“I never considered myself to be an actor” Simon rex Recount Hollywood journalist during a conversation in front of an audience of attendees at this week’s Savannah Film Festival following a crowded Lucas Theater screening Sean Boulanger‘s Red rocket. Rex plays a has-been pornstar who returns to his hometown and has garnered a buzz for Best Actor at the Oscars. “I guess I was always unsure of that until this movie, which I’m so proud of.”
In acting terms, the 47-year-old, who has also worked as a male model, VJ MTV and rapper, has so far been best known for his work in three episodes of the Horror movie franchise. Neither these parts nor any other would have suggested that he had in him the kind of nuanced performance that he gives in Red rocket. ” I do not think so anybody saw it coming, including me, ”he admitted. “But Sean Baker saw it, and that’s all that matters.”
Last summer, during some of the darkest days of the global pandemic, Rex was “looking at the ceiling fan” at a tiny house he had recently purchased in Joshua Tree National Park, a two-hour drive from Los Angeles. “It was kind of me getting out of Hollywood a little bit,” he reflected, “not quite quitting,” but I was starting to consider the possibility. Indeed, “It had been years since I had really had people calling for auditions.”
Then, out of the blue, Baker rang the bell. The Mandarin and Florida Project Helmer instructed Rex to get on tape, not loop with his agent or manager, and head straight to Texas within three days. There in August and September 2020, with a crew of 10, a million dollar budget, no rehearsal time and mostly non-actors filming in 16mm, they told the story of a transactional “sociopathic narcissist” with “big cock energy” as Rex describes Mikey Saber, whom you can only love. “I just tried to make him childish and charming and maybe he doesn’t know what he’s doing,” the actor says.
It was not clear if the film would ever see the light of day. “I had no expectations,” Rex admits. “As soon as that was done, it was kind of like, ‘Okay, let’s go back to the pandemic and sit in the desert, and I’ll believe it when I see it when this movie comes out. Like, ‘Did this really happen?’ It was all crazy, and I have been heartbroken in this matter so many times. But of course, as the pandemic has subsided somewhat, Red rocket was a preview guest at the Cannes Film Festival, where it began to garner rave reviews, especially for its main character.
“People love a ‘comeback story’, if you want to call it that,” Rex said, quickly adding with characteristic humility and humor, “I don’t know if I did it enough to even make a “comeback”! “