Five Favorite Films

Sam Rockwell's Five Favorite Films

The Oscar-winning star of Moon, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and this week's Vice is a big movie buff.

by | December 26, 2018 | Comments

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

The road to winning an Academy Award is frequently a long and windy one, and if anyone can vouch for that, it’s Sam Rockwell. Almost three decades after he made his big screen debut in a small 1989 horror film called Clownhouse, Rockwell finally took home an Oscar statuette last year, though it wasn’t for a lack of acclaimed roles. Before his award-winning turn as Officer Dixon in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Rockwell had built an impressive, eclectic resume that included well-received work in films like Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Moon, Seven Psychopaths, and The Way Way Back, among others.

This week, he co-stars in a unique, imaginative take on former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney’s life and rise to power called Vice, from director Adam McKay (The Big Short). Rockwell plays an earnest, guileless George W. Bush who insists Christian Bale’s Dick Cheney be his running mate in his bid for the presidency, and he’s already earned a Golden Globe nomination for the role. With the film released on Christmas Day and currently in theaters, Rockwell spoke with Rotten Tomatoes about the new film and how he approached his portrayal of the former president. Before that, though, he talked about his Five Favorite Films, warning “I’m a movie nerd… Don’t get me started on the movies.” With that in mind, below are descriptions of just five of Sam Rockwell’s favorite films, which also include: Taxi Driver, Coming Home, Stir Crazy, Badlands, Goodfellas, Dog Day Afternoon, and Aliens.

The Deer Hunter (1978) 92%

The Deer Hunter’s something I saw when I was very young. I saw a lot of disturbing movies when I was young. Alien, American Werewolf in London. There were a lot of movies that probably kids shouldn’t go to. And it just blew the top of my hair off, you know? The Russian roulette scene. Kind of like the chainsaw scene in Scarface was just really dynamic cinema, you know? Raiders of the Lost Ark is another one. Jaws. You get me going, I can’t stop. But those scenes, they stick in your mind and, yeah, it changed you. I think they kind of change you. Maybe Deer Hunter changed me. It was about friendship. It was about war, but it was also about friendship.

Back to the Future (1985) 96%

It’s just a perfect movie, you know? Everything about it, you just can’t… It’s just perfect. You can watch it over and over again.

Stripes (1981) 88%

That’s probably just Bill Murray in his prime. There’s a lot of good stuff in there.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) 94%

That’s just one of the great… That’s another great one. That and Chinatown are probably — and maybe Five Easy Pieces — I mean, those were the big Nicholson performances. But McMurphy’s kind of the quintessential Nicholson performance. It’s kind of everything about Nicholson that’s great.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) 94%

That movie blew me away. I think my dad made me see that and I remember Lee Marvin in that; Lee Van Cleef and Strother Martin are sort of the sidekicks. Woody Strode, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart. Just an incredible cast, I mean… It was just a surprise kind of western. There’s this scene where he gets his heartbroken — John Wayne gets kind of vulnerable in the bar. He loses the lady. That’s a great scene.

Ryan Fujitani for Rotten Tomatoes: Let’s talk about Vice. It’s an interesting movie, and while it’s a comedic take on its subject, it’s not quite a farce, and Adam McKay clearly wanted to channel some authenticity into these real people that you and your co-stars were portraying. How did you find that line between an effective, comedic portrayal of George W. Bush and an outright caricature?

Sam Rockwell: Well, you know, the impression always has to take a back seat to reality, and that’s always the rule for me. If the impression overrides the acting, I mean, you’ve got a problem. Because I think, ultimately, when we watched Daniel Day Lewis play Abe Lincoln, I think we’re seeing Abe Lincoln, but I think we’re also seeing the heart and soul of Daniel Day Lewis and all the attributes that he thinks are similar to Lincoln and what he imagines Lincoln would have been like. Ultimately, you want to see the actor’s heart and soul come through. You don’t want to just see an impression, I think. Otherwise it’s just, you know, who cares?

RT: Did you have to set aside your own personal feelings about him, whether positive or negative, to play him as he was written in the script?

