“When you’ve got really great writing, it makes it easy.” – Michael Shannon
Michael Shannon has received his second Oscar nomination in Nocturnal Animals for playing a damaged West Texas detective in Tom Ford’s acclaimed drama. Speaking with the Los Angeles Times, Shannon reveals what he tapped into to play the character, why good writing draws him to a role, and what’s “liberating” about playing a fictional character.
About his “hard to surprise” character, Shannon says, “He’s seen so much over the years. He’s dealt with a lot of gruesome crimes. In order to cope with that kind of darkness, you develop a lot of calluses, I think, psychically.” Shannon continues, “Put it this way, he can’t really be punished any more than his body is doing. What are you going to do to him, put him in prison? He doesn’t care. He doesn’t have a lot of time anyway.”
While Shannon has a history of playing stoic, emotionally damaged characters, he says that he connected with his character because of Ford’s writing. He explains, “From Day 1, I felt pretty locked into [the character]. It’s pretty mysterious. I can’t really say why or how. Maybe it’s because the writing’s so good. When you’ve got really great writing, it makes it easy. This was such a great read and it was so vivid from the get-go, I just seemed to find it pretty easily.”
Though Shannon has recently played real-life figures in Loving and Elvis & Nixon, he admits that he enjoys exploring his options with fictional characters as an actor. He says, “Oh yeah, those characters are fun. They’re imaginary. They welcome any kind of interpretation you put on them. Right now, I’m playing a real person [George Westinghouse in The Current War], trying to be accurate. With [fictional]characters like that, you can let your subconscious dictate where you go. It’s kind of liberating.”