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Video Interview: Michael Shannon Talks Festival Favorite Take Shelter, General Zod in Man of Steel

Thompson on Hollywood By Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood September 26, 2011 at 5:22AM

With Michael Shannon and director Jeff Nichols' second collaboration, Take Shelter (the first was Shotgun Stories), the pair have hit the zeitgeist of personal and national identity crises. The film kicked off its healthy festival life at Sundance (SPC grabbed it before its premiere, and is releasing the film in NY and LA September 30), where the stellar reviews began (currently 100% on Tomatometer). Despite its track record (including the Critic's Week Grand Prix and Fipresci prizes at Cannes), the film has yet to receive the attention it deserves.
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With Michael Shannon and director Jeff Nichols' second collaboration, Take Shelter (the first was Shotgun Stories), the pair have hit the zeitgeist of personal and national identity crises. The film kicked off its healthy festival life at Sundance (SPC grabbed it before its premiere, and is releasing the film in NY and LA September 30), where the stellar reviews began (currently 100% on Tomatometer). Despite its track record (including the Critic's Week Grand Prix and Fipresci prizes at Cannes), the film has yet to receive the attention it deserves.

Thompson on Hollywood

Perhaps it has something to do with filmmakers' current regard for the apocalypse. This year alone we have Lars von Trier's Melancholia (November 11), which contends with a prophetic depression and the possible end of the world; Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life deals with life, death, and the universe; and Mike Cahill's Another Earth is similarly conflicted with personal crises and the larger-than-life issue of our small human experience within a greater context. Is there room for another story that investigates the individual vs. the world?

Isn't that what all stories are about? Each movie has its own perspective. Take Shelter may be the most personal of this pedigree. As the sophomore effort of Nichols, who has a much quieter touch than the likes of a Von Trier or Malick, it may actually make the clearest statement and be the most unsettling.

Thompson on Hollywood


Shannon's character, Curtis, is a touchstone of stability for his family and friends amidst post-American dream America, but when nightmares force him to question both the health of his mind and the threat of a disastrous storm, he does everything in his power to protect his wife (Jessica Chastain) and daughter from possibility of both. He obsessively builds a storm shelter and investigates whether or not he's inherited his mother's paranoid schizophrenia. "There's a storm coming," Curtis warns his community in a rare instance of losing his composure, and we share his fear that the looming "storm" could manifest itself in a variety of ways. There is an anxiety running through Take Shelter that speaks to its audience in a way that a more overt film can't (yes, pumping gas can be traumatic). This hits closer to home, and Shannon is our exceptional host. But don't let the words "quiet" and "personal" fool you; Take Shelter is an experience you won't soon forget.

Below, Shannon talks working with Nichols, his personal connection to and experience with playing Curtis, and more. We kick it all off talking about his role as General Zod in Man of Steel, which he's currently shooting with director Zack Snyder and Superman Henry Cavill.

Part 1

Part 2

Trailer

This article is related to: Box Office, Directors, Festivals, Genres, Headliners, Studios, Video, Interviews , Fall, Thriller, Drama, Sony/Screen Gems/Sony Pictures Classics, Trailers, Awards


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.