Stealth Stardom: Michael Shannon
The most recognizable face you don’t know in Hollywood.
Published: May 15, 2013
MT: OK, we need to talk about Man of Steel. Was there ever a point in your career where you wondered when you’d get to play a character that gets turned into an action figure?
Shannon: Jesus. I never thought that when I was playing with me Star Wars action figures that “One day I’ll be Greedo or Hammerhead.” They were my favorites.
MT: I was a big Hammerhead fan too.
Shannon: Yeah, he was like a melted chocolate bar. I mean where is his brain? I’ve said this before: When I was a kid I was not a huge cinephile. I saw some of the big movies — obviously Star Wars and Superman — but it wasn’t like a huge part of my life. I went to the movies very infrequently and was not dreaming of being an actor or anything. I wouldn’t have been surprised if I had gone my entire career without being in a giant comic book movie. But in retrospect I’m incredibly glad I had the experience. First of all, the artists I got to work with on the movie, regardless of what it is or what it’s about, were incredible. Particularly Zack Snyder, who I think is a genius. And it was fun. I got to play.
MT: It must have been the opposite of playing Kuklinski.
Shannon: Yeah, but not without gravity or consequence. If anything, Zack and Chris Nolan and David Goyer are trying to insert some weight to the story so they don’t simply wash over you and then you forget about them five seconds after you leave.
MT: It must be interesting to be involved in a film that harks back to those few films you actually saw as a kid. After all, Terence Stamp made General Zod a pretty inconic movie character.
Shannon: He pretty much nailed it. There’s not too much to be said. The only hope I had filling his shoes was to completely ignore what he did and try to go in a different direction, because his performance can’t be improved on. We decided that Zod was not a villain. He’s not a stone-cold assassin or killer. He’s a general who’s trying to save his planet and his people. He’s actually not a terrible person, he’s just very passionate about what he believes in.
MT: I’ve heard you’re a huge Thelonious Monk fan. How did you develop an appreciation for his music, which is not always easy?
Shannon: I was living with my dad, I was 16 years old and he had the CD Monk’s Music. It was Monk sitting in a little red wheelbarrow, he’s got that little hat on and glasses and it kind of reached out to me. And the second song on the CD was a version of “Well You Needn’t.” The first time I heard that it was kind of a religious experience. I mean, you’ve got John Coltrane and Coleman Hawkins, and both their solos are amazing. I can still remember them. I would recommend to anyone on Earth to go get Monk’s Music.
MT: You came out of the Chicago Theater scene. Do you miss it?
Shannon: I miss it so much that I’m going to be there this summer to do the play Simpatico by Sam Shepard at Red Orchid. I think we open July 8, and should play through the summer and, if I can swing it, September.
Jeff Meyers writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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