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He also appeared as the title character in The Search for One-eye Jimmy (1994). During this time, Rockwell worked in restaurants as a busboy and delivered burritos by bicycle.[15] At one point, Rockwell even worked as a private detective's assistant. "I tailed a chick who was having an affair and took pictures of her at this motel", he told Rolling Stone in 2002. "It was pretty sleazy." A well-paying Miller commercial in 1994 finally allowed him to pursue acting full-time.

The turning point in Rockwell's career was Tom DiCillo's film Box of Moonlight (1996), in which he played an eccentric man-child who dresses like Davy Crockett and lives in an isolated mobile home. The ensuing acclaim put him front and center with casting agents and newfound fans alike, with Rockwell himself acknowledging that "That film was definitely a turning point...I was sort of put on some independent film map after 10 years in New York."[12]

He also received strong reviews for the film Lawn Dogs (1997), where he played a working-class lawn mower who befriends a wealthy 10-year-old girl (Mischa Barton) in an upper-class gated community in Kentucky; Rockwell's performance won him Best Actor honors at both the Montreal World Film Festival and the Catalan International Film Festival. In 1999, Rockwell played prisoner William "Wild Bill" Wharton in the Stephen King prison drama The Green Mile. At the time of the film's shooting, Rockwell explained why he was attracted to playing such unlikable characters. He said, "I like that dark stuff. I think heroes should be flawed. There's a bit of self-loathing in there, and a bit of anger... But after this, I've really got to play some lawyers, or a British aristocrat, or they'll put a label on me."[9]

Hollywood recognitionEdit

After appearances as a bumbling actor in the sci-fi parody Galaxy Quest (1999), as Flute in the Shakespeare adaptation A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999), and as gregarious villain Eric Knox in Charlie's Angels (2000), Rockwell won the then-biggest leading role of his career as The Gong Show host Chuck Barris in George Clooney's directorial debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002). Rockwell's performance was well-received, and the film earned generally positive reviews.

Rockwell has also received positive notices for his role opposite Nicolas Cage in Ridley Scott's Matchstick Men (2003), with Entertainment Weekly calling him "destined by a kind of excessive interestingness to forever be a colorful sidekick."[16] He received somewhat more mixed reviews as Zaphod Beeblebrox in the film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005). He then had a notable supporting role as Charley Ford, brother of Casey Affleck's character Robert Ford, in the well-received drama The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), in which Brad Pitt played the lead role of Jesse James. According to an interview on The Howard Stern Show, director Jon Favreau considered casting him as the titular character in Iron Man as the studio was initially hesitant to work with Robert Downey Jr., who had been considered for his role in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Rockwell eventually appeared in Iron Man 2, released in 2010, as Tony Stark's rival weapons developer, Justin Hammer. He is said to have accepted the role without reading the script. He had never heard of the character before he was contacted about the role and was unaware that Hammer is an old man in the comic books.

In addition to big-budget feature films, Rockwell has also appeared in indie films such as The F Word and played a randy, Halloween-costume-clad Batman in a short, Robin's Big Date, opposite Justin Long as Robin. He also starred in the film Snow Angels (2008) opposite Kate Beckinsale. He has worked on several occasions with the comedy troupe Stella (Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter and David Wain), making cameo appearances in their short films and eponymous TV series.

Rockwell played Victor Mancini in the film Choke (2008), based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk. Critic Roger Ebert said of his performance that he "seems to have become the latter-day version of Christopher Walken – not all the time, but when you need him, he's your go-to guy for weirdness."[17]

In 2007, Rockwell guest-starred in the web series Casted: The Continuing Chronicles of Derek Riffchyn, Greatest Casting Director in the World. Ever. He appears opposite Jonathan Togo as Derek and Justin Long as Scott. Rockwell plays an aspiring young actor named Pete Sampras.[18] In 2009, he starred in the critically acclaimed science fiction film Moon, directed by Duncan Jones. His performance as a lonely astronaut on a long-term solo mission to the Moon was widely praised, with some critics calling for an Academy Award for Best Actor nomination.[19] On May 3, 2010, it was announced that Rockwell would team up again with Iron Man 2 director Jon Favreau for Favreau's adaptation of the graphic novel Cowboys & Aliens. He played a bar owner named Doc who joins in the pursuit of the aliens.[20]

