Sam Rockwell talks murder mystery 'See How They Run' and the 'traditional' place he keeps his Oscar

SEE HOW THEY RUN, from left: Sam Rockwell, Saoirse Ronan, 2022. ph: Parisa Taghizadeh /© Searchlight Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection
Sam Rockwell, left, and Saoirse Ronan in See How They Run. (Photo: Parisa Taghizadeh /© Searchlight Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection) (©Searchlight Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)

The murder mystery is hot right now. Rian Johnson’s thrilling, Oscar-nominated whodunit Knives Out reinvigorated the genre in 2019. Christopher Miller’s The Afterparty, a comedic, episodic spin on the genre, was a big hit for Apple TV+ earlier this year. And Johnson just unveiled a Knives Out sequel, Glass Onion, last weekend at the Toronto International Film Festival before its Netflix debut in November.

In between Knives Out editions comes See How They Run, a playful and witty Agatha Christie homage from director Tom George that follows a seasoned London detective (Sam Rockwell) who teams with an inexperienced constable (Saoirse Ronan) to crack a murder case involving a Hollywood filmmaker (Adrien Brody) and the cast of a 1950s West End stage production.

It’s another colorful entry into the eclectic oeuvre of Rockwell (whose Academy Award–winning role in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri premiered five years ago this fall). The actor talked to Yahoo Entertainment about the film, its storied genre and where he keeps that Oscar.

Yahoo Entertainment: What would you say you had a chance to do as an actor in See How They Run that you’d never done onscreen before?

Sam Rockwell: Well, the British accent for sure was a first on film. I'd done it in theater. And I played a grumpy drunk guy once before, but never a detective, I don't think. That was fun.

The movie is incredibly self-aware, it’s very meta at points about its own genre. Adrian Brody's character even says in voiceover, “It’s a whodunit. You've seen one. You've seen ’em all.” But obviously you have to differentiate. You have to try to remix the genre. What felt fresh to you about this one?

We were aspiring to be in tone, like Death of Stalin or The Big Lebowski, but it obviously pays homage to Murder on the Orient Express and Colombo or things like that.

Had you seen Knives Out? Obviously that was such a sensation, and felt like it reinvigorated the genre in a lot of ways. Was that on your minds at all?

Absolutely. Yeah. Definitely. There seems to be an appetite for this kind of thing right now and that’s thanks to Knives Out. Hopefully this will have the same reaction.

What did you enjoy about working so closely with Saoirse? She's so funny in this.

She's really funny in real life. Very self-deprecating. Very, very sweet. Just like a normal person. You know, she's just not encumbered by all the Hollywood nonsense. She's really just a nice girl from Cork [Ireland].

HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 04: Actor Sam Rockwell, winner of the Best Supporting Actor award for 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,' poses in the press room at the 90th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Dan MacMedan/WireImage)
Sam Rockwell with his Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, in 2018. (Photo: Dan MacMedan/WireImage) (Dan MacMedan via Getty Images)

This film spoofs show business in a lot of ways, between the worlds of both theater and film. Was that a draw for you? Do you appreciate when Hollywood lampoons itself onscreen?

Yeah it’s a bit like Get Shorty in that way. Harris Dickinson really is funny as [Richard] Attenborough. Just playing him as a coward and kind of a very vain guy. And David Oyelowo as the narcissistic playwright. It's all very funny. Adrian, Reece [Shearsmith]. It's really great.

This is another Searchlight Pictures film for you. You’ve had some success with the studio, obviously, with all the awards you won for Three Billboards. Where do you keep your Oscar?

I have it on a shelf in my living.

So in a pretty traditional location.

Pretty traditional. Yeah.

What did winning the Oscar mean to you? Is that the instant number one career highlight or pinnacle that people presume it is?

It's certainly a bucket list kind of thing like that. SNL. Doing American Buffalo on Broadway. Those are kind of like bucket list things, you know? But there's no telling when you're gonna get that kind of notoriety. You just kind of do your work and do the best you can. You know? Who knows if they're gonna see the movie?

See How They Run is now playing.

Watch the trailer: