Sam Rockwell and his role in Look How They Run: “I like to play grumps and jerks”

With no interest in hiding it, he confesses immediately: he is still not used to remote interviews, he prefers being close to the press. “All this still seems strange to me, I feel that it is difficult for me to adapt,” he reveals Sam Rockwell in dialogue with THE NATION. The 53-year-old Californian actor is thoughtful when he has to talk about his work, but he does so stripped of formalities and taking a long time to process the questions he receives. Its objective, it is clear, is to provide precise answers.

I feel like they’re never going to offer me classic hero roles and that’s fine, because I don’t know if people want to see me in that place, and the truth is that now I already like playing grumps and idiots.”, expresses when inquiring into his long career and his new role: that of the apathetic Inspector Stoppard in Look how they run the whodunit of corrosive humor by the British Tom George that premieres this Thursday in commercial theaters and in which he forms a great duo with saoirse ronan.

Sam Rockwell Interview for Look How They Run

“It was a bit intimidating to meet the cast,” recognizes the actor in dialogue with this medium in the framework of an exclusive press conference. “Everyone in the movie is a beautiful actor,” he adds. In look how they run there are, in fact, great actors forging a choral cast typical of the movies murder mystery to which George -with a script by Mark Chappell- gives them a twist by redoubling the absurd edge of a narrative whose innovation depends entirely on the tone and its central figures. The rest, according to Rockwell, has already been done, since The big dream of Howard Hawks, passing by The game of suspicion from Jonathan Lynn, to Kenneth Branagh’s recent rereadings of Agatha Christie’s works. “I remember Tom suggesting that we watch as much The big dream What Stalin’s death [de Armando Iannucci] for find that balance between thriller and comedy.” Rockwell explains.

From that fusion of influences was born this metatextual film whose enigma is who is the murderer of Hollywood director Leo Köpernick (Adrian Brody) who is the victim of a brutal crime when he arrives in 1950s London West End to direct a play with a troubled cast and many juxtaposed egos.

Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan in Look How They RunDisney

To solve the enigma, Stoppard works side by side (and against his will, initially) with Agent Stalker (Ronan, extraordinaire), and the two forge an unlikely but effective alliance whose charm lies in counterpoint. While the inspector works with disdain, Stalker sees in the case the possibility of showing off as the only woman in a field where men give the orders.

The bond between the researcher who saw it all and the enthusiastic novice is what brings look how they run certain inventiveness within the inescapable common places, such as the tributes to Christie and the classic The Mousetrap, and to the works of JB Priestley and Tom Stoppard. Likewise, Ronan plays Stalker like he’s stepped out of a screwball comedy commanded by Katharine Hepburnto whom he pays a brief but hilarious tribute. In that world, the inspector that Rockwell personifies has traits of Detective Colombo but also, at George’s request, of Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski from the big lebowski of the Coen brothers, a man who goes through his daily life without too many aspirations, with a lethargy that has its own origin story.

Sam Rockwell as Inspector Stoppard, another one of his hilarious anti-heroes
Sam Rockwell as Inspector Stoppard, another one of his hilarious anti-heroesPhoto Credit: Parisa Taghizadeh – Disney

Rockwell is well aware of what the audience expects of him and claims to feel comfortable in that position, contrary to other performers. “I had fun playing a misanthrope like Stoppard,” Rockwell told LA NACION. “But because he is so much more than what he shows to the naked eye, he has a vulnerability, a broken heart, and everything he does comes from that place.” adds and mentions as influences the works of Michael Caine in Educating Rita and Billy Bob Thornton in A not so holy Santa. As for the duo with Ronan, the Oscar-winning actor for Three ads for a crime highlights the ductility of its companion. “I had a great time working with her, we rehearsed for two weeks, but we also got to play around with the material a bit, which is always a luxury, we paraphrased some things, and she always came to the shoot prepared, she is a very professional actress and I was already a fan before I met her”, he reveals.

You learn to act by watching movies and I learned by watching the classics of the 70s

From London, via Zoom, the director of look how they run The account to LA NACION how vital it was for that duo to work like clockwork. “We were very lucky because you can’t plan chemistry. We cast Saoirse first, we sent her the script and she loved it, she wanted to do the movie right away. She liked the possibility of doing something completely different from what she had been doing”, says George, who then underlines how Rockwell brought him some slapstick [humor físico] to the paper “It fit him like a glove,” remarks the filmmaker of This Country.

