Roundtable Interview With Michael Shannon On The Iceman


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Earlier Winona shared that she crossed everything on her script out except what she had to read so she could stay as oblivious as possible, and we asked Michael if he could feel that while filming:

Michael Shannon: I think she struggled with it. I think the way that Winona played it, and even to a certain degree how it’s written, it’s that Deborah knows there’s something going on. She knows it, but she just doesn’t know exactly what it is. She doesn’t know it involves murdering people.

I think if Kuklinski would have never found her or gotten married, he would have been in jail a lot sooner. She gave him something to live for. The first time you see him kill somebody in the movie is not even a hit, it’s just some dude that pisses him off over Deborah, so you can see she is everything to him.

He says this in the interviews. People always try to say “Didn’t you ever have any flings or affairs? You must have gotten a lot of interest.” [Kuklinski] was like “No, I didn’t care for any other woman. She was the only woman I felt that way about.” As creepy as this whole friggin’ thing is, it’s kind of romantic.

Getting my two cents in, I asked Michael the following “What you do really well with a character is go from 0-60 with your emotions, which you do with Kuklinski, and you also do really well with that Sorority letter reading, which was absolutely hilarious and I could talk about it for hours so I won’t even touch on that, but where do you have to go mentally to get that intensity and bring such performance to the screen?”

Michael Shannon: Ultimately you have to be very thoughtless about it. A lot of times what will hang you up when you try to act is when your brain gets involved and you start thinking “Oh this isn’t right, I shouldn’t say it like this, I shouldn’t move my hand that way, it’s going to look stupid.” That’s all your brain. You do this long enough and you realize your brain is your worst enemy when you’re trying to act. You just have to not think about it. Before they say action you don’t sit there and think “I’ve got to go 0-60 in three seconds.” I try to literally just be as empty in my head as possible except for paying attention to what’s going on around me.

Pretty much anything you need is coming form outside of you. People think “I’ve got to write my character’s diary and know what he had for lunch when he was three years old,” but that’s all just intellectual hoo-ha. For me what inspires the performance is what’s surrounding you and what other people are doing, and if you’re really paying attention to that you’ll just react to it, and that’s where it comes from.

Director Ariel Vromen perviously described Michael as an “actor’s magnet” in the sense that other actors flocked to the film when Michael signed on, so we asked him his thoughts on the comment and if there were any actors which would immediately draw him to a project:

Michael Shannon: Well, it’s better than being a refrigerator magnet.

It’s always a surprise to me when I hear that though. I honestly can’t even fathom that all these people even know who I am. One day Winona and I were talking and she said “Yeah, I told Daniel I was coming to do this and he was so excited for me because he’s such a big fan of yours.” I’m like “Daniel Day-Lewis?” She’s like, “Yeah.” I’m like, “Daniel Day-Lewis knows who I am? Hmm…that’s interesting. Yeah, I’d like to work with him one day.” She just goes “Oh I’m sure you will,” and they say it so casually like it’s a sure thing or something, but he’s certainly on that list. Gary Oldman, all the typical ones. I mean I’ve gotten to work with Christopher Walken, so I crossed that one off the list, but I wouldn’t mind getting another shot at that with some more serious material than Kangaroo Jack.

Finally, we couldn’t let Michael get away without dishing some information on his upcoming role in Man of Steel, and this is what he told us we can expect: 

Michael Shannon: Well, Superman is about a man that can fly, and is very strong, and he can shoot laser beams out of his eyes, and that’s about all I can say on it.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Michael Shannon for sparing his time for this interview, and be sure to catch his dynamite performance in The Iceman when it opens May 3rd!

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