In the 1990s, movie theaters were clogged with “Pulp Fiction” and “Reservoir Dogs” knockoffs about cool hitmen. Sam Rockwell wasn’t doing those. Back then he was doing a lot of serious indies, like “Lawn Dogs” and “Box of Moonlight.” The closest he came was in the crime comedy “Safe Men.” In “Mr. Right” he gets to correct that. He plays a legendary assassin who falls for a recently dumped young woman (Anna Kendrick) — right as he’s pursued by a crime syndicate. Rockwell tells us he was mostly influenced by “Grosse Pointe Blank,” another black comedy about a hitman with a softer side. And it gave the actor, 47, the chance to stay active.
“Mr. Right” requires a lot of acrobatic shoot-out scenes. That’s a new thing for you.
It was a lot of fun. I’ve always been a kind of would-be dancer, and I’ve been interested in boxing for a long time. So I had just had fun with it. We didn’t have the budget to choreograph that many fight scenes. We only had a week to do five or six fight scenes, where you usually have a month for something like “Mission: Impossible.” So we had our work cut out for us.
Did you do most of your stunts?
I did a lot of the [stunts], actually. [But] my double did all those high kicks and the more dangerous stuff, like, falling down stairs — he’s a young kid, he can f—ing handle it. He’s a tough kid.
Did you get hurt?
Nothing serious. [Co-star] Tim Roth and I bumped heads a couple times. One of the stunt guys oversold a punch and he had about eight stitches. He had to go to the emergency ward later. These guys are so tough — he worked all day after he’d been cut open. He didn’t go to the hospital until the end of the day. Stunt guys aren’t allowed to complain, you know? It’s not cool. They can’t complain.
I’ve been punched while rehearsing a play before. I did not wait to the end of the day to patch up my wounds.
Yeah, I’ve been punched in the face a couple times. I’ve sparred. When I was a kid I got beat up. I think if you’re living your life and doing stuff, you’re gonna get hurt. Even in your apartment. I broke my toe just rushing around my apartment, brushing my teeth. You can get hurt doing anything, even just waking up in the morning. Life just beats you down, you know?
I’m 37 so now everything hurts.
Yeah. Wait till you get to be my age. It gets even worse.
How should I be preparing? What would you advise?
There was a woman recently who went to the White House. She was like 110 f—ing years old. She got to meet Obama. They said, “How have you lived such a long life?’ She said, “Keep moving.” I think that’s true. You move it or lose it. You’ve got to keep the blood flowing. If you’re active you’re gonna get injured. I pulled my hamstring doing a play recently. But you know, you’re gonna get injured. If you don’t move, you’re just going to get sedentary. That’s even worse.
Speaking of which, you do a fair amount of dancing in the movie. And you’ve done it in lots of others, like “Charlie’s Angels,” “Moon” and “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.” How did you get into dancing?
I got into it when I was in middle school. It was as way to meet girls and hang out. I never trained. I did the polka for a movie called “Welcome to Collinwood,” but that’s as much training as I’ve ever done.I was a member of the Labyrinth Theater Company. Back in the day we’d have a lot of parties and they would salsa and meringue. I’d try to fake it, and the girls would teach me how to do it.
That is a good way to meet girls.
Yeah. If you can cut it loose, keep it loose. It’s all about moving around.