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Creep Show: Sam Rockwell

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Swarthy charmer Sam Rockwell is quickly becoming Hollywood’s go-to actor for roles that skirt the edge of polite society—con men (Matchstick Men), boozy losers (Snow Angels), and sleazy nut-jobs (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind). He takes that rep to a whole new level as debased sex addict–cum–mama’s boy Victor Mancini in Clark Gregg’s adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s Choke. Rockwell spoke to Sara Cardace.

How are rabid Palahniuk fans going to feel about this movie?
We were very faithful to the book—Chuck thinks even more so than Fight Club. It’s an odd Freudian romp—kind of a heady movie—but I think it’s visceral too. Sex addiction is a funny way to explore the theme, but it’s really about intimacy and what keeps us from intimacy. You know, how can we integrate intimacy and eroticism? People compartmentalize those things, and that’s where you end up with someone like Victor.

There’s lots of dirty sex in the film. How awkward is that to play?
The sex stuff is a lark and sort of silly to me. It’s not so intense. And that’s how it should be—that’s what it is for the character too; there’s nothing emotional about it. The more intimate, emotional stuff is the kissing. That’s much more embarrassing.

So on set, was it just “Drop trou and go”?
We’d try to tell some jokes, lighten up the atmosphere. A lot of times we had women who were coming in for a day’s work, and they’d have to wait around just to do some weird scene where I put my head under their skirt. So it was awkward, but Clark was real sensitive. He ended up having to give three women breast auditions. They went into a bathroom to do it. He came out, and I was all excited, like, “How was it? Was it great?” And he just looked mortified, like he’d seen his grandmother’s breasts. I felt bad for him.

Um, which scenes required breast auditions?
Victor objectifies women—everyone’s a chicken dinner to him—and there are scenes where he changes the channel in his mind, adjusts the picture, so to speak, and goes through a number of shapes and sizes. But that’s common to every sex addict. It’s like a food disorder. They associate everything with sex. If they’re hungry, angry, sad, if they’re celebrating, they want sex. A lot of it’s repressed anger. It’s severe stuff.

There’s comic relief in Victor’s day job at the colonial theme park. Have you had any similarly ridiculous jobs?
I dressed up as a Care Bear for George Lucas’s 4-year-old daughter! I was still in high school, and I got paid $50, which was a lot of money to me in 1986, and it was cool to meet George Lucas. But then you’re also in, like, the San Fernando Valley and it’s hotter than hell and you’re in a Care Bear suit.

Choke
In theaters September 26


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