Interview - Sam Rockwell (Seven Psychopaths)


  • Seven Psychopaths, Sam Rockwell,
  • Seven Psychopaths

Click catches up with the star of the unhinged comedy
Writer/director Martin McDonagh has followed up the cult success of In Bruges with another dark and witty film with crime underpinnings. Seven Psychopaths features dognapping, screenwriting and bromancing – with enough violence and subversions of the genre to keep just about everybody happy.

Sam Rockwell. In a funny hat.
Sam Rockwell. In a funny hat.Enlarge Enlarge
Click caught up with star SamRockwell in Dublin recently for a chat about his history with McDonagh, his take on his psychotic character and a glimpse of the crappy jobs he did as a struggling actor.

CLICK: You’re first interaction with Martin McDonagh was performing in his play A Behanding in Spokane - what was that experience like?
It was great. I mean he didn’t direct it John Crowley did but I had a great time doing it. He was kind of in the background but we bonded and spent a lot of time together. It was awesome.

CLICK: And had you been interested in working on something he’d written
I was a fan since I saw The Beauty Queen of Leenane and then I saw The Pillowman at the National when I was in London. So I was a huge fan.

CLICK: Christopher Walken was in the play as well – is he actually as great as he seems?
He is, man, he’s fucking awesome. He’s great.

CLICK: So how did you get involved in Seven Psychopaths?
SR: Martin sent it over when the play was wrapping up. And it was great, I just said I was in.

CLICK: Did you have regular casting then – because he gave you the script did that mean he was offering you the role?
SR: Not exactly. He kind of asked me which role I liked. And then he said he wanted me for the role of Billy when he gave it to me the second time.

CLICK: And is that the role you were drawn to as well?
Absolutely yea.

CLICK: Nothing else drew your eye?
No. Well I mean Colin and I could have easily switched. Because when you look at In Bruges, the role he plays in that is not dissimilar to Billy. We could have switched in a second I think.

CLICK: Would that have been of interest to you?
Yea. In fact I’d love to switch it up with Colin and do another movie with him. I could play the stabler guy and he could play the crazy guy. I mean Brendan Gleeson sort of played the sort of more adult character and he played the wild man in In Bruges. So its not… I could totally see him doing it.

CLICK: What were your first impressions of the script?
I guess… it reminded me of Kathy Bates in Misery. Yea a fan, I’m kind of a fan of Colin’s and I’m trying to get him to write this thing and she’s trying to get James Caan to write the Misery novel. It’s a similar through line.

CLICK: If someone says ‘I think you’re right to play a psychopath in my movie’ do you take that as a compliment?
[laughs] Yea I don’t know. You know I do because it’s not easy to play a psychopath so I take it as a compliment.

CLICK: And is that how you see the character of Billy? Does he see himself as a psychopath?
No! He just wants to help. He sees himself as a loyal friend or an apostle. He’s Mercutio to Colin’s Romeo.

CLICK: Your relationship with Colin Farrell’s character Marty is obviously very important to the film, did you get rehearse to get that.
We did rehearse – we went to the desert. And that was a lot of fun. We went to the desert with Martin at Joshua Tree [National Park in California] and it was a great time for us. We just kind of hung out and read the script and went to some bars and played pool and got to know each other. Because Martin knew Colin and I knew Martin but Colin and I didn’t know each other well. We’d known each other in the past, we’d been to some parties together but that was back in his party days and he doesn’t do that anymore. So he’s quite different and it’s great to see somebody when they’re older. Colin and I are both older now, we’re both like 40 whatever [Rockwell is 44, Farrell is 36] and its different you know I met him when we were both kids. Or no he’s not 40 he’s younger… that’s right he’s still in his 30s. But we are both older. When we met I really thought we were just kids. He was vibrant back then and he still is now. He just has a real energy about him.

CLICK: Was there any more backstory to the character on the page than we see in the film? Did you invent any?
Yea there were little things that were taken out. There was a thing about his last name being Bickle. He thought that Travis Bickle [the character from Taxi Driver] was his father. And Martin said: “what do you mean – you mean you think Robert DeNiro is your father?” and Billy says “no I’m the illegitimate son of Travis Bickle…!” And Marty’s like “that’s impossible.” But that little scene was cut but it informed the character quite a bit that he had these delusions of grandeur. And I think it was good subtext and therefore good backstory for me.

CLICK: He’s also a struggling actor which maybe informs the character as well. Is that something you’re familiar with?
Yea sure I struggled, I had lean years for sure. Yea I mean the first scene Billy has gotten in a fight with the director and he’s punched the director in an audition. And I’ve wanted to punch a few directors, especially in the audition process! You know it’s tough out there.

CLICK: Billy ends up being a dog-napper, did you have any strange jobs to get you by?
SR: Yea. I was an intern for a Private Investigator, I cleaned out houses and broke sheet rock, I was a bus boy, a bar back, I delivered burritos on a bicycle. I did a lot of shitty jobs. I never stole dogs. But I do know that it really happens, people fake the reward thing.

CLICK: But if you’re going to do it you should do it with Christopher Walken!

CLICK: I understand McDonagh’s scripts are very dense and detailed, is it hard to make that sound natural?
It’s written very realistically. It’s got a few homages to like the Dead End Kids [1930s child actors] or something, like old 20s gangster movies like some of the speak is somewhere between Irish and James Cagney. A lot of the characters say “I ain’t gonna do that” or “youse” so its kind between Irish and Dead End Kids. So I found that a slight New York regionalism was good for the part.

CLICK: This amazing dialogue, is it just a gift for an actor to have that?
It really is man. It’s a pleasure, I’ve been lucky you know – Stephen Guirgis, David Mamet, I’ve been so lucky. And now Martin. It makes a difference, it really does. And it’s easier to memorise. Yea if its Shakespeare or whatever, it’s easier to recall.

CLICK: And bad dialogue isn’t?
Yea shitty dialogue isn’t easy! Or exposition you know? Where you got a bunch of numbers. You know what’s hard to memorise is phone calls. Like when you’re talking and there’s no one else there – that’s very hard to memorise. I always find that the hardest.

CLICK: I suppose it’s a crime comedy caper if you had to label is but also one that interrogates the genre. Is that something you find interesting?
Yea it does. It’s sort of taking the piss out of Hollywood movies and violence. And it’s a very sophisticated film and I think when you get to the Buddhist monk part it really takes on a whole new meaning and I think it shows Martin’s emotional depth. Some of the violence is there for a very dramatic reason and some is cartoonish and funny. It’s there for a reason and I think some people think that it’s gratuitous but I don’t think it is. You know?
CLICK: Finally is there anything you’re working on for the next project?
There’s something I read recently but I don’t know if it’s going to happen or not so we’ll see.

Seven Psychopaths is in cinemas in Ireland and the UK from the 5th of December. Read the review soon!

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