When we spoke to Michael Shannon late last year, he had flown into Los Angeles from Vancouver during a brief break from making the new Superman movie, “Man of Steel.” Shannon began work on the film last August, wrapping the second season of “Boardwalk Empire” on a Wednesday and finding himself on an Illinois farm the next morning to begin life as Superman’s nemesis, General Zod.
The movie isn’t due out until June 14, 2013, but Shannon admits it’s all most people want to talk about. And when he does talk about it, the conversation usually gets him in a “tremendous amount of trouble” with the film’s producers and Warner Bros. gatekeepers.
“I got signaled that less is more,” Shannon said. “It’s kind of curious. It is Superman. So I think everybody kind of knows what happens, you know? Nothing’s going to be a huge shock.”
That said, Shannon understands. Sort of. “Man of Steel” marks his first foray into Comic-Con culture, a realm, he admits, that completely baffles him.
“There are legions of fans salivating, who will literally spend the next year and a half looking at the clock, waiting for this movie,” Shannon said, shrugging his shoulders. “That’s just the way it is. I don’t know why. Me, personally, I’m not a huge fan. I can’t even read comic books. I don’t know which panel to look at next. I hardly ever know what any of the characters are talking about. So, no, I am not one of them. But there are a lot of them. They’re out there. And they really want to talk to me about this movie!”
Which is not to say that Shannon isn’t enjoying himself as Zod. Well … except for the special effects scenes (“that really ugly green [screen] is everywhere … it starts to slowly drive you insane”) that require him to wear a motion-capture suit (“a unique form of humiliation, I must say”). He’s happy (but, again, a bit baffled) that director Zack Snyder thought of him for the role and more than a little daunted by the prospect of following Terence Stamp’s iconic performance from the Christopher Reeve films in 1978 and 1980.
“Stamp was really smart about it,” Shannon says. “He created a sense of gravity by doing very little. It’s hard to feel like you’re not twirling your moustache when you’re playing a villain. Me and Zack are constantly trying to bring as much variety and complexity as possible. He’s very good about that. No matter what I come up with on the first take, he comes up with a good way to explore it and change it up to keep it interesting. You don’t want it to be: ‘I’m a bad guy. I hate you!’
“One thing we’re doing …” And then Shannon stops himself. “You know, I think I’ve already said too much. I don’t want to be getting another one of those phone calls. I have to go back to work on this Monday…”
— Glenn Whipp
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