Man of Steel: Michael Shannon on Working with Zack Snyder on the Superman Reboot and Using His "Childlike" Imagination
12.07.11 by BJSprecher
Like the comic book superhero he will be fighting in director Zack Snyder's Man of Steel, actor Michael Shannon's career is on a trajectory headed straight for the stratosphere. The Kentucky-born actor had been turning in memorable performances in supporting roles in movies for more than 15 years before his performance in Revolutionary Road won him an Academy Award nomination, and now he is receiving acclaim again for his leading role in director Jeff Nichols' apocalyptic drama Take Shelter and for his part on the ensemble cast of HBO's Boardwalk Empire. On top of that, Shannon landed the coveted role of the villain General Zod in Snyder's aforementioned Superman franchise reboot, which will undoubtedly expose him to a much wider audience than any of his previous acting gigs.
Despite his success in 2011, Shannon is taking it all in stride, saying in a recent interview with The Province that he has "enjoyed every year" of his career "thus far." When pressed for more details about Man of Steel, Shannon quipped that it's "about Superman" and "pretty hush-hush," but did talk about working with Snyder and why using his imagination is better than what the previous Zod, Terence Stamp, "had to endure."
In a previous interview, Shannon said that he was "confused" about why he would be offered a role in "one of the largest films around," and that meeting Snyder was a "surreal" experience. Now that he is working with Snyder on Man of Steel, Shannon has nothing but nice things to say about the visionary director, describing him as a very "warm-hearted individual" who can relate to the cast and crew "without losing his authority."
[Zack's] a prince, one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met in this business. Very warm-hearted individual and very creative...he doesn’t wear a suit to work, which is nice. He blends in, he likes to feel, to be one of the guys, one of the crew, but he’s able to do that without losing his authority. He doesn’t really crack the whip, he’s friendly and because he’s friendly people want to make him happy.
While some actors have a hard time working on CGI-heavy movies and working against a blue or green screen, Shannon said that, because of the technology available today, he was "spared a lot of drudgery" that his predecessor, Stamp, "had to endure" when shooting the flying scenes as Zod in Superman II. He went on to say that shooting against a green screen simply challenges him as an actor to be more "childlike" and to rely on his imagination instead of sets and props.
Unfortunately for Mr. Stamp, they didn’t have CGI back then. I’m being spared a lot of drudgery that he had to endure. From time to time I’m in a harness, but I don’t think anywhere near as much as he was. It’s no secret that a lot of the film is going to be assisted by computer designed animation.
I guess it can be frustrating not having those tactile elements around you, being surrounded by the green, but you’re always trying to tell a story and be honest and you use your imagination regardless of whether there’s a set or not. In a way it’s even more childlike [with CG] because you’re really relying solely on your imagination, like a little kid in the yard who doesn’t have any props, just inventing something out of thin air. That’s the original impulse for it all to begin with, I think.
Man of Steel was written by David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight) from a story he conceived with producer Christopher Nolan (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises). The cast includes Amy Adams as Lois Lane; Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Superman's adoptive parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent; Laurence Fishburne as Perry White, editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet; and Ayelet Zurer as Superman's Kryptonian mother, Lara Lor-Van.