This past May people had varying opinions about Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, but one thing almost universally agreed upon was that Sam Rockwell is about twenty different kinds of awesome. Playing Tony Stark-nemesis Justin Hammer, Rockwell struck a perfect balance between comic relief and villain, and, as always, was simply great to watch on screen. Thankfully, both he and Favreau must have hit it off, because next summer we’ll be able to see the two work together in Cowboys & Aliens.

This past summer a group of other journalists including myself were invited down to Plaza Blanca, New Mexico to visit the set of the upcoming blockbuster and in addition to watching them film, we were granted the awesome opportunity to talk with a few of the film’s cast members, including Rockwell, who plays Doc, as well as his on screen wife Ana de la Reguera, who plays Maria. Briefly talking about the movie with the actors, they discussed how their characters fit in to the world of the western/sci-fi mash-up and how Rockwell owes at least some of his success to Bill Paxton. Check out the interview below and for more of my reporting from the Cowboys & Aliens set, including an interview with director Jon Favreau, head on over here.

What’s sort of the background of Doc and Maria?

Sam Rockwell: Well, before Doc debated a sex change [laughs], he was a doctor and – I’m not sure – we think maybe – what would you say, you were a nurse or – what did you do?

Ana de la Reguera: Yeah. Like I was a nurse, yeah.

SR: Something like that.

AR: That’s what actual women did in that time; that’s the only few jobs that they had.

SR: Maybe we met – could have been the Civil War. I think a lot of stuff spooks the doctor, and I spooked him and so he – I think he wanted to get out of the M.A.S.H. unit business and you know, do something a little safer, like settle down with this beautiful lady [laughs]. And then this happens and it sort of pushes him to kind of… he’s not really like the kind of guy that deals with confrontation very well. So he’s sort of forced to confront all those fears.

Being the western doc, how much of the movie did you spend with like your arms inside people, bandaging them up and stuff?

SR: You know, there’s a little bit of that, you know, of seeing him be a doctor and – it’s probably reminiscent of something he probably did in the Civil War, because he’s dealing with stuff that’s pretty hairy and - and then he goes after – he goes after all the aliens.

How does the character of the man of science to you – does your character get handed a lot of backbreaking exposition?

SR: No, actually I’ve been lucky in that way, you know. I kind of serve as the Jimmy Stewart, Bill Paxton of the piece. I’m sort of like sincere but I have those moments of levity.

And just wait – Bill Paxton’s so happy with that comparison.

SR: I copied everything I did in Galaxy Quest with Bill Paxton in Aliens [laughs]. I owe him some credit. Yeah.

This isn’t your first Western; you were in Jessie James, how does it feel to be back in the saddle?

SR: It’s probably better on the saddle now than it was then. But yeah, it’s fun, you know, I get to do more – I actually get to do more shooting and riding and stuff like that in this movie than I did in Jessie James.

Do you like the big physical stuff?

SR: Umm, yeah, I do – I like physical stuff, although I’m hurting a little right now [laughs], but I like physical stuff, yeah.

Seems like a little bit of a change and kind of refreshing to get some…

SR: Yeah. It is, you know. It is. It’s fun. Westerns are fun - they’re hard, but they’re fun.

Did Jon Favreau start talking about this script on Iron Man 2 or was it just that you two –

SR: We just had a good time. And Bob [Orci] and Alex [Kurtzman] have a great track record, obviously. And Daniel [Craig] was a big part of the decision, I think. And the part sort of turned into something and Jon’s just… we had a great time on Iron Man so we really worked well together on Iron Man.

How awesome is it working with Harrison Ford?

SR: It’s great. He’s awesome. You know, he’s Indiana Jones! Totally, yeah. He’s awesome.

How did the experience differ, working with Jon on Iron Man 2 and then working on this movie?

SR: Well, it’s a similar - we have a solid script but we improvise within that and we change stuff on the day, but the obstacle here is obviously that we’re doing a period piece. So it’s not like you could just say anything, you know? [laughs] You can’t just say, “Ah, Dude, that sucks.” [laughs] You can’t do that because you’re in the Old West, you know, so.

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