News Column

'Man of Steel' Michael Shannon a Long Way From Home

June 30, 2013

Press of Atlantic City (NJ)

LEXINGTON, Ky. - This season's big summer superhero blockbuster movie finds Lexington native Michael Shannon in an unusual place: the middle of a big summer superhero blockbuster movie.

Shannon, who first cut his acting teeth at Actors Guild of Lexington and other Central Kentucky stages before heading to Chicago and the silver screen, usually shows up in smaller independent films such as "Mud" and "The Iceman."

But in "Man of Steel," he plays Superman's chief nemesis, General Zod, in a film that aims to launch the iconic superhero back to cinematic prominence next to "Batman" and "The Avengers."

Just don't expect fanboy giddiness about the gig from Shannon, 38. During a phone interview in April, he was characteristically cool.

"I don't know," he said, "in terms of the hoopla around it, I keep my head down; try not to pay too much attention to it. I'm honestly so busy with other things, working on 'Boardwalk' (the HBO series "Boardwalk Empire"), I've got a play this summer, I've got a family, I just don't have time to sit around and get too excited about any of it. I've got to keep working."

And work Shannon has, with a number of films hitting the theaters lately. He still has time for stage work with a production of Sam Shepard's drama "Simpatico" at Shannon's A Red Orchid Theatre in Chicago in July and August.

Shannon's unimpressed veneer should not be translated as disdain. This is not an art-house snob who deigned to do a potential blockbuster.

In fact, Shannon says one of the reasons he wanted to do the movie was to work with director Zack Snyder, known for his work on "Watchmen" (2009), "300" (2006) and "Sucker Punch" (2011).

"He's got a phenomenal visual sensibility that I really appreciate," Shannon says.

The superhero franchise film is unfamiliar territory, but Shannon is in a familiar role: the bad guy. In fact, an article in a recent issue of Rolling Stone calls Shannon "Hollywood's go-to villain," citing his recent performances as a contract killer in "The Iceman" and a disgraced government agent in "Boardwalk Empire."

Shannon said making "Man of Steel"was fun, but "it's still a lot of hard work, training and staging fights and whatnot. So it's serious fun."

If "Man of Steel" lives up to box office expectations, it should seriously raise Shannon's profile.

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