“I just was trying to horrify my publicist, it doesn’t work.” These are the words Michael Shannon said to me as I walked into his hotel conference room with a sort of terrified look on my face after hearing him yell about his disdain toward the city of Toronto to some poor soul over the phone at the top of his lungs. Have you seen or heard Michael Shannon yell? It’s very intimidating. Even when you’re kinda certain it was a joke.
As it turns out, Shannon had just gotten done with an interview with the Toronto Sun and thought it would be funny for his publicist to hear him saying unkind things about Toronto. (I’m sure she loves that.) At the same time, it’s kind of funny to watch Shannon having fun with his intense persona. A persona that’s not really that true. I mean, he’s certainly intense and, in person, he’s an imposing figure, but he’s also very polite and funny, in a drawling, dry, Kentucky way.
Shannon is currently starring in Midnight Special, his fourth collaboration with director Jeff Nichols. Shannon plays Roy, a father who is on the run from authorities after stealing his son – a son who has some sort of supernatural ability – away from a religious cult. Like most of Shannon’s films, it’s an intense movie and an intense role.
We spoke to Shannon about, well, a lot of things. Everything from his relationship with Jeff Nichols, to his early roles in Groundhog Day and Chain Reaction, to when he used to do improv in Chicago, to his thoughts on the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Are you happy with the response?
We’ve seen different responses. Some people love it and some people and kind of like, “What was that?” Because, I think the cat’s out of the bag at this point, it can be kind of a head-scratcher sometimes.
So can Take Shelter.
Yeah. But, you know, that’s the beauty of it to me. I like head-scratchers.
I can tell by the movies you’re in.
I like to scratch my head.
You’ve been in every Jeff Nichols movie. Could he call you with anything and you say no?
I don’t think so. Not unless that was his intention, you know? If he really went out of his way to disturb me somehow. I don’t want it to turn into a thing where it feels obligatory. If he called me up and said, “You’re going to sit this one out,” I’d be like, “okay.”
You’re at five in a row, but it doesn’t feel obligatory.
I’m real curious to see Loving, I only did a day on that one.
There’s a scene involving a Superman comic book. Was that an inside joke?
Heh. It’s funny. Originally he was reading a Wolverine comic. Then the movie wound up at Warner Bros. and that wasn’t going to happen. It’s actually a very beautiful little moment: this child has been locked up in this weird cult and hasn’t been exposed to any popular culture – seeing him ask a question about something that everyone on Earth already knows about.