Interview: Sam Rockwell talks prep and drugs for ‘Better Living Through Chemistry’

Sam Rockwell plays a pharmacist who gets high on his own supply in "Better Living Through Chemistry." Credit: Getty Images
Sam Rockwell plays a pharmacist who gets high on his own supply in “Better Living Through Chemistry.”
Credit: Getty Images

“Better Living Through Chemistry” finds Sam Rockwell going off the rails as a mild-mannered, hen-pecked pharmacist who starts getting high on his own supply and getting out of his shell after an encounter with a boozy rich trophy wife (Olivia Wilde). But don’t worry: Rockwell was well-prepared.

There’s a particular tone to this kind of comedy.

Yeah, it is a pretty particular demographic, isn’t it? I was joking that it was the same arc as “Captain America.” He uses chemicals to become a superhero, and it’s not dissimilar to that — emotionally, anyway. [Laughs] It’s an 80-pound weakling becomes to strongman, or “Jekyll and Hyde.” You know, I describe the movie as “American Beauty” meets “The Nutty Professor.”

You have some very elaborate, if comical, sex scenes with both Olivia Wilde and Michelle Monaghan. Not bad.

Comical is the word, because they’re not, like, sensual. They’re pretty funny. We were laughing the whole time. It was very silly stuff.

You also get quite a range to play with as he comes out of his shell.

The trickiest part was the beginning, before he takes the drugs. I think that was actually the trickiest to capture, the more introverted version of the guy. I had a few references for that, and the one that comes to mind the most is probably Donald Sutherland in “Ordinary People.” And then I did actually watch both the Jerry Lewis and the Eddie Murphy “Nutty Professor” films, and that was actually very helpful, too.

Really?

Yeah. I think for the drug stuff I was watching a lot of episodes of “Intervention,” and I think I took a peek at the movie “Dead Ringers” with Jeremy Irons, and I might have even watched “Half Nelson” again just to get a little reference. But I really was watching a lot of “Intervention.” You know that show, right? The reality show? And I’m not foreign to some drugs, so I knew a little bit about it, but the guys gave me a book that had all these drugs in it and you could look up what the results would be, the side effects and everything.

Is it normal for you to put that much preparation into a role?

Yeah, yeah, pretty much. It depends on the part. You don’t always have to do that much research. With a lead role, you really have to put in a lot of homework, but different roles have different needs. Like “Matchstick Men,” I didn’t really have any major preparation for that. But “Frost/Nixon,” which was also a supporting role, I had to do a lot of research for because we had to improvise with all this information about the plumbers and Nixon and all that stuff. And I was the Nixon expert, so I had to know all that s—. I think any preparation just really comes out of the fear of sucking, you know what I mean?

Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter @nedrick



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
News

Turkey: Voting begins in country's first direct presidential…

Some 53 million people are able to vote in the election, including 2.8 million citizens abroad. Until now, Turkish presidents were elected by parliament.

News

Libya seeks ceasefire as south Tripoli a militia…

By Patrick Markey and Aziz El YaakoubiTRIPOLI (Reuters) - Black plumes of smoke marked shell blasts and bulldozed earthen barricades mapped out the frontlines around…

Breaking: News

Russia mad about sanctions, says U.S. contributing to…

Russia reacted angrily on Saturday to additional sanctions imposed by the European Union over Moscow's role in the Ukraine crisis, saying they would hamper cooperation…

National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Television

'Game of Thrones' livens up Comic Con with…

By Piya Sinha-RoySAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Laughter and death did battle on Friday at HBO's "Game of Thrones" panel at Comic Con, one of the…

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

U.S. Soccer

Orlando City takes shot at NYCFC over Frank…

Orlando City reminded the world how big a signing Brazilian star Kaka earlier this month with a photo of Kaka mobbed by fans juxtaposed against Lampard.

NBA

Jeremy Lin says 'Linsanity' is over as he…

Jeremy Lin lit up the NBA two years ago with his play for the Knicks but he has no desire to recreate "Linsanity" in his new career with the Lakers.

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.