Sam Rockwell in Watch Them Run, Premiere This Thursday
Sam Rockwell in Watch Them Run, Premiere This ThursdayParisa Taghizadeh – Disney

“Sam’s body and his movements are reminiscent of silent movies, he is a very detailed actor, he is always adding something unexpected to the role and the attraction was seeing how Stoppard was vulnerable to the comedy of Stalker. Sam always had something to add, he would stay reading the script and annotating for hours”, recalls the director, who filmed look how they run in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. “That created a special atmosphere,” says Rockwell. “Nothing was open in London, so I remember having a gin and tonic in the motorhome, and how a camaraderie was created in the cast, we take care of each other so much that we did not have a single case on the set ”, remember.

Rockwell and Ronan, an unexpected but effective duo
Rockwell and Ronan, an unexpected but effective duoPhoto Credit: Parisa Taghizadeh – Disney

By having a theater as the epicenter of the investigation, look how they run he has fun with metatextuality, he knows when to return to intimate sequences, his characters break the fourth wall, and at the same time he seeks to surprise the audience with the inclusion of well-known figures as the remembered Richard Attenborough (played by Harris Dickinson) and producer John Woolf (Reece Shearsmith).

In full celebration of the hundred performances of The Mousetrap it is where Kopernick is killed after suggesting a film adaptation. Contrasts, again, are predominant. “The idea was to create humorous sequences that were also based on the clash of cultures between the outsider American and the British who are part of the work, and Adrien [Brody] He had a lot of fun with it too.” George remarks. “The million dollar question was how to approach this mystery with a novel twist. The whodunit it was done so many times that it is impossible to find a surprising twist because they have all been done, that was the great challenge we had, but it was what made the experience more interesting”.

Adrien Brody and David Oyelowo in Look How They Run
Adrien Brody and David Oyelowo in Look How They RunPhoto Credit: Parisa Taghizadeh – Disney

At certain times, look how they run walks away from the investigation to do a character study and that’s where Rockwell comes in with a role that has traits similar to Billy from seven psychopaths, to Sam’s On the Moon: Moonand even to Owen’s of a way to me: the charisma that is achieved by exploring the inner life of these “anti-heroes”, as he himself calls them. “Let’s go! They will never choose me to be the prototypical hero, I have a weakness for unorthodox heroes and villains, at most I am a sloppy hero, but that’s as far as we go “, says the actor, who was recently seen in the Ethan Hawke miniseries, The latest movie stars, voicing director Stuart Rosenberg.

-There the weaknesses and questions of the actors are explored, as in the case of Paul [Newman], a man who was very hard with his jobs. Are you similar? Are you critical of what you do, are you hard on yourself?

-It seems to me that I’m very critical before actually, in my preparation for my character, I always demean myself before a movie starts shooting, and sometimes during filming. After it premieres, I try to let it go. I think if I don’t leave any bases uncovered when preparing, then I can be less critical later. They say that you don’t win the battle in the ring but in training and that’s what happens to me.

Sam Rockwell to get the Oscar for the film Three commercials for a crime
Sam Rockwell to get the Oscar for the film Three commercials for a crimeReuters

In dialogue with George, the director assures that look how they run It is crossed by the history of cinema and theater and its main referents, and by the need to deconstruct genres so that something unprecedented can emerge from there. “With this script we had to be careful about balancing the thriller [los momentos de susto] with the mystery, and also make it funny and that the characters are funny too, we worked a lot on that, and we had to transfer it to the montage.

-Alfred Hitchcock is also mentioned a lot…

-I couldn’t miss it. rear window It’s my favorite movie because it’s a thriller, but there’s also comedy in that relationship between the characters of James Stewart and Grace Kelly. He was a master at it. In addition, I was inspired by films that are adventurous in their proposals, such as those by Pedro Almodóvar and those by the Coen brothers, which take on tough themes but highlight a certain humor. That is what I wanted to aim for, black comedy.

When Rockwell is asked how this role fits into his extensive filmography that began in 1989 with the slasher clownhouse, takes that reasonable time to respond and talks about how the cinema that formed him led him to interpret these anti with a twist so as not to completely distance the viewer, something he achieves with Stoppard in George’s feature film.

“I grew up in the 70s watching movies like The Sniper, My Life is My Life, Raging Bull, Dangerous Streets, Badlands, The Price of Happiness, and They all taught me something. Its actors and directors are masters and one learns to act by watching movies, at least that’s what I consider”, he reflects and his words become nostalgic. “A movie is a moment of your life, when I remember a job I did, it transports me to a certain time, it makes me remember a particular day of work. Cinema is a time machine”.

Sam Rockwell and his role in Look How They Run: “I like to play grumps and jerks”