The Kid

October 12, 2023

I first met Sam Rockwell in 1990 when he came in to audition for Johnny Suede. The part ultimately went to another unknown and rising talent, Brad Pitt, but Sam made such an impression on me that I cast him as The Kid in Box of Moonlight.

It took so long to raise the money that at one point, Sam’s own agent called me and offered up another more famous TV actor for the role. I declined. The money struggles continued. I decided to make a little film to keep from going crazy: Living In Oblivion.

That little film opened the door, and after four years, I was finally down in the rolling countryside of Tennessee shooting Box of Moonlight with Catherine Keener, John Turturro, and Sam Rockwell.

The Kid was written to be the free-spirited counterpart to Turturro’s Al Fountain. If Turturro was a rock in the film, Sam was the whacked-out hummingbird flitting from bush to bush. I truly never knew what he was going to do next. His riffing spontaneity was thrilling. But it sometimes caused problems, particularly if we needed to do more than one take. Turturro was thrown by it, and at times, I understood why. Sam was unpredictable. John wanted continuity. That friction was the essence of the script. A director’s dream. Or nightmare.

Things reached a climax the night we shot the scene of The Kid breaking down in Al’s arms. As we blocked the scene for the camera, I could see Sam was very emotionally primed. Turturro was too. The Assistant Director came running up and called for a full rehearsal.

I said, “No. Make sure everybody is ready to shoot; no questions, no wait-a-minutes, absolutely ready.” The guy walked off, furious. When he finally returned and told me everyone was ready, I quietly said, “Action.”

What happened next was indescribable. John and Sam dove headfirst into the scene. As I expected, Sam was all over the place, but that place was real and searing with intensity. When it was over, the AD came rushing up again and said, “We need to do another!”

“No, we don’t,” I said. And we moved on. No one saw how greatly relieved I was that my gamble had paid off. That wild, wrenching single take is what ended up in the film.

Learn more about Box of Moonlight here.


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Independent Filmmaker & Musician