UPDATED with video: Sam Rockwell has won his first Oscar, taking the Best Supporting Actor tonight for his role in the darkly comedic, politically resonant drama Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri in the first award of the evening at the 90th Academy Awards.
Besting The Florida Project‘s Willem Dafoe, long considered a frontrunner in the category, Rockwell also won out over his Three Billboards co-star Woody Harrelson, The Shape of Water‘s Richard Jenkins, and All the Money in the World‘s Christopher Plummer, who, impressively, took over for Kevin Spacey in the eleventh hour to portray industrialist J. Paul Getty in Ridley Scott’s drama.
“Run that clock, Jimmy. I want to get that ski jet, or whatever that was,” Rockwell said onstage, alluding to host Jimmy Kimmel’s offer in his opening monologue of a jet ski for whichever nominee could give the shortest speech tonight (see his full speech above). “I want to thank the Academy,” he continued, “never thought I’d say those words.”
Check out Rockwell backstage below:
Paying tribute to his director and co-stars, Fox Searchlight, “everyone who’s ever looked at a billboard” and his “old buddy, Phil [Seymour] Hoffman,” the actor told a brief story describing the origins of his love for movies. “When I was eight years old, I was called into the principal’s office and my father was looking very solemn. And he said, ‘We gotta go, it’s Grandma,'” Rockwell remembered. “We got in the car and I said, ‘What’s wrong with Grandma?”” And he said, ‘Nothing, we’re going to the movies.'”
“My mom and dad’s love of movies became my love of movies,” the Oscar winner continued. “So thank you for that.”
In Three Billboards, set in the fictional middle American town of Ebbing—Rockwell plays Dixon, a bigoted cop and momma’s boy who comes into conflict with Frances McDormand’s Mildred, a grieving mother and heat-seeking missile, out for blood after the vicious rape and murder of her daughter, which has gone unaccounted for by local police.
Forging a creative partnership with McDonagh on 2012’s Seven Psychopaths, Rockwell has put in solid work for years, recognized for memorable turns in films including The Way Way Back, Frost/Nixon and Moon. While McDonagh has won an Oscar in the past—for 2004 short Six Shooter—he was a notable snub in the Best Director category this year, despite big wins at the Golden Globes, the BAFTA Awards and other awards predictors.
Even so, Rockwell isn’t likely to be the only winner for Three Billboards tonight. McDormand leads the Best Actress race, McDonagh is considered a strong contender for Best Original Screenplay, and the film is also nominated for Best Original Score, Best Editing, and Best Picture.
Here is Rockwell backstage after his win: