Exclusive Interview: Sam Rockwell on The Way, Way Back

The Way Way Back Sam Rockwell

The grown-ups may use their star power to get people in to see The Way, Way Back but really, it’s the kids’ story. Steve Carell and Toni Collette play mom and new stepdad to Duncan (Liam James), who grows up a lot in the summer he spends working at a local water park. Sam Rockwell plays Owen, a water park employee who takes a liking to Duncan and mentors him, despite not taking his own job or relationship seriously. We got to sit down with Rockwell at a beachfront hotel this summer to talk about his latest role. 

CraveOnline: Do you see this character as maybe the opposite side of the same coin as your character in Seven Psychopaths?

Sam Rockwell: How so?

Owen is using his humor to empower Duncan, rather than using his shenanigans to get his friends into more trouble?

Humor to kill people, sure, sure. Yeah, yeah, that makes sense. I think so. I think there’s a similar kind of puckish quality to both characters, a Mercutio kind of quality.

So what makes sarcasm endearing and not abrasive?

I guess it’s not as abrasive as the character in Iron Man [2] or Seven Psychos. He’s a more affable, approachable character.

Or maybe that he admits when sarcasm doesn’t work helps to endear him. He bombs on Duncan because Duncan just doesn’t get it.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I don’t know. It’s a fun character. It’s a really fun character. It’s lighter than Psychos. It’s a lighter piece.

Do you think Owen was like Duncan as a kid before he found his humor and cool?

I think there was a part of him that might’ve been lonely and isolated for sure as a kid. He might’ve had an abusive parent or foster parent. You never know.

Do you think Owen had his own Owen who brought him out of his shell?

Sure, he might have had some influence I think. There’s always people who are cool, who bring you out of your shell sometimes.

Did you ever have a grown-up take interest in you when you were a kid?

Yeah, yeah, I did. I was lucky. I had a couple of grown-ups who were really good influences on me. John Jiler, Wayne McDonald was a teacher, my uncle Steve.

Who was John Jiler?

He was one of my mom’s friends and he sort of took an interest in me and was really like a father figure.

Do you always try to work a dance scene into your movies?

I shamelessly do. It just ends up coming up. I’ve got to stop it with that. I’ve got to stop it.

It’s become a thing at least since Charlie’s Angels, maybe even before.

It’s good. It’s really fun. I’ve just got to calm it down a little.

Why do you think so?

Well, you can’t do that for every character.

But you don’t.

No, but I’ve done a lot. I’ve got to calm it down a little.