Rockwell also appeared in Martin McDonagh's Seven Psychopaths (2012),[21] as well as Nat Faxon and Jim Rash's The Way, Way Back (2013).[22] For his performance in The Way, Way Back, some critics felt he again deserved an Academy Award nomination.[23][24]

In January 2014, it was announced that Rockwell was cast in The Eel, in which he played an escaped convict. The film was produced by Kevin Walsh, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash, marking Rockwell's second collaboration with all three.[25] Additionally, Rockwell starred in the 2015 remake of Poltergeist. On May 3, 2016, it was announced that Rockwell would voice Mortimer Ramsey in the action video game Dishonored 2. Rockwell was cast along with other Marvel Cinematic Universe actors.[26]

Rockwell re-teamed with McDonagh for the 2017 film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. His performance as a racist, bullying police officer Jason Dixon won several accolades, including his first Academy Award, as well as the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture,[27] two Screen Actors Guild Awards and the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. In August 2017, Rockwell was cast to play George W. Bush in Adam McKay's Vice, a biopic of Dick Cheney; he received his second nomination for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award as a result.[28] Rockwell was cast as Bob Fosse with Michelle Williams as Gwen Verdon in “Fosse” to much critical acclaim as he embodied Bob Fosse.


Since 1992, Rockwell has been a member of the New York-based LAByrinth Theater Company, where John Ortiz is a co-artistic director. In 2005, Philip Seymour Hoffman directed him in Stephen Adly Guirgis' hit play The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. Rockwell workshopped a LAByrinth production, North of Mason-Dixon, which debuted in London in 2007 and then premiered in New York later the same year. Other plays in which Rockwell has performed include: Dumb Waiter (2001), Zoo Story (2001), The Hot L Baltimore (2000), Goosepimples (1998), Love and Human Remains, Face Divided, Orphans, Den of Thieves, Dessert at Waffle House, The Largest Elizabeth, and A Behanding in Spokane.

Personal lifeEdit

Rockwell has never been married and stated in a 2007 interview, "I definitely don't want to become a parent. It's not my bag."[29] Rockwell has been in a relationship with actress Leslie Bibb since 2007, when they reportedly met in Los Angeles as he was filming Frost/Nixon. They both appeared in Iron Man 2 and Don Verdean.[30][31]


Rockwell at the 2009 premiere of Moon at the Tribeca Film Institute


Year Title Role Notes
1989 Clownhouse Randy
1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Head Thug
1991 Strictly Business Gary
1992 Jack and His Friends Louie
1992 In the Soup Pauli
1992 Light Sleeper Jealous
1992 Happy Hell Night Young Henry Collins
1994 Somebody to Love Polish Guy
1994 The Search for One-eye Jimmy One-eye Jimmy Hoyt
1995 Drunks Tony
1995 Glory Daze Rob
1995 Mercy Matty
1996 Bad Liver and a Broken Heart Broken Heart Short film
1996 Basquiat Thug
1996 Box of Moonlight The Kid, a.k.a. Bucky
1997 Arresting Gena Sonny
1997 Lawn Dogs Trent Burns
1998 The Call Back Alan / Christopher Walken
1998 Jerry and Tom Jerry
1998 Louis & Frank Sam
1998 Safe Men Sam
1998 Celebrity Darrow Entourage
1999 A Midsummer Night’s Dream Francis Flute
1999 The Green Mile William "Wild Bill" Wharton
1999 Galaxy Quest Guy Fleegman
2000 Charlie's Angels Eric Knox
2001 D.C. Smalls Karaoke Singer Short film
2001 Pretzel Sam
2001 BigLove Nate Short film
2001 Made Hotel Clerk Uncredited
2001 Heist Jimmy Silk
2002 13 Moons Rick
2002 Running Time The Hunted Short film
2002 Welcome to Collinwood Pero Mahalovic
2002 Confessions of a Dangerous Mind Chuck Barris
2002 Stella Shorts 1998–2002 Pizza Guy Direct-to-video; Short: "Bored"
2003 Matchstick Men Frank Mercer
2004 Piccadilly Jim Piccadilly Jim / Jim Crocker
2005 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox
2005 The F Word Jeremy
2005 Robin's Big Date The Bat-man Short film
2007 Joshua Brad Cairn
2007 Snow Angels Glenn Marchand
2007 The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford Charley Ford
2008 Woman in Burka Sam Short film
2008 Choke Victor Mancini
2008 Frost/Nixon James Reston Jr.
2009 The Winning Season Bill Also producer
2009 Moon Sam Bell
2009 G-Force Darwin
2009 Gentlemen Broncos Bronco / Brutus
2009 Everybody's Fine Robert Goode
2010 Iron Man 2 Justin Hammer
2010 F—K Sam Short film
2010 Conviction Kenneth Waters
2011 Gettysburg Narrator Documentary
2011 Cowboys & Aliens Doc
2011 The Sitter Karl
2012 Seven Psychopaths Billy Bickle
2013 The Way, Way Back Owen
2013 A Single Shot John Moon
2013 Trust Me Aldo Stankas
2013 A Case of You Gary
2013 Better Living Through Chemistry Douglas Varney
2014 Marvel One-Shot: All Hail the King Justin Hammer Short film
2014 Laggies Craig Hunter
2014 Loitering with Intent Wayne
2015 Digging for Fire Ray
2015 Don Verdean Don Verdean
2015 Poltergeist Eric Bowen
2015 Mr. Right Mr. Right / Francis Munch
2017 Axis Himself Voice
2017 The Dark of Night Officer Witt Short film
2017 Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Officer Jason Dixon
2017 Woman Walks Ahead Colonel Silas Grove
2018 Blaze Oilman #1
2018 Mute Sam Bell Uncredited cameo
2018 Blue Iguana Eddie
2018 Vice George W. Bush
2019 The Best of Enemies C. P. Ellis
2019 Jojo Rabbit Captain Klenzendorf
2019 Richard Jewell Watson Bryant
2020 Trolls World Tour Hickory Voice; in production
2020 The One and Only Ivan Ivan Voice; post-production


Year Title Role Notes
1988 The Equalizer Slick Episode: "The Child Broker"
1989 Dream Street Joey Episode: "Girl's Talk"
1990 ABC Afterschool Special Jason Episode: "Over the Limit"
1992–1993 Law & Order Randy Borland, Officer Weddeker 2 episodes
1993 Lifestories: Families in Crisis Kevin Tunell Episode: "Dead Drunk: The Kevin Tunell Story"
1995 NYPD Blue Billy Episode: "Torah! Torah! Torah!"
1997 Subway Stories Man Eating Television film
Segment: "Sax Cantor Riff"
1997–2000 Prince Street Donny Hanson 6 episodes
2005 Stella Gary Meadows Episode: "Office Party"
2012 Napoleon Dynamite Filson (voice) Episode: "FFA"
2015 Drunk History Bugsy Siegel Episode: "Las Vegas"
2015–present F Is for Family Vic (voice) 26 episodes
2016 Inside Amy Schumer Sam Episode: "Fame"
2018 Saturday Night Live Himself (host) Episode: "Sam Rockwell/Halsey"
2019 Fosse/Verdon Bob Fosse 8 episodes

Video gamesEdit

Year Title Role
2009 G-Force Darwin
2016 Dishonored 2 Mortimer Ramsey


Year Title Role
2001 Zoo Story Jerry
Dumb Waiter Gus
2010 A Behanding in Spokane Mervyn
2014 Fool for Love Eddie

