But on this call, we've caught up with the actor to talk about another performance, one that should surprise audiences who've only seen his more physically imposing turns in those aforementioned films. In the Oscar-nominated short "Death Of A Shadow," Schoenaerts plays Nathan Rijckx, a deceased World War I soldier, stuck in limbo between life and death, who earns a second chance when he's tasked to photograph the shadows of 10,000 dying men and women. As he nears the end of his obligation, a turn of events could alter his path forever. It's a remarkably accomplished production from director Tom Van Avermaet, who creates both a fantasy world and period-based setting, imaginatively and realistically, with what we could only imagine is the kind of budget shorts don't get very often. And as Schoenaerts tell us, getting those finances together kept the movie from cameras for quite a while.
Shot between "Bullhead" and "Rust And Bone," it's been a long journey for the short, but Schoenaerts' faith in the director matched his admiration in the material. "I liked the universe that he portrayed and I liked the way he dealt with themes like life and death," he explained. "In the screenplay, he treated it in a very sensitive and original way, and I saw his [film school] graduating film, so I knew what his visual vocabulary was like. So I was absolutely convinced that he would make a really nice film."
"I wanna dive into again, I want to work, I want to have my hands in the mud, I want to be on set. The last thing I shot was 'Blood Ties' with Guillaume Canet and we wrapped that up in June," Schoenaerts said, referring to the upcoming crime thriller co-starring an ensemble that includes Clive Owen, Billy Crudup, Mila Kunis, James Cann, Marion Cotillard and Zoe Saldana. "So we're almost a year further, I gotta get to it. I wanna work."
"I think me and my agent are pretty clear about it that that's not the thing that I'm really looking out for," he said. "Of course, there's some good blockbusters out there as well, and I'm open to any exciting experience, it's not that I'm saying no to it right away. But that's not what I'm looking for."
What he is looking for seems to be stories and characters that are compelling both on the page and on screen, and undoubtedly his choices have delivered a body of work that is becoming as strong as it diverse. There's lots ahead for Schoenaerts as this awards season comes to a close, but the last stop will be the Oscars tomorrow night, where "Death Of A Shadow" will be hoping to cap off a strong year.
The Oscar-nominated short films are now playing in select theaters around the country. Go here to see participating theaters and dates.