‘The Way Way Back’s Sam Rockwell Tell Us Why Chaos is Fun
Sam Rockwell in Fox Searchlight's 'The Way, Way Back'.
While Sam Rockwell may very well be a nice guy in real life, it's nearly impossible to speak with him and not think of "Wild Bill" Wharton, his wickedly evil character from "The Green Mile" (1999), or perhaps his amoral weapons dealer Justin Hammer from "Iron Man 2" (2010). Either way, it's equally nerve-racking.
But because we're professionals, we took our chances and sat down with Rockwell to discuss his latest film, "The Way, Way Back," a sun-soaked comedy/drama from the Oscar winning writers of "The Descendants," Jim Rash and Nat Faxon, in their directorial debut. (They also wrote the screenplay and play supporting parts.)
In a bit of a departure from his usual suspects, Rockwell plays Owen, the wild and whacky manager of Water Wizz, a water park that serves as a much-needed getaway for young Duncan (Liam James), an awkward teenager whose single mother (Toni Collete) forces him to spend the summer at a beach house with her skeevy boyfriend (Steve Carell).
As we sat overlooking the ocean in Santa Monica, Rockwell spoke candidly about his oddball inspirations for the role, why he's such a go-to bad guy, and even about his refreshingly simple philosophy on life. By the end of the conversation, Rockwell impressed us as being a lot more like Owen than Wild Bill. But we stayed on edge, just in case.
"The Way, Way Back" is in limited release now.
Is that Richard Pryor on your flip phone there?
Sam Rockwell: It’s Richard Pryor, yeah.
Is that your man?
SR: That’s right, yeah, I love Richard Pryor.
Yeah, is he your favorite comedian?
SR: He’s one of my favorite. He’s one of my favorites, yeah.
You ever do stand-up?
SR: No, never done stand-up.
Those guys are gluttons for punishment, man.
SR: Yeah, right. They are, man. They’re tough suckers.
Well, you gotta be a tough sucker to do what you do.
SR: Yeah, sure, sure. It takes a little back bone. Just last long. Just survive.
How do you do that? What's your theory?
SR: Change it up. Change it up. Change the roles up, I think.
Yeah. Well, you’ve definitely done that over the years. And where does “The Way, Way Back” fall into the pantheon?
SR: I’m really proud of it. I really like it. I got really lucky with this one. This is a good role, and a good movie.
See Sam Rockwell in a clip from 'The Way, Way Back':
The part of Owen that you play, it harkens back a bit to Bill Murray in “Meatballs.”