LOS ANGELES — Sam Rockwell continued his awards season dominance, winning best supporting actor at the Academy Awards on Sunday for his portrayal of the dimwitted, racist cop Jason Dixon in "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri." It is the first nomination and win for the 49-year-old actor.
"I want to thank the Academy," Rockwell said. "Never thought I'd say those words."
On the Oscars stage Sunday Rockwell talked about how his father instilled in him a love of movies. He said when he was 8, he was called to the principal's office where his father told him they had to go.
"It's Grandma," Rockwell recalled his father saying.
Later Rockwell asked, "What's wrong with Grandma?"
"Nothing," his father said. "We're going to the movies."
As the music played him off Rockwell said the award is, "For my buddy Phil Hoffman" referring to the late Philip Seymour Hoffman who died in 2014.
"He was an inspiration to me and all of my peers," Rockwell said backstage. "He was a good friend and a huge, huge inspiration on me."
Both Rockwell's co-star Frances McDormand and his partner Leslie Bibb could be seen wiping tears away after his win.
Rockwell beat out Willem Dafoe ("The Florida Project"), Christopher Plummer ("All the Money in the World"), Richard Jenkins ("The Shape of Water") and his "Three Billboards" co-star Woody Harrelson for the award.
McDormand gave a long hug to Harrelson during the commercial break.
Much of the divisiveness surrounding the film centered around Rockwell's character, with many troubled by the thought that the story redeemed him by the film's end. Director Martin McDonagh has said, however, that he doesn't think Jason is redeemed.
Backstage Rockwell told reporters that the backlash presented a complicated issue.
"For me, the whole thing is they have a lot of work to do, Mildred (McDormand's character) and Dixon. They're not all of a sudden redeemed at the end of the movie," Rockwell said.
He recommended Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's essay in The Hollywood Reporter on race and redemption as a nuanced take on the film.
"It's also a movie and it's a dark fairy tale of some sort," Rockwell said. "In real life, we probably would have gone to prison, both of our characters."
AP Entertainment Writer Andrew Dalton contributed from Los Angeles.
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