Sam Rockwell won the Oscar for best actor in a supporting role for his performance in Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” and in his acceptance speech, gave a shoutout to a late Oscar-winner: Philip Seymour Hoffman.
At the end of the speech, he rose his trophy in the air and concluded, “For my old buddy Phil Hoffman!” Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 46. Rockwell had previously said Hoffman was a friend of his, and both actors were members of the Labyrinth Theater Company.
During his speech — a rushed one, as Rockwell joked he was trying to win the jet ski that host Jimmy Kimmel teased in his monologue — Rockwell thanked his fellow nominees and “Three Billboards” co-stars Woody Harrelson and Frances McDormand. He also gave a charming anecdote about his parents’ love of film growing up.
“When I was 8 years old, I was sent to the principal’s office and my father was saying, ‘We have to go. It’s Grandma,'” Rockwell recalled. “I said, ‘What’s wrong with Grandma?’ He said, ‘Nothing, we’re going to the movies.'”
Backstage, Rockwell addressed some of the criticism aimed at “Three Billboards” over its treatment of race relations. Some of the criticism was aimed in particular at Rockell’s character, Dixon, a racist police officer with at least one known instance where he tortured a black man.
“It’s a complicated issue,” Rockwell began, and then pointed to an essay by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar he said captured his thoughts. Abdul-Jabbar wrote in an essay for the Hollywood Reporter that while “it’s unfortunate that the highly sensitive issue of police violence is used but never fully addressed, the movie isn’t about that. It’s about the search for the ember of humanity in all of us, and fanning that ember until it burns bright, even in the darkest of us.”
Rockwell said Dixon and Mildred, the vengeful mother portrayed by Frances McDormand, “have a lot of work to do.” “It’s not like they’re all of a sudden redeemed at the end of the movie,” he went on.
“It’s a dark fairy tale of sorts,” Rockwell said. “In real life, they probably would have gone to prison.”
Rockwell swept the major precursors this year, winning the Screen Actors Guild and British Academy awards, the Golden Globe, and the Critics’ Choice prize, among others.
“Three Billboards” received six other Oscar nominations, including best picture.
The other supporting actor nominees were Willem Dafoe (“The Florida Project”), Woody Harrelson (“Three Billboards”), Richard Jenkins (“The Shape of Water”), and Christopher Plummer (“All the Money in the World”).