Sam Rockwell grapples with race and anger in ‘Three Billboards’

21st Annual Hollywood Film Awards – Photo Room - Beverly Hills
FILE PHOTO: Sam Rockwell with his Hollywood Supporting Actor Award for "Three Billboards" Outside Ebbing, Montana. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

November 10, 2017

By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – As a San Francisco native, Sam Rockwell says he doesn’t know why he gets offered roles to play “a lot of rednecks and country guys,” but he’s taking the opportunity to try to understand complex, unlovable male characters.

Rockwell, 49, who recently played a Klansman and a brutish Texas colonel, currently co-stars as a racist, angry police officer in the movie “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

“I think he’s very lonely. I think he was probably abused. His father hit him when he was a kid, and he’s got a weird relationship with his mom,” Rockwell told Reuters of his character, Dixon.

“All this adds to a lot of complexity,” he added.

“Three Billboards,” out in U.S. theaters on Friday, stars Frances McDormand as Mildred, a woman on a mission to get the local police in her small Missouri hometown to properly investigate the murder of her daughter.

The film, produced by Fox Searchlight, has already attracted awards buzz and strong critical praise for both McDormand and Rockwell.

McDormand’s hardened, foul-mouthed Mildred places questions on three large billboards about the town’s police efforts that cause her to clash with law enforcement, particularly Dixon.

“None of these characters live in the black and white. They live in the gray,” Rockwell said.

“Three Billboards” writer and director Martin McDonagh said Dixon isn’t a “representation of a thing or an idea or a group.” Furthermore, Dixon’s character in “Three Billboards” is forced to face humility and he ends the film in an unexpected place.

“If I was just writing a strictly racist brute, then you wouldn’t have found the hope or the change or the humanity in him,” McDonagh said.

While “Three Billboards” was first written about eight years ago, its exploration of a small, isolated town and a racist police officer has some resonance with present day racial tensions in America. McDonagh and Rockwell said they hoped the film sparked conversations around the issue.

“I think it’s good to put out a film that starts off in a place of anger and rage but kind of has a lot of hope and humanity to it too,” McDonagh said.

(Reporting by Piya Sinha-RoyEditing by Sandra Maler)

  • TomSJr

    Hollywood? Where’s that? Oh, THAT Hollywood, the cesspool city of thugs, lugs, and degenerates. THAT Hollywood. I’LL PASS.

  • Linda Rader

    How droll. As if rednecks and country guys are the only bad guys in the USA

    • jenshadus

      Yep, the democrats who are hateful, sadistic and liars and who started the KKK, BLM, antifa and the list goes on.

  • Linda Rader

    Sounds like he thinks only country guys and rednecks are bad people…seriously

  • beastmaster

    sam rockwell is embracing his inner child, he just doesn’t want to embrace it and dudn’t want others finding out.


  • Donald York

    Sam Rockwell was brilliant in “the green mile’. Frances McDormand was brilliant in “Fargo”. I will see the movie 3 billboards.I hope it isn’t an attempt by Hollywood producers to inflame races.

    • Ray

      Isn’t it a crime how Hollywood tries to stir up racial issues that have been dead for 50 years?

      • HarryObrian

        They do what they’re told to do by the useless celebratory slugs who they drool over, liberals like Barry Soetoro who has done more to revive pathetic racism than any other mulatto in history. Civil unrest and community organizing is one tool of communism, easy to learn and easy to initiate, tis why simpletons like Barry aspire to it.

      • Donald York

        Yes it is.

    • Ray

      Isn’t it a crime how Hollywood tries to stir up racial issues that have been dead for 50 years?

  • Scott Henke

    I loved this guy in “Galaxy Quest”.

    • HarryObrian

      I recognize the face but couldn’t put a name to it.