Sam Rockwell Receives American Riviera Award

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Sam Rockwell Receives American Riviera Award
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Sam Rockwell signing autographs outside the Arlington Theatre (Photo: Fritz Olenberger)

Sam Rockwell received the American Riviera Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) on Wednesday evening.

Sponsored by Bright Event Rentals, the Arlington Theatre was filled with fans eager to appreciate the actor known for his chameleon-like tendencies to transform into a variety of anti-hero characters. 

Golden Globe and Critics' Choice Award winner, Rockwell was honored for his remarkable performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The film opened in November of 2017 to critical acclaim and Rockwell received unanimous praise for this dark-comedy and crime film. Rockwell has already won a Golden Globe Award and two Screen Actors Guild Awards for this performance, he was further nominated for a BAFTA Award and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Photo: Fritz Olenberger

“In Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, audiences are treated to the kind of mesmerizing and extraordinary performance we have come to expect from Sam Rockwell,” stated Roger Durling, Executive Director of SBIFF. “We are long overdue to celebrate this tremendous talent who has lit up the screen for decades.”

The evening was moderated by Vanity Fair's executive west coast editor  Krista Smith who noted that Rockwell has completed over 60 films and has 99 credits to his name on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB). 

Smith started the interview by asking Rockwell if acting was always his passion as both of his parents are actors. He joked that he'd probably be pumping gas or bussing tables if he wasn't acting. "I had no Plan B, this was it," said Rockwell after describing that his last job was delivering burritos on a bicycle.

Rockwell and Krista Smith (Photo: Fritz Olenberger)

After showing a clip from his first mainstream film role in The Green Mile (1999), Smith asked what it was like to work with Tom Hanks. "What a dick," Rockwell joked with many laughs from the crowd. He then went on to explain that Tom Hanks, Drew Barrymore, Julia Roberts, and George Clooney should teach a class on how to be a movie star as they're the nicest people in the business.

In Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002), Clooney's directorial debut, Rockwell expressed how fellow actors and Clooney actively fought for him to be in the lead role. Others involved in the making of the film actively wanted Johnney Depp, Ben Stiller, Mike Meyers, Edward Norton, or Sean Penn to fill the role.

Additional clips were shown of his roles in Welcome to Colinwood (2002), Matchstick Men (2003), The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), Moon (2009), and Seven Psychopaths (2012).

The last two clips were from arguably his most well-known characters, The Way Way Back (2013) and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017). When asked about his character Owen, the fast-talking gregarious water park owner in The Way Way Back, Rockwell said, "I wish I could be him, he's such a great guy."

Smith stated the character of Officer Dixon in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was written specifically for Rockwell. "He took an amazing journey... Barney Fife into Travis Bickle," said Rockwell. He discussed his preparation for the role included conversations and ridealongs with cops. 

Clark Gregg presenting Rockwell with the award (Photo: Fritz Olenberger)

Actor, director, screenwriter, and friend of Rockwell, Clark Gregg walked on stage to present him with the American Riviera Award. He gave a hilarious and heartwarming tribute to his friend that starred in his own film Choke (2008) based on the Chuck Palahniuk novel. 

The American Riviera Award was established to recognize actors who have made a significant contribution to American Cinema. Past recipients include Jeff Bridges, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, and Mark Ruffalo, Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke, Robert Redford, and Quentin Tarantino.

(Photo: Fritz Olenberger)
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