As many predicted (including us over at Refinery29), Sam Rockwell took home the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. The Martin McDonagh-directed film may be nominated for Best Picture, but it isn't without controversy. Ironically, much of that controversy is specifically about the film's portrayal Rockwell's character, Dixon.
Rockwell's character is an openly racist cop who, prior to the events of the film, tortured a Black man who was in police custody. By the end of the movie, however, Dixon becomes not just a sympathetic character, but a "good guy," who teams up with a grieving, angry mother Mildred (Francis McDormand) to take down a potential rapist.
Some critics and viewers felt Three Billboards absolved Dixon, a violent and volatile bigot, without having the character do any of the work. When asked by PBS News about the controversy in the Oscars' press room on Sunday night, Rockwell had this to say:
"It's a complicated issue... I think for me, the whole thing is, Mildred and Dixon have a lot of work to do. They have a lot of work to do, maybe some therapy. It's an ongoing thing, you know? It's also, you know, a movie. It's a dark fairytale of sorts. It's not necessarily [true to life.] In real life, both of our characters would have probably gone to prison. That's sort of how I see it."
Rockwell also shared how he prepared for the role, which included working with actual cops.
"I worked with an amazing dialect coach... I did some ride-alongs with some cops [in southern Missouri]... I met with a skin graft doctor who introduced me to some burn [survivors]," said Rockwell backstage at the Oscars. "I had the advantage of having two or three months, so I got to indulge in all this research."