TIFF 2011: Toronto International Film Festival

Friday | October 24, 2014

There's a sweet side to Michael Shannon


Actor Michael Shannon listens during a news conference for the film "The Iceman" at the 37th Toronto International Film Festival September 10, 2012. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

Here's Michael Shannon, carefully choosing a treat for his little daughter from an assortment of fancy chocolate bars in a TIFF interview room.

It's quite a contrast to having just seen him in his latest movie role -- killing and dismembering dozens as mob hitman Richard Kuklinski. The film is The Iceman, a fantastic crime drama and, weirdly, character study. For his performance, Shannon is already being talked about in the same sentence as 'Oscar'.

The Iceman, which co-stars Ray Liotta and Winona Ryder, got its glitzy premiere Monday night in Toronto. Shannon says of the character, "There are lots of people who make a living doing things that aren't totally on the level. This is like an extreme, Grimm's Fairy Tale version of that. It's a compelling story. I saw that analogy and I think other people can see it too."

Most people can tell you when they first noticed Shannon. At 38, he's been an actor for 20 years; maybe you really noticed him first in Vanilla Sky or 8 Mile or The Woodsman, or on TV in Boardwalk Empire, or maybe it was long before that. At any rate, in the last few years, Shannon starred in a film called Bug, won an Academy Award nomination for Revolutionary Road and hit big again in Take Shelter, and a new chapter in his career began.

"It's different now," he concedes. "For a long time, I was a supporting player, or a cameo, and now I've got a couple under my belt. And here I am the title character. It's nothing I ever anticipated... When Ariel (Vromen, the director) was putting this movie together, he was quite candid with me. He said, 'I would love for you to play this part, but I'm not too sure I can get financing.' We all know how that works.

"It's exciting not to hear that any more."

In the near future, Shannon will be seen in Man Of Steel, a Superman movie in which he plays the villainous General Zod opposite Henry Cavill as Superman and Russell Crowe as Jor-El.

"That came out of the clear blue sky," he says. "No pun intended. I did not anticipate getting a phone call from Zack Snyder asking me to be in Man of Steel. It was a jump for me, 'cause that's such a huge responsibility in such a big film... I can't say I was waiting for a blockbuster, but I'm excited for it to come out, because not only will it be a blockbuster, but I think it's going to be a really great movie."

As for all that Oscar talk about The Iceman? Shannon says, "I always take that with a grain of salt. There are a lot of great movies coming out this fall."

All that counts for him, he says, is that people go and see the movie.

"It's always awkward to talk about that stuff. I can't say I look at the film and say to myself, 'Oh, I deserve an award for that!' What I do think is, 'I think I maybe got away with that.'

And then I look around to see other people's facial expressions, and kind of gauge it from that."

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