Questions and Answers With Sam Rockwell

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Get ready to see a different side of Sam Rockwell. Well known for his goofy charm in movies such as this summer's "The Way Way Back" and as a suave bad guy in "Charlie's Angels" and "Iron Man 2," Rockwell's role in this weekend's indie "A Single Shot" could come as a shock. He plays John Moon, a West Virginian man who finds himself in a spot of trouble after he accidentally murders a young woman while hunting in the woods. Soon, he's the one being hunted.

We caught up with Rockwell prior to the movie's release, chatting on his trademark dance moves, the thick West Virginia accent he adopted for the role and the power of a good beard.

Talk to me a little bit about "A Single Shot." You're known for playing a very different kind of role than the very countrified, rough character in John Moon.

I think that I just wanted, I think it's kind of a version of [what I played in] the movie "Lawn Dogs" and a little bit like "Moon," you can sort of go back to those characters and do another version of that, I guess.

The most distinctive thing about this performance is your thick West Virginian accent. Where did you learn that?

I had a lot of inspirations. I had a guy in West Virginia tape my lines in a tape recorder, but you know, it's a beautiful accent, a very clipped accent. I watched some documentaries, like "The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia," but it's a fun kind of accent in the vein of kind of like "Coal Miner's Daughter," "Tender Mercies," whatever. It's a fun accent to do. There's a kind of music to the way they talk.

Were there any words in particular that caught you up?

Yeah, the vowel on right, r-i-g-h-t, the way they say that is very particular, it's not like any other place in the South. They kind of bite down on it, they say rooooyt, royyyyyt, they kind of like a Cockney, the way a Cockney would say it.

The sound on this movie was really distinct too. I kept turning it louder and louder because I had such a hard time wrapping my head around the accent.

Yeah, it's kind of mumbly.

Was it hard to slip in and out of?

I would practice ahead of time and I would get the dialect in my ear. You have samples on an iPod, stuff like that, you can get warmed up, read a piece of text with the dialect.

You could get into character and menace strangers to practice.

Yeah, yeah.

You were believably creepy. If your character walked up to me, I'd probably be nervous.

Oh, that's good, that's a good sign.

Especially since we're used to seeing you in roles like "The Way Way Back."

Yeah, he's off the grid, that guy.

Do you have any real-life similarities with your "A Single Shot" character? Are you also in trouble for illegally poaching?

No, no, no. I'm a city kid.

Not much of an outdoorsman?

Not really, not really. I've built some tents before, I've hiked in the mountains and done some rappelling and stuff, but that's it.

You've built tents, but have you slept in them?

Yeah, I've slept in them, but it's not fun. I wouldn't recommend it. Go to that Motel 6.

You also have quite a beard in this movie. Did you have to grow that, or was it a prosthetic?

I was rockin' the beard, yeah. Yeah, that's my beard. You can't really fake beards, it's bad news.

But I can't help but notice that you didn't get to dance in this one.

Yes, thank god, enough with the dancing.

I was starting to think that maybe you have a clause in all your contracts that allows you to bust a movie in every movie.

[laughing] I know, it's too much, too much with the dancing.

No, it's never enough!

Never enough, yeah.

When did you film this movie?

It was a while ago. It was about over a year now.

What's it like to revisit older movies that are now being released?

It's interesting. You try to recall that time in your life and what it meant to you and stuff like that. it's like talking about a summer. It wasn't that long ago, but it was long enough that, yeah, sure.

Are there things that surprise you watching the movie now, or things that you forgot?

I really like this movie. I know it's not for everybody, but it challenges the audience in a pretty major way. I really like the movie, and it's really beautiful how it's shot. It's shot on real film. I just love how it looks, you know? I love how dark it is, how dark the lighting is. I really dig it. I think the scenes with some of the actors, the little nuances -- I've seen it about three times and I see little things that Bill Macy's doing, and Jeffrey [Wright] and Ted Levine, he's wonderful. We got very lucky with the cast. Kelly Reilly and Joe Anderson, just great actors.

I also noticed that it's nearly 15 minutes before there's any dialogue in the film, from beginning to the first word.

Yeah! What did you think of that?

It was a little unsettling.

Yeah, yeah!

<strong?The script is very sparse and non-verbal. Was that a challenge for you?

Yeah, I was really looking forward to that and I loved that. I think some of the scenes you don't even understand what Jeffrey and me are saying, we've got chewing tobacco in our mouths and the dialect's very thick, so you can almost think of it as a silent movie. It's got a few strong dialogue scenes, but I think it's kind of a silent movie, you know? It's told visually, that story, I think quite a bit. There's a bit of exposition and some good dialogue, but I think it's told very visually.

Now, to switch gears a little, we like to ask a few questions about you.

Yes, yes, of course. So you want to know about how to grow a beard?

Yes, teach me. Go.

Well, first, you gotta be a, I don't know.

No, what!

Well, there's might be some women out there who can grow some beards.

If you had to pick, what would the theme song to your life be?

Jim Croce. Just "Operator"! All the time, just Jim Croce.

New York or LA?

New York! LA's okay for a while, but I like New York

Beer or wine?

Beer! Sometimes I like wine, but usually beer. It's gotta be good red wine. I like red wine, Barolos and stuff. I like very potent beers. IPAs and Porters. I'm not a Budweiser drinker.

Rap or rock?

Do I really have to make a choice? I like both. You know, rap is better for breaking it down.

Which of your movies do you think deserves a second look from audiences?

How many can I pick? I think "Joshua" should get some love.

Was it underseen or underrated?

I think it was underseen. I think "Snow Angels," I'm trying to think of some other ones. I think there's some good work in "The Winning Season." I love "Safe Men," but that actually does have a following, it did for a while have a college cult following.

Well, you're also credited as "head thug" in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."

Oh, boy, that one, yeah. My finest work to date.

It's an achievement.


Speaking of '90s nostalgia, what was the best thing about the '90s?

I can't think of anything. I think of '90s was probably when I lived on Thompson Street, there were a couple of summers that were nice. I can't think of anything right now, it's kind of a blur.

Using the formula of your first pet and the street you grew up on, what would your porn name be?

I'd be Cowboy Santiago.