From the GATW Archives: Interview: THE MISSING PERSON actor Michael Shannon


Michael Shannon’s one humble dude. You probably wouldn’t expect that after seeing some of his insane performances (BUG, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD). I spoke with Michael on the phone last week about his recent role, THE MISSING PERSON, and the man’s answers to all my questions were very honest, very cool, and very well-formed. Check the out the interview, as well as the film’s official synopsis, poster, and trailer after the jump!

THE MISSING PERSON’s official synopsis: “Writer/Director Noah Buschel’s third feature, The Missing Person, stars Michael Shannon as John Rosow, a private detective hired to tail a man, Harold Fullmer, on a train from Chicago to Los Angeles. Rosow gradually uncovers Harold’s identity as a missing person; one of the thousands presumed dead after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Persuaded by a large reward, Rosow is charged with bringing Harold back to his wife in New York City against his will. Ultimately Rosow must confront whether the decision to return Harold to a life that no longer exists is the right one. The Missing Person co-stars Academy Award © Nominee Amy Ryan and features a strong supporting cast including Margaret Colin, Linda Emond, Yul Vazquez and John Ventimigli

Missing Person Poster

GATW: Can you talk about how you got involved with THE MISSING PERSON? How you met up with Noah [Buschel, director], and what that process was like?

Michael Shannon: Well basically, it was through Amy Ryan [co-star]. Amy is a friend of mine and we had worked together on another project and Noah had written THE MISSING PERSON and he was trying to figure out who would be right for the part of John and Amy suggested me. And there was a reading, I guess they were trying to drum up some financing for the movie, and they had a reading of the screenplay. So Noah asked me to do the reading and he enjoyed what I did at the reading, I guess, enough to ask me to do the film and it was pretty much that simple. But Amy Ryan definitely was responsible for getting Noah and I in the same room.

GATW: For your role, you play an alcoholic private investigator; did you hang out with any PIs? What type of research did you do for the role?

MS: Well, I actually didn’t hang out with any detectives because I felt like was John was a pretty unique character in a pretty unique situation. You know the thing about the film, at least what I see when I watch it, is that it has a very dream-like kind of imaginary quality to it. I think a lot of this story is actually, potentially going on in John’s head, I don’t necessarily think it’s something that’s actually happening. I mean I wouldn’t want to take that possibility away from anybody watching it, but just in the way I personally approached it, I felt like it was much more than trying to convince anybody that I was a detective or that I understood what it was like to be a detective. It was more about— what exactly had happened to this guy? What was wrong with him? Why was he living in a dumpy little apartment in Chicago in a drunken haze? And going on that journey.

GATW: This film is obviously an indie film and it’s fantastic. What about indie films draws you to it?

MS: There’s a lot about it actually, generally on an independent film you have to work with fewer resources in a shorter amount of time. Which is a good thing for the actors because on a film that has a lot of money and a lot of time, you spend a lot of time sitting around. But on a lower budget film you don’t spend much time sitting around at all, you show up and you’re working all day and you go home at night with a sense of accomplishment as opposed to just feeling like you sat around all day long doing nothing. So that’s enjoyable.

I also feel like, if THE MISSING PERSON was a big budget studio film it would be a totally different film and Noah wouldn’t have been able to take a lot of the risks that he takes. It’s a very unusual movie and Noah makes a lot of decisions in it that are unconventional and can be confusing or unclear, [things] you have to think about, you have to meet the movie halfway. In a studio movie, it’s all about making sure that you don’t have to think about anything, that you just sit there and are excited the whole time. So I guess those are a couple of the differences I enjoy.

GATW: You just answered my follow up [question], I was going to ask that you have JONAH HEX coming up and if you could talk about indie [films] versus big budget. But I guess you just answered that with big budget you just go in, eat your popcorn and have some fun.

MS: Although JONAH HEX—for a studio movie—it was not a big budget, they were kind of roughing it down there. On JONAH HEX I was only there a couple of days, I just kind of popped in and out and had fun doing a couple of little scenes. But that was a hard shoot, I kind of know Josh [Brolin, star of JONAH HEX] a little bit, and I talked to him about it and he really had to bust his butt on that [movie] to get it done.

GATW: I recently saw [Werner] Herzog’s BAD LIEUTENANT, which is really awesome and you recently did MY SON, MY SON WHAT HAVE YE DONE with him and it’s garnering a ton of buzz but it’s getting a really limited release. Do you know if it’s going to have a wider release after it’s New York December release?

