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FESTIVAL NEWS The 29th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival will present Sam Rockwell with the spotlight award – actor for his performance in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” The festival’s awards gala, hosted by Mary Hart, will be held Jan. Past recipients of the spotlight award include Amy Adams, Jessica Chastain, Bryan Cranston, Andrew Garfield, Helen Hunt, Rooney Mara, Julia Roberts, and J. Rockwell plays a short-tempered police officer in “Three Billboards” opposite Frances Mc Dormand, Woody Harrelson, Abbie Cornish, and Lucas Hedges. Ashford will produce with Sarah Timberman and Koerner will executive produce. All recipients received Academy Award nominations in the year they were honored, with Simmons receiving the Oscar for best supporting actor.There were early bit parts (a thug in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a hanger-on in Last Exit to Brooklyn) but it was a full eight years ago that he got his big break in Tom Di Cillo's Box of Moonlight, where he played a nature child in Davy Crockett furs who liberates a working stiff.

Ryan Gilbey meets an actor who wonders what he has to do to make it Two days before I meet Sam Rockwell in London, he calls in at the Berlin Film Festival to collect the Best Actor award for his portrayal of Chuck Barris, TV-game-show innovator and possible CIA assassin, in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. I tell him he sounds ambivalent about the award, and he promptly rights himself. What makes Sam Rockwell different is that he isn't willing to hit the canvas just yet; clearly, the show must go on. And while it's disconcerting to hear him haggling with the PR in my presence over the duration of that break ("Was it always an hour-fifteen?

It was a sweet cookie of a film, but no one wanted so much as a nibble. It's a moving performance – or rather a not-moving one, since he is the still point around which the rest of this crazy-headed picture spins at increasingly high speed.

"I think maybe 20 years from now, people will look back on that movie and..." He doesn't finish the sentence. He was an aspiring crook outwitted by Gene Hackman in David Mamet's pared-to-the-bone Heist. It's not at all the kind of trick we're used to seeing him perform. Which is why his take on Chuck Barris is so inspired: the mania is there, only this time it's focused inwards.

"If I got a job playing a cop or something, I'd ask Tom if I could cut it and he'd say: 'Yeah, but not too short. He and Vaughn met at a charades party at the latter's house, and have been tight ever since.

We might get the money soon.' Things went on like that for a long time."Three years, in fact. "Actually, it was running charades," he says quickly, correcting himself. It's a little more active than regular charades."Rockwell's reward for his patience is Confessions of a Dangerous Mind – his first lead in a mainstream-ish picture.

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