Michael Shannon Talks About ‘The Iceman,’ the Oscars, and Just A Bit About ‘Man of Steel’
Michael Shannon stars in the upcoming gangster saga "The Iceman," which opens this weekend. The film recounts the rise and swift fall of Richard Kuklinski, a Mob enforcer who by some counts murdered more than 100 people. As the body count rises, Kuklinski manages to buy himself a piece of the American dream: a nice house in the suburbs, daughters in private school, and a collection of snazzy suits.
Anyone familiar with his work in "Take Shelter" or, more recently, "Premium Rush" knows that Shannon is intense. On the screen, there seems to be a deep, untapped reservoir of rage beneath his seemingly calm exterior. Every eye twitch and grimace hints at possible eruption. And when that fury does bubble to the screen, like during the climax of "Take Shelter," it is positively electric.
For "The Iceman," Shannon plays opposite Ray Liotta, who can just about match him in the homicidal-death-stare category, and Winona Ryder as his wife. While his character is all repressed brutality, Ryder's radiates a fragile warmth. It was a smart casting movie on the part of the filmmakers.
[Full Coverage: Yahoo! Movies at the Toronto International Film Festival]
I talked with Shannon during last year's Toronto International Film Festival. Instead of a seething badass, I met a gracious, soft-spoken guy in a green shirt who was fighting off a cold. We talked about getting into the head of a gangster, the Oscar race, and General Zod's facial hair.
Jonathan Crow: What drew you to this role?
Michael Shannon: Well, it all started with just watching the interview that Kuklinski did for HBO. I didn't know who he was. I had never heard of him. [Director Ariel Vromen] approached me and he gave me the interview and told me to watch it, and I did. Kuklinski's a very captivating person. A lot of people, when they see the interview the first time, they see a very frightening individual. But I was immediately drawn to this sense of melancholy that I felt about him. I felt like he's a very tragic figure. I felt like he was aware of the mistakes he'd made and how much suffering he had caused. He was trying to process it sitting in prison by himself. There's something very sad about it, not that I condone or approve of what he did, but I felt like he deserved some consideration for what he went through.
JC: You say that he recognizes the pain he's covering. Yeah, he's a hugely prolific serial killer. How do you jibe those two?
Photo: Millenium Pictures
There are a lot of jobs in this world that require people to do things that can be damaging to other people in order to make a living and take care of your family. There are people that go out, say, in the financial sector and screw hundreds and thousands of people out of money and their houses so that they can go home and make sure that their family, their children go to nice schools and they have a nice dinner at night. This is a very blunt example, but there are a lot of people that cause suffering in order to collect the paycheck, particularly nowadays.