Working on the three-hour-plus ”The Green Mile” was about as close as a Hollywood acting job can come to a jail sentence. But Sam Rockwell, who costars in Castle Rock’s new prison drama opposite Tom Hanks, says he found ways to loosen things up on the cramped death row re-creation on the Warner Bros. lot in Hollywood, where most of the film’s scenes were shot.
”We would have gone stir crazy without some distractions,” Rockwell says, ”just like Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor did in that prison movie.” To pass the time, Rockwell made his own movie, a short faux documentary about what happens when his ”Green Mile” character, the insane double murderer Billy the Kid, escapes from jail and moves to Hollywood to find work as an actor. ”He roams around the Warner lot looking for Steven Spielberg, and saying ‘Hey, I wanna meet Tom Cruise,”’ the actor explains. Michael Clarke Duncan, who gives a breakout performance in ”Mile” as a 7-foot-tall inmate with transcendant powers, plays himself in the short. ”[It] was fun to do,” Duncan says. ”Anything beat crying all day, which is basically what my character did for six months during production.”
When Rockwell was confined to the cellblock on set, he looked for other diversions. ”The prison bars on the set were real,” he says, ”the doors really locked. That’s why Michael Jeter and I would do dance steps when the cameras stopped rolling. I tended to do clogging dances to bluegrass music.” Call him the Lord of the Banjo.