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Sam Rockwell: “My whole career has been an afterlife”

“That’s my dog,” says Sam Rockwell as I join him in a cluttered office at Tribeca Enterprises. Well, I knew it wasn’t my dog – and the somnolent German shepherd taking up most of the floor space between us barely gives me a glance before resettling himself to sleep. Rockwell has a reputation for playing eccentric characters who are often full of crap – “used-car salesmen,” as he puts it – but in person he’s entirely low-key and charming. I’m meeting him in New York to talk about “A Single Shot,” a gripping neo-noir mood piece from director David M. Rosenthal in which Rockwell plays a West Virginia deer hunter who makes a fatal mistake that alters the direction of his life.

John Moon in “A Single Shot” isn’t the first serious role on Rockwell’s résumé, but he’s definitely better known for playing unhinged comic figures, clear back to his breakthrough performance in Tom DiCillo’s “Box of Moonlight” in 1997. Roger Ebert once described Rockwell as a younger version of Christopher Walken, but when Rockwell started talking about his passion for 1970s American cinema, it occurred to me that in that era he could’ve been a major star. Nowadays you need classic good looks and a chiseled physique to be a Hollywood leading man; compare that to the days when Dustin Hoffman and Jack Nicholson were the biggest and most honored actors in the business.

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