Simon Rex interview: ‘Red Rocket’

Simon Rex has become one of the indie darlings of the year thanks to his committed performance as Mikey, a washed-up porn star, in Sean Baker‘s latest film “Red Rocket.” We see Mikey make wrong choice after wrong choice as he returns home to Texas and gets into a relationship with a 17-year-old girl who’s still in high school. Yet, Rex imbues the role with a certain charisma that complicates our own feelings on Mikey. “All I wanted to do with him was make him charming, boyish and charismatic,” says Rex in an exclusive new interview for Gold Derby. “And just maybe, he doesn’t mean to do these horrible things, so that way, the audience is on board.” Watch the full webchat above about the A24 film.

Despite Mikey’s flaws, there is a compelling factor that naturally draws certain characters to him, not only his young girlfriend but his estranged wife and his best friend. “I liken him to a cute little puppy that’s peeing on the rug,” quips Rex. “He knows not what he’s doing, so it’s hard to get mad at him.” Rex has a strong sense of who Mikey was just from reading the script from director Sean Baker, which worked out because the parameters of production meant he had to be ready to film in Texas in three days. “I didn’t have time to think about anything,” he explains. “I just went with my instinct and Sean liked what I was doing.”

One of the trickier aspects of the film for some viewers is the relationship between Mikey and Strawberry, the 17-year-old girl with which he becomes infatuated. The film does not paint a two-dimensional picture of a predator and his prey; she has agency over the situation. For Rex, it was all about getting to the truth of the dynamic, however complicated it may be. “We’re not condoning it, we’re just saying this is what happens,” he notes. “I just had to commit to playing it as real as possible and truly looking like I’m interested in this girl for whatever that reason may be to the audience.”

Now Rex is gaining major awards attention for his performance, including nominations from the Gotham Awards and the Independent Spirit Awards and a win over the weekend for Best Actor from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Looking back, the actor laughs at how this opportunity came at a time where he had mostly left L.A. behind. “It’s comical to me that after all these years of struggling in Hollywood that as soon as I leave, it calls me in,” he states. “All I wanna do is work, and if this begets more work, I’m happy.”

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UPLOADED Dec 22, 2021 1:28 pm