Sam Rockwell did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Charley Ford in The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford.
Rockwell always adds a bit character in these scenes rather well while actually being quite a bit less extroverted in his performance. He's good actually by showing that Charley is probably the best person for the James gang because he's level headed enough, easy to get along with, and does not have any delusions like his wannabe brother. There's a good scene early on where Charley makes a proposition to Frank James (Sam Shepard) about being a permanent part of the gang, along with Robert. Rockwell's does well in that he portrays Charley's enthusiasm as particularly intelligently stated, although with only a bit of over eagerness, but this comes from Charley having to put forth an idea come up with by Robert. Rockwell is quite interesting in the way he creates a certain unsaid brotherly connection between the two. Charley often ridicules or embarrasses Robert for his delusions about Jesse, but Rockwell never makes this the least bit cruel. Rockwell instead strikes up that certain sort of older brother ribbing. Yes it definitely causes Robert to become upset, but Rockwell always shows there's no real malice in Charley when he does, in fact he seems to suggest doing to keep Bob from going too far.
As the dissolution of the gang leaves Jesse kinda lost and very paranoid as he continues on, he actually seems to start to trust only one man in his gang that being Charley. Rockwell manages to make sense of this through his depiction of Charley as someone who actually seems reasonable. Rockwell adds to this bit by effectively making Charley a bit of a bright spot as there is a naturally endearing quality to Rockwell's performance that makes Jesse's trust of him very understandable. Of course even Charley is not fully trusted by Jesse and must face probably some of the most severe scrutiny. Rockwell again is so good at realizing basically what makes Charley special for Jesse as Rockwell carries a certain optimism, and is able to make Charley a man one should not suspect of anything. Rockwell plays this scenes incredibly well though as he always builds the tension well as he internalizes it suggesting that Charley certainly has plenty of fear for Jesse, but is able to hide far better than some others. Rockwell never wastes a moments of these scenes though as he does gradually build an unsaid, but definite understanding in Charley that he'll never be safe unless Jesse dies.
What really is so special about this performance though is just how much Rockwell does in between the lines so to speak. He does not even need to be a focus of the scenes, but his reactions always add something as he manages to make these that of a genuine person not a stock side character. Rockwell's work gives just a bit more life to every moment even the slightest of ways. I especially love just his expression of somber understanding when Jesse asks Charley about suicide. It's surprising how good Rockwell is, because this is not Charley's story yet you always know where Charley is in his own struggle with Jesse parallel to his brothers. Where Bob is caught up with a few too many ideas, Rockwell presents Charley as technically of a more honest man. There's a great brief scene where Rockwell shows the complexities of Charley's conflict as he recognizes that Jesse is his friend, but also recognizes that he's becoming increasingly dangerous. This leads to the assassination scene which is a masterfully performed scene by Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, and Sam Rockwell.
Rockwell should not be forgotten because although you feel what Bob and Jesse are going through, the same is for Charley. Rockwell is outstanding because he's not overshadowed by Affleck or Pitt, yet he never feels out of place, and only adds to the power scene. It's remarkable how Rockwell presents Charley's own time in the scene as he also prepares to kill Jesse, but Rockwell is very moving by showing it as a simple resignation for his own survival, without even a thought of glory as he prepares his own gun. After the assassination the film depicts both brothers dealing with the fallout. Rockwell has a few scenes that are fairly swiftly paced, but don't feel rushed. Nevertheless Rockwell has to show Charley going through quite a lot in a matter of scenes, but hey he does not miss a mark here. He's entertaining then quite haunting in his stage portrayal of Jesse. Rockwell then is quite harrowing in his portrayal of how the events have spent the rest of Charley as he seems to be a decaying man leaving his final scene. It's short once again but heart wrenching as Rockwell captures the pain in Charley in such detail. This is a great performance and one of those great models for a truly great truly supporting performance. Charley is rarely the focus, and it is easy to see how he could have been just a side note in the film, and easily forgotten. Rockwell never allows that to happen and makes those final scenes so much powerful than perhaps they should have been, since he simply let us know the man Charley Ford was.