'Choke' Star Sam Rockwell On Sex Addiction, Going Full-Retard and How to Follow 'Fight Club'SArguably the first film to pack sex, autoasphyxia and colonial American angst into the same tidy bundle,Choke (opening Friday) features Sam Rockwell as Victor Mancini, a generally kindly sex addict whose professional pursuits include sponging off benefactors who happen to have saved him from choking. In his off-time, he susses his father's identity from visits with his ailing mother (Anjelica Houston) and a doctor (Kelly Macdonald) who reckons Jesus had something to do with it. Strippers, anal beads and hormonally charged 18th-century reenactments round it out — perhaps the very least one might expect from an adaptation of the prodigiously perverse Chuck Palahniuk. But it's a sturdy fit for the adventuresome Rockwell, whom we cornered for a few minutes of his busy '08 (also including Frost/Nixon later this fall) and another round of Defamer's ongoing Five Questions:DEFAMER: Look — Fox Searchlight gave us souvenir anal beads! Aren't they great? SAM ROCKWELL: Those are great. This is a classy movie. DEFAMER: No doubt. Victor has enough compulsions to require about a dozen different levels of research — sex addiction, choking, mother issues, etcetera. What did you prioritize here? SAM ROCKWELL: Obviously we read the book a lot. [Director] Clark Gregg and I rehearsed a lot; he was very well prepared; he's an actor, which is great. He's sensitive to this. I went to seven or eight sex addiction meetings. I met a sex therapist; we talked a lot, and he showed me a documentary. I try to do a little bit of research on everything, some more than others. But sexual addiction is more like a food disorder in that you're really filling a void; it's different than any kind of alcohol or narcotic abuse. DEFAMER: With that in mind, did you ever play devil's advocate with this — that sex addiction is more in the mind of the beholder? SAM ROCKWELL: I've been working with an acting coach for a long time; he and I go to therapy, and we talk about that in our work. It's kind of like Alfie or Tom Jones, but we're psychoanalyzing this Casanova in a comedic way. A real Casanova is not a guy that looks like Brad Pitt or George Clooney; they're normal-looking guys in this very depraved world. It's not as glamorous as people think. Sex addiction can go from compulsive masturbation to prostitutes to people who've been sexually molested. It's a serious condition; it's nothing to be laughed about. But I think we respect the condition and are able to joke about it at the same time. DEFAMER: We've been following you since In the Soup, in which you portrayed Steve Buscemi's mentally disabled neighbor. Sixteen years later, the "full retard" backlash is on from all sides. As someone who skillfully portrayed disability before it was Oscar bait, what's your take? SAM ROCKWELL: Well, look, they're totallly missing the joke. It's about actors and awards shows. I thought Leonardo DiCaprio did it really well, but at some point you have to let the research go and intuitively daydream and just let your imagination go. It's a matter of taste really. Do you respond to Forrest Gump? I do. I respond to what Dustin Hoffman does in Rain Man. Hoffman tells a story about Midnight Cowboy where he found the limp for Ratzo Rizzo. He put his foot in like this, and he got all these letters from handicapped people afterward saying, "That's the most ridiculous limp I've ever seen — you're making fun of us." So you try to be as responsible as you can be, but it's just an artist's interpretation. [Tropic Thunder] makes fun of the actor's process and the hype that goes around it. DEFAMER: When you take on Palahniuk, you're inevitably taking on Fight Club. Were you apprehensive about having to follow a classic? SAM ROCKWELL: Absolutely. But the advantage we had is that this is the anti-Fight Club. This is a low-budget film. We don't have special effects or bells and whistles. This is a different kind of movie. It's an independent movie in every sense of the word. It's like Harold and Maude or The Fisher King and think of it as a different tone; Fight Club is darker. We've got a heavy subject, but we've also got anal beads.