Sam Rockwell
Rockwell in 2018
Born (1968-11-05) November 5, 1968 (age 55)
EducationWilliam Esper Studio
Years active1978–present
WorksFull list
PartnerLeslie Bibb (2007–present)
AwardsFull list

Sam Rockwell (born November 5, 1968) is an American actor. He is known for appearing in independent films and portraying a wide variety of roles both comedic and dramatic in films such as Celebrity (1998), The Green Mile (1999), Charlie's Angels (2000), Heist (2001), Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002), Matchstick Men (2003), The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005), The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), Choke (2008), Moon (2009), The Sitter (2011), Seven Psychopaths (2012), A Case of You (2013), Don Verdean (2015), Blue Iguana (2018), Jojo Rabbit (2019), See How They Run (2022), and Argylle (2024), along with playing Justin Hammer in the Marvel Cinematic Universe media Iron Man 2 (2010), All Hail the King (2014), and What If...? (2023).

Rockwell won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Martin McDonagh's Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017).[1][2][3][4] and was nominated the following year for portraying George W. Bush in Adam McKay's Vice (2018).[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 or Movie. In 2022 he received his first Tony Award nomination for Best Actor in a Play for his performance in the Broadway revival of David Mamet's American Buffalo. His other stage performances include Zoo Story (2001), A Behanding in Spokane (2010) and Fool for Love (2015).

Early life and education

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 helped 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]


Further information: Sam Rockwell on screen and stage

Early films

After his debut role in the controversial 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 the deranged 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 recognition

From left: Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, and Rockwell at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con International

After appearances as a bumbling actor in the science fiction parody Galaxy Quest (1999), as Francis 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 at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival

Rockwell also had key roles in Martin McDonagh's Seven Psychopaths (2012),[21] and 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, in 2015 Rockwell starred in two films, remake of Poltergeist and Mr. Right. Mr. Right is about an ex-CIA agent turned hitman who gained a conscience and turned the tables on those that hired him as a hitman. He was also brutally honest with his girlfriend, portrayed by Anna Kendrick, on what he does. She then turns herself into a hitwoman. 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 the 2019 miniseries Fosse/Verdon, for which he received critical acclaim and a Primetime Emmy Award nomination.[29] That same year, Rockwell appeared in two acclaimed films, Richard Jewell and Jojo Rabbit. In 2020, he had a voice role in DreamWorks Animation's Trolls World Tour, also serving as a performer on the film's soundtrack; and also voiced Ivan the gorilla in the 2020 Disney+ film The One and Only Ivan.[30] Rockwell also provided the voice of the main character Mr. Wolf in The Bad Guys.[31]


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 in the World, and A Behanding in Spokane.

In 2022, he returned to the Broadway stage in a revival of David Mamet's American Buffalo alongside Laurence Fishburne and Darren Criss. For his performance in the play, Rockwell received his first nomination for the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play.

Personal life

Rockwell has never married, and stated in a 2007 interview "I definitely don't want to become a parent. It's not my bag".[32] He has been in a relationship with actress Leslie Bibb since 2007. They both appeared in Iron Man 2 and Don Verdean.[33][34]

Awards and nominations

Main article: List of awards and nominations received by Sam Rockwell

His performance as a troubled police officer in the crime-drama Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, a Golden Globe and two Screen Actors Guild Awards. In 2018, his portrayal of George W. Bush in the biopic Vice earned him his second Academy Award nomination in the same category.


  1. ^ "Sam Rockwell". Golden Globe Awards. Retrieved January 7, 2018.
  2. ^ "The 24th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards". Screen Actors Guild Awards. 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". Golden Globe Awards. 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. San Jose. 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 Winters, Laura (September 13, 1998). "Sam Rockwell; One-Man Gallery of Rogues, Crooks and Oddballs". The New York Times. Retrieved March 25, 2008.
  10. ^ Spencer, Miranda (January 2003). "Sam Rockwell". Biography.
  11. ^ "Today's Buzz Stories: Rockwell turned around". CNN. 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. December 28, 2015. Retrieved January 10, 2020.
  14. ^ Adams, Johnny. "Sam Rockwell". The Talks. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  15. ^ Stern, Marlow (July 11, 2017). "Sam Rockwell on 'The Way, Way Back,' His Troubled Youth & More". The Daily Beast. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  16. ^ Schwarzbaum, Lisa (September 10, 2003). "Movie Review: Matchstick Men". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved February 10, 2007.
  17. ^ Ebert, Roger (September 25, 2008). "Sex addict seeks Heimlich maneuver". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved January 13, 2021 – via
  18. ^ Casted: Episode 2 – Enter The Sampras! (with Sam Rockwell) on YouTube
  19. ^ "Moon". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
  20. ^ Flores, Ramses (May 5, 2010). "Sam Rockwell cast in COWBOYS & ALIENS". Collider. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  21. ^ "Martin McDonagh Helms 'Seven Psychopaths', Colin Farrell among all-star cast". Irish Film and Television Network. 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. Archived from the original on February 11, 2015. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  23. ^ Seibert, Perry. "The Way Way Back Review". TV Guide. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  24. ^ "The Way Way Back - Movie Review". Movieline. July 8, 2013. Archived from the original on October 30, 2021. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  25. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (January 17, 2014). "Sundance: 'Laggies' Sam Rockwell Sets 'The Eel' To Reunite With 'Way Way Back' Gang". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  26. ^ Bertz, Matt (May 3, 2016). "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. ^ Mazziotta, Julie (April 9, 2019). "Michelle Williams and Sam Rockwell Would Dream of Friday Cheat Meals While Filming Fosse/Verdon". People. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  30. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (August 19, 2020). "'The One and Only Ivan' Review: Sam Rockwell and Angelina Jolie Voice a Touching Animal Fable From Disney Plus". Variety. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  31. ^ Scheck, Frank (April 21, 2022). "Sam Rockwell and Awkwafina in 'The Bad Guys': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 2, 2022.
  32. ^ Iley, Chrissy (November 11, 2007). "It's scary in here..." The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved February 4, 2023.
  33. ^ Shone, Tom (December 3, 2012). "Sam Rockwell: Hollywood's odd man out". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on January 11, 2022. Retrieved April 2, 2015.
  34. ^ Brody, Richard (December 17, 2015). "Jared Hess's Bitter Religious Satire, "Don Verdean"". The New Yorker. Retrieved November 3, 2018.