Rockwell: No, not at all. It’s not really that kind of a movie. It’s more of a big American epic, you know? It’s kind of like, I don’t know, like Citizen Kane and The Big Short. It’s like that kind of a big kind of movie. You’re right, though. It’s not a farce and it’s not a biopic, either. It’s sort of somewhere, I don’t know what it is. I also haven’t seen it, so I’m going off of the script that I read. So I don’t know.

RT: I think you’ll be surprised by some of it.

Rockwell: There was a dancing number in there. I think it was cut, but there was a big dance number, so it was all over the place. Stylistically it breaks the narrative, you know?

RT: Were you in that dance number?

Rockwell: No, I wish!

RT: I was going to say…

Rockwell: I’ve been working with that choreographer, though, right now. Yeah, I’m playing Bob Fosse.

RT: Right! I’m looking forward to that.

Rockwell: Yeah, it’s going to be good.

RT: You’re uncannily spot on as President Bush. Do you know if Adam McKay specifically had you in mind for the role? 

Rockwell: I don’t know if he did or not. I think he said he did, but I don’t know. I mean, he’d already had the best. Will Ferrell is pretty, pretty good, so it’s like, how do you follow that? I think it was just me and Christian [Bale] matched up in age, too, you know? Sort of the right age group, and I think it just felt right. I had the advantage of a prosthetic nose; that helps a lot to make me look more like him.

RT: Was there ever any concern about how your portrayal might be received by the man himself?

Rockwell: I really found him very charming, so I was trying to find the humanity in him and stuff. I tried to come at it from trying to find sort of this boyish charm that he had.

RT: Did you ever get to meet him?

Rockwell: No, I never did. I tried to. I played phone tag with his P.R. person.

RT: So your research was mostly watching clips…

Rockwell: Pretty much online, yeah. And then I listened to his book. He reads his book on tape, his autobiography.

RT: Politics aside, what do you think about this recent shift in public opinion to embrace George W. Bush as sort of a harmless grandfather figure who hands out free candy?

Rockwell: You know, I’ve been under the Fosse rock for a while. I’m completely oblivious to everything but Fosse right now. I haven’t really been keeping up on what’s happening, current events.

Vice is currently in theaters everywhere.

