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Why C.P. Ellis From The Best Of Enemies Looks So Familiar

2019's "The Best of Enemies" is enjoying new popularity after it didn't make much of a splash when it was released a couple of years ago — it earned $10.2 million on a $10 million budget, according to Box Office Mojo. As a recent release on Netflix, it currently stands at No. 9 on the service's trending Top 10 list. And it's no wonder; it's a topical, ultimately uplifting look at race relations in North Carolina in 1971 and the unlikely developing friendship between a Ku Klux Klan president, C.P. Ellis, played by Sam Rockwell, and Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson), a Black civil rights activist. 

If you're watching this movie and thinking C.P. looks familiar, you're right. Rockwell is a veteran character actor, and you've seen (and heard) him in a number of other high-profile projects over the years. He's guest-starred in television shows like "The Equalizer," "Law and Order," "NYPD Blue," "Prince Street," and "Inside Amy Schumer." And he's had top billing in movies, including "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," "Basquiat," "The Green Mile," "Choke," "Moon," "The F Word," and "Matchstick Men." He's even done voiceovers for projects like the video game "Dishonored 2" and movies such as "G-Force," "Trolls World Tour," "Cowboys and Aliens" and "The One and Only Ivan," in which he played the title gorilla. And in 2020, he was one of the actors who played Westley in the short-lived Quibi's "Home Movie: The Princess Bride."

Basically, if you're vague about this actor's identity, your question here shouldn't be, "Where have I seen him before?" It should be more like, "Where the heck have I been?"  

He played redshirt Guy Fleegman in Galaxy Quest

In 1999's "Galaxy Quest," the sci-fi parody starring Tim Allen, Rockwell played Guy Fleegman, the cast of "Galaxy Quest's" handler at conventions. Fleegman also played a redshirt in one episode of the fictional series, named "Crewman #6," who was killed by a lava monster in Episode 81. He gets drafted into the cast's real adventures in outer space and keeps thinking he won't survive (and so does everyone else). "What's my last name?" he asks the crew. "Nobody knows! Do you know why? Because my character isn't important enough for a last name! Because I'm gonna die five minutes in!"

At the end of the movie, after the adventure is over, he's introduced to the convention crowd as "another shipmate." But, in the next scene, when it's clear that "Galaxy Quest" has been slated for a revival, he gets introduced in the show's beginning credits as Security Chief "Roc" Ingersol. "The film was a great experience," Rockwell told Entertainment Tonight in 2015. "I'd love to do a sequel." Apparently, that almost happened thanks to Amazon (via Collider), but scheduling conflicts and co-star Alan Rickman's death derailed the project.

He played bad guy Eric Knox in Charlie's Angels in 2000

In the over-the-top and super-sexy "Charlie's Angels" movie from 2000, the actors looked like they were having a ton of fun, which is one thing that made it so watchable. Rockwell was not an exception. He played Eric Knox, initially positioned as a victim that needs help from the titular characters played by Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz (but especially Barrymore's Dylan). Later, he is revealed to be an evil mastermind. Who can forget his iconic drinking-soda-and-smoking-a-cigarette-while-doing-nefarious-deeds dance to Pharoahe Monche's "Simon Says"? The scene is so iconic that Vice asked, when a new "Charlie's Angels" was releasing in 2019, "What's the point of 'Charlie's Angels' without Sam Rockwell dancing?" And a whole generation of movie-goers developed crushes on the man, as noted by Junkee. In case you're wondering why he can barely get through a film without some dance moves, this might be the reason. 

Rockwell's dance experience stems from his middle school years when he was trying to get away from a white supremacist crowd and started hanging with kids who wanted to dance. "We went to high school dances, and it was when 'Footloose' and Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' album was out. And breakdancing. It was a way to meet girls, and I just kind of got into it, got into James Brown," he told The Independent. However, he didn't actually get much formal training until "Fosse/Verdon," a miniseries he did for a 2019 release in which he played the famous choreographer Bob Fosse.

He played two-headed Zaphod Beeblebrox in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Back in 2005, a film version of Douglas Adams' "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" starred Martin Freeman as hapless Arthur Dent and Zooey Deschanel as Trillian. Rockwell played Zaphod Beeblebrox, an instigator of all the action as well as the newly-elected president of the galaxy. He has two heads (one is inside the coat) and three arms. Though the movie got mixed reviews, one review from The New York Times called the actor's take on the character "sensational" and "riffing on Elvis and the current President Bush."

Rockwell actually told the Deseret News that he also based his character on former President Bill Clinton, actor Gary Busey, and friend Vince Vaughn. And he called his character an extension of Guy Fleegman from "Galaxy Quest," too. "Guy's just not as cool as Zaphod. He doesn't have that kind of charm. He's the guy that everyone wants to avoid. Zaphod's very Bill Clinton, he's a very charming guy. He has to be, that's what it said in the book, so I had to pull it out of somewhere," he told Movieweb.

He's a Marvel villain, thanks to Iron Man 2

In 2010's "Iron Man 2," Rockwell played Tony Stark's rival, military contractor Justin Hammer, who tries to replicate his Arc Reactor technology. Hammer teams up with the movie's antagonist, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke). He's like Tony Stark without the sense of moral responsibility, basically, and was the one to first create War Machine's armor. He was also responsible for bringing the Hammer drones to the Stark Expo, where they caused mayhem and destruction under the control of Vanko.

Rockwell said in an A.V. Club interview from 2013 that Jon Favreau actually considered him for the role of Tony Stark, but for whatever reason, he never ended up getting screen-tested. "So in a way, I think Jon was basically saying, 'This is your chance to be Tony Stark. This will be your version of Tony Stark.' We gave him the glasses and kind of sleazed him up a little. But that's exactly right. It was a chance to do Tony Stark," he said.

He played a 'gay Nazi' in Taika Waititi's Jojo Rabbit

In the 2019 satirical comedy-drama "Jojo Rabbit," from director and writer Taika Waititi, Rockwell plays fanatical Captain Klenzendorf, the man in charge of the Nazi Youth camp where Jojo Betzler is given the name "Jojo Rabbit" for refusing to kill a rabbit to prove his mettle. But as the film goes on, Klenzendorf appears to become disillusioned with the war effort, helping to save the Jewish girl, Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) living in Jojo's attic and later sacrificing himself for the boy.

At a red carpet interview for the 77th Golden Globe Awards, in which Rockwell was nominated for "Fosse/Verdon" and both "Jojo Rabbit" and "Richard Jewell" were up for prizes as well, he spoke about the role. "It was like Bill Murray as a gay Nazi, that's pretty much what I did," he told E! Online. He actually channels Murray for several of his roles, it seems, as he said something similar about how he played Justin Hammer in "Iron Man 2" and about his character Owen in "The Way Way Back." Oh, and Zaphod Beeblebrox in "Hitchhiker's Guide," per Movieweb.

Rockwell won that Golden Globe, by the way. He also has an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, which he received in 2018 for "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri."