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Audio/Q&A: 'A Single Shot' star Sam Rockwell makes sure he learns from his mistakes

September 16, 2013|Matt Pais, @mattpais | RedEye movie critic

Sam Rockwell supports the quiet, small-town, everybody-knows-your-business lifestyle depicted in the indie noir “A Single Shot.” Sort of.

“I wouldn’t last too long because I’d get a little bored,” he says, “but there is something quaint about it for a period of time.”

Boredom is something that’s never generated from a performance by Rockwell (“The Way Way Back,” “Seven Psychopaths”), who’s typically stellar in “A Single Shot,” opening Sept. 20. He plays John Moon, a hunter who accidentally kills a woman in the woods but very purposefully steals the money he finds nearby. As usual in movies like this, the theft doesn’t go overlooked by people willing to do violent things to get that cash back.

From New York, the 44-year-old actor talked about big mistakes, the difference between a genre piece and cliché and his feelings on a situation John experiences—walking into a house and discovering a naked babysitter.

A long time ago you assisted a private detective. How did that inform your awareness of how John Moon feels being followed?
Good question. Not very much. I did one surveillance job where we tracked a woman that was having an affair, but it was brief. The rest of it was more research-oriented. So it wasn’t very exciting.

Do you think people only get a few big mistakes in life? It seems like John has had some bad things happen to him, some of which weren’t his fault and some of which he may have contributed to. Then he gets to that point where it’s like, “This is your last big mistake that the world is going to let you have.”
Yeah, hopefully most of us go through life not having those big mistakes. But you’re right. It’s like, what do you do? Look at Lance Armstrong: He was trying to cover it up. It’s a natural human instinct I think.

Do you think that’s an indication that people wind up eventually getting caught for everything?
I think it is. I think it’s like we can’t get away with very much in this world. Some people get away with murder, and some people don’t. If you have a guilty conscience, I think it’s tough. It’s going to catch up with you in one way or another.

Is there a mistake that you’ve made, either professionally or personally, that you can tell me about?
Nothing I can’t chalk up to a life lesson. Nothing so severe like this. All the mistakes I’ve made have been character-building, you know. Nothing so bad that it would be like John Moon’s dilemma.

I definitely did not expect you to confess something like that. When you say character-builders, is there anything in particular that comes to mind?
Mistakes with women … I turned down “The Incredibles,” that cartoon. Kinda wish I had done that. I turned down a production of “American Buffalo” in Ireland I kinda wanted to do. That’s about it. It’s not like major things. I was asked to do a role in “Capote” with Phil Hoffman. I’m not sure if I wish I had done it or not, but I hope I get to work with Phil Hoffman at some point. He’s a friend of mine. The same thing goes for Billy Crudup. I’d like to work with Billy. We’ve had a few chances to work together.

I liked “A Single Shot,” though I think some people will see it and, as they do with all movies, have memories of other things. “No Country for Old Men,” for example. Where do you think the line is between a crisp genre movie and when it starts to become cliché?
Yeah, what do you mean exactly by that? That’s an interesting question. Can you rephrase that?

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