Tag Cloud

BAFTA American Society of Cinematographers facebook NYCC casting dceu black comic book movies thriller heist movie video on demand Disney Channel CW Seed king arthur legend critic resources See It Skip It DirecTV AMC Plus Black History Month Amazon Studios stop motion Box Office RT21 Amazon Awards child's play blockbuster Countdown mcc Hulu Syfy video Pirates theme song IFC target FX Emmys 2015 Character Guide WGN films independent know your critic movie Shudder transformers Music Avengers Film new york Tarantino Year in Review Universal Pictures criterion DC Universe Nominations LGBTQ Acorn TV Martial Arts cartoon GoT Comics on TV based on movie war Turner Classic Movies romantic comedy die hard all-time MCU sports festival kong Pop TV a nightmare on elm street witnail book Tokyo Olympics laika MSNBC Christmas Election hollywood The CW toronto archives Toys National Geographic Best and Worst Apple TV Plus rotten movies we love adenture news Comic Book Song of Ice and Fire stoner Creative Arts Emmys canceled TV shows cats Apple TV+ dramedy Film Festival book adaptation Lifetime Christmas movies DGA indiana jones children's TV halloween scene in color dreamworks YouTube Premium singing competition aliens ABC Watching Series Marvel Quiz what to watch Red Carpet TBS Tumblr VICE kaiju Grammys rom-coms FX on Hulu BBC Black Mirror sag awards Paramount biopic 20th Century Fox Writers Guild of America zombies twilight crime drama crossover Showtime game of thrones El Rey parents Disney+ Disney Plus Television Academy art house Video Games SDCC BET Cartoon Network NBA Comedy Central venice comics OWN spanish Netflix Western blaxploitation Epix TCA Mudbound football HBO Valentine's Day mutant cars ESPN YouTube Red Wes Anderson joker PBS Schedule Spring TV Premiere Dates Warner Bros. Paramount Network elevated horror teaser Arrowverse YouTube spain Superheroes FXX Opinion OneApp Classic Film zero dark thirty telelvision screen actors guild game show reviews Pacific Islander period drama Heroines Trailer The Witch Instagram Live Sundance Now popular Turner justice league Holiday political drama asian-american Horror ITV action-comedy Freeform spider-man nfl Fantasy spanish language Rock X-Men cancelled TV series comic satire Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 99% Elton John jurassic park sopranos Cannes Mindy Kaling social media DC Comics foreign Nat Geo hidden camera fast and furious Funimation streaming streaming movies 73rd Emmy Awards 24 frames australia Masterpiece golden globes new star wars movies CBS All Access Food Network historical drama cinemax revenge Musicals Nickelodeon deadpool quibi french Neflix Pride Month worst Winter TV jamie lee curtis cops latino sequels superman CBS supernatural razzies james bond doctor who mission: impossible dark italian Trivia name the review anime spy thriller mob ABC Signature dc San Diego Comic-Con cancelled television chucky Brie Larson Oscars Fox News docuseries crime PlayStation hispanic Hallmark Christmas movies japanese boxing CMT Hear Us Out Mary poppins psycho Kids & Family Lionsgate trailers Exclusive Video werewolf feel good ABC Family ID 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Endgame 4/20 tv talk TCA 2017 technology The Purge biography IMDb TV Marvel Television batman TV Land Animation AMC unscripted TIFF boxoffice women Tomatazos USA Network binge documentary toy story vs. Bravo Family diversity 2017 TCA Winter 2020 Teen Mary Tyler Moore Mary Poppins Returns Captain marvel best Walt Disney Pictures LGBT vampires TCA Awards TV movies TNT Mystery indie Hallmark Photos reboot BET Awards free movies harry potter Comedy MTV olympics Adult Swim ViacomCBS Action Marvel Studios fresh universal monsters Peacock slasher Shondaland Country 2018 cults Extras Awards Tour police drama HBO Max TV renewals 21st Century Fox movies dexter PaleyFest comic books NBC black comedy BBC One CNN GIFs documentaries Netflix Christmas movies true crime debate Trophy Talk zombie adventure suspense marvel comics docudrama WarnerMedia 1990s emmy awards saw classics Biopics Superheroe japan science fiction Amazon Prime canceled franchise gangster Pixar Comic-Con@Home 2021 TCM Disney streaming service king kong comic book movie television APB serial killer golden globe awards Rom-Com award winner Esquire sitcom Anna Paquin Winners high school royal family Alien Holidays Sneak Peek Baby Yoda basketball robots Tubi travel Academy Awards series adaptation lord of the rings hispanic heritage month Sci-Fi Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Travel Channel Pet Sematary concert IFC Films Reality Competition SundanceTV Reality Spectrum Originals Logo Set visit Amazon Prime Video TLC renewed TV shows marvel cinematic universe nbcuniversal scary movies GLAAD Crackle monster movies TV One History Polls and Games green book USA Pop HBO Go psychological thriller A24 Television Critics Association rotten Emmy Nominations Ellie Kemper 2019 72 Emmy Awards nature stand-up comedy Women's History Month Certified Fresh versus live action Stephen King The Arrangement President YA 2020 kids pirates of the caribbean hist 007 romance natural history Drama finale Binge Guide Cosplay Infographic New York Comic Con Ghostbusters BBC America ratings Legendary sequel VH1 FOX superhero talk show miniseries Columbia Pictures Britbox godzilla Lucasfilm Ovation Fox Searchlight genre First Look TV Musical anthology wonder woman 2016 Star Trek strong female leads TruTV A&E Sundance TV ghosts spinoff Apple 45 animated obituary international aapi The Walking Dead Super Bowl south america Image Comics screenings Rocketman VOD medical drama young adult Paramount Plus remakes blockbusters richard e. Grant Sony Pictures Starz comedies cooking SXSW Disney Plus The Academy live event Crunchyroll Podcast mockumentary DC streaming service disaster Interview First Reviews Disney discovery breaking bad Rocky RT History posters Summer politics E! crime thriller Dark Horse Comics 2021 cancelled TV shows rt labs critics edition Sundance dragons christmas movies rt archives Universal Broadway worst movies directors Marathons Fall TV festivals comiccon space Star Wars prank Chernobyl E3 Calendar scary new zealand 71st Emmy Awards Lifetime spider-verse Thanksgiving scorecard The Walt Disney Company halloween tv slashers cancelled Discovery Channel rt labs 90s 93rd Oscars Vudu Spike dogs critics composers