MS: The film MY SON, MY SON WHAT HAVE YE DONE has played in, I believe, three film festivals. It has played at Venice, Toronto and the Telluride [film festivals]. And the critical response has been…not entirely unfavorable from everyone but largely somewhat unfavorable from most people so, I think that’s had an effect on it. It’s a very unusual film, but I don’t know what that would surprise anybody. I mean it’s a Werner Herzog film. I’ve seen most of films and most of his films are extremely unconventional. But for some reason, this one is really seeming to irritate some people. I don’t know why, I don’t know what they expected when they walked into the theater. So I guess what they’re trying to do, the strategy right now, is to bring it out in New York and see how the general public feels about it here and then if people are digging it then maybe they’ll try to branch it out. I mean Werner’s films are not blockbusters, they never have been, and usually people discover them a few years after they come out.

GATW: For my last question, in REVOLUTIONARY ROAD you were this awesome, crazy guy. Same with BUG. Do you like playing those types of characters or is it just what you audition for and that’s what you got?

MS: I’d say it’s a mixture of the two. I mean, I can’t speak for everyone but I find that a life can be pretty challenging and difficult sometimes, and that people struggle. So the characters I gravitate towards usually are struggling with a challenge of some sort or another. I think that’s kind of why drama exists in the first place. I don’t know how interesting or compelling people who don’t have any problems are. I mean I guess that would be nice if the world was filled with people who didn’t have any problems but I don’t know interesting it would be. So yeah, I guess I’m drawn to people who are suffering in some way or another.

From the GATW Archives: Sundance 2011 Review: TAKE SHELTER


Rating: 5/5

Writer/DirectorJeff Nichols
CastMichael ShannonKaty MixonJessica Chastain
StudioSony Pictures Classics

Since I’ve been attending film festivals, there’s always been that one film that that leaves me slack-jawed. It sticks in my head for the duration of my stay, and all I want to do is talk about it. If time allows, I’ll catch a second or third screening of it. The fun part is taking fresh eyes with me, peeking at their reactions during certain parts, and talking about it as we exit the theater. This year at Sundance 2011, that film is Jeff Nichols’ TAKE SHELTER.

TAKE SHELTER questions dreams, faith, and trust, and challenges paranoia, fear, and anxiety. Curtis LaForche (Shannon) is living a fairly good life. He has a roof over his head, a good job as a crew chief for a sand mining company, a loving wife named Samantha (Jessica Chastain), and an adorable young daughter named Hannah (Tova Stewart). The only hiccup in their road is Hannah’s disability — she’s recently become deaf, and Curtis’ health insurance at his new job hasn’t kicked in just yet, and she needs a cochlear implant.

From the first shot in the film, Curtis starts having terrifying dreams. They start with a wicked storm, pouring rain that resembles motor oil, and they end with him awakening to screams and real pain. Each one gets progressively worse. Are they predicting the end of the world? Appearing so undeniably real, Curtis starts to confuse real life with the dream world.  As paranoia starts to take a toll, he begins to build a living quarters underground, risking his job security, marriage, and friends.

TAKE SHELTER stars Michael Shannon, which hammered a “sold” sign in my brain once I read he was attached. Shannon is the greatest underrated actor (have you seen him in THE RUNAWAYS? — powerful) we’ve ever had,  which is why it’s so wonderful to see him get top billing as he career continues. What makes him so great is those creepy eyes — he’s proven to the world that you don’t need a pretty face to have a solid acting career. I could watch this guy stare at a wall for 90 minutes and still be captivated. In TAKE SHELTER, he’s a six foot stick of star dynamite. When he walks into the tornado shelter for the first time, he just sits on a bench, looking around at the walls. We don’t know what he’s thinking, only that something big is about to happen. It’s captivating.

TAKE SHELTER displays Curtis and Samantha’s love for each other and Hannah through their actions. When Curtis comes home from work late, he still takes off his shoes at the back door so he won’t wake Hannah up. Samantha still whispers, even though they both know she can’t hear them. The love her as much as the universe allows. As for each other, their love is tested on multiple occasions and it’s up to them to stand by each other and show the world. When Curtis thinks he’s might be catching a mild-turned-major case of schizophrenia, love is really put on the thin ice. These nightmares haunt and eat at him.

TAKE SHELTER is proof that you don’t need to heavily rely on CGI to make a good story about the apocalypse. Yes, there is limited CGI in the film (digital hat nod to Hydraulx), but it’s only there to give our story a push. When we get to our visual effects scenes, it’s impressive. One scene in particular I will not spoil, but  know that it’s something you’d expect out of a Chris Nolan flick. This film though, is driven by its central characters, Curtis and Samantha. As mentioned above, Shannon has no problem keeping my interest. Neither did Chastain - she gives us her all as Samantha and it’s powerful. By the end of the film, we are aching to see The LaForche’s make it through everything.

This film is is not supposed to be focused on a possible apocalypse. This is a story about love, communication, and family. When TAKE SHELTER takes refuge in theaters sometime this year, grab your significant other’s hand, and lead them to see this.