Awards and nominationsEdit


  1. ^ "Sam Rockwell". Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Retrieved January 7, 2018.
  2. ^ "The 24th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards". Screen Actors Guild. Retrieved January 7, 2018.
  3. ^ "Film - Supporting Actor in 2018". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  4. ^ "THE 90TH ACADEMY AWARDS - 2018". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  5. ^ "Sam Rockwell". Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Retrieved January 9, 2019.
  6. ^ "Film - Supporting Actor in 2019". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved January 9, 2019.
  7. ^ Barney, Chuck (March 4, 2018). "Oscars 2018: Bay Area's Sam Rockwell wins best supporting actor". The Mercury News. Archived from the original on February 20, 2019.
  8. ^ Neal, Rome (January 22, 2003). "Sam Rockwell's 'Confessions'". CBS News. Archived from the original on February 20, 2019.
  9. ^ a b "Sam Rockwell; One-Man Gallery of Rogues, Crooks and Oddballs". by Laura Winters, The New York Times. September 13, 1998. Retrieved March 25, 2008.
  10. ^ “Sam Rockwell,” by Miranda Spencer. Biography, January 2003.
  11. ^ "Today's Buzz Stories: Rockwell turned around". CNN Showbuzz. December 23, 2002. Archived from the original on July 20, 2007. Retrieved February 10, 2007.
  12. ^ a b Weinraub, Bernard (January 23, 1998). "AT THE MOVIES; Looking Back At 2 Classics". The New York Times. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  13. ^ "Why Meisner? Ask Sam Rockwell and learn why it's "Meisner acting all the way." | Terry Knickerbocker Studio". Retrieved January 10, 2020.
  14. ^ "Sam Rockwell | The Talks". The Talks. Retrieved February 24, 2017.
  15. ^ “Sam Rockwell,” by M.B. Rolling Stone, 10/3/02.
  16. ^ "Movie Review: Matchstick Men". by Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly. September 10, 2003. Retrieved February 10, 2007.
  17. ^ "Choke". Chicago Sun-Times. September 25, 2008.
  18. ^ Casted: Episode 2 – Enter The Sampras! (with Sam Rockwell) on YouTube
  19. ^ Moon. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved on 2012-08-18.
  20. ^ Flores, Ramses (May 3, 2010). "Sam Rockwell cast in COWBOYS & ALIENS". Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  21. ^ "Martin McDonagh Helms 'Seven Psychopaths', Colin Farrell among all-star cast". May 12, 2011. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  22. ^ Mele, Rick (July 5, 2013). "Sam Rockwell in 'The Way, Way Back': Will It Be His Breakout Role?". Moviefone. AOL. Archived from the original on February 11, 2015. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  23. ^ Seibert, Perry. "The Way Way Back Review". Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  24. ^ "The Way Way Back - Movie Review". Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  25. ^ Fleming, Jr., Mike (January 17, 2014). "Sundance: 'Laggies' Sam Rockwell Sets 'The Eel' To Reunite With 'Way Way Back' Gang". Deadline Hollywood. PMC. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  26. ^ "Dishonored 2 Taps Vocal Talent From Game Of Thrones, Daredevil, And The Wire". Game Informer.
  27. ^ Lawrence, Derek (January 7, 2018). "Sam Rockwell wins best supporting actor at Golden Globes". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 7, 2018.
  28. ^ Kit, Borys (August 31, 2017). "Sam Rockwell to Play George W. Bush in Adam McKay's Dick Cheney Biopic (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 3, 2017.
  29. ^ Chrissy Iley (November 11, 2007). It's scary in here.... Interview – Retrieved on 2012-08-18.
  30. ^ Tom Shone (December 3, 2012). "Sam Rockwell: Hollywood's odd man out". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved April 2, 2015.
  31. ^ Brody, Richard (December 17, 2015). "Jared Hess's Bitter Religious Satire, "Don Verdean"". The New Yorker. Condé Nast. Retrieved November 3, 2018.

External linksEdit