Michael Shannon’s catalog of ethically and psychologically complicated characters, continues to amaze. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his scene stealing role in Revolutionary Road and has shown up in countless, but definitive, supporting roles and small cameos in off-the-map indies as well as blockbusters like Pearl Harbor and Bad Boys II. Here is a list of my all time favorite roles and mandatory viewing for anyone who wants to see a great actor carving out a niche.
Bug (2006)Director William Friedkin saw Shannon on the British stage in the same role and cast him in the film version opposite Ashley Judd. Hollywood wanted a bigger name, but Friedkin knew he had the perfect fit with Shannon who seamlessly moved from stage to the sound stage in this tricky little flick that is all about psychological terror and paranoia. Shannon captivates as a mentally ill veteran who believes he's been infested with parasites. Sadly Bug was promoted as a horror flick and lost scads of potential audience members.
Take Shelter (2011)
The guy who specializes in tormented souls delivers the goods here in subdued brilliance. This is not an over-the-top performance, but rather a nuanced study of paranoiac madness supported by the kindness of love. It’s a testament to excellence when an actor can yank all that inner-demon-angst inside and make us want to help from this side of the screen.
My Son My Son What Have Ye Done? (2009)
Produced by David Lynch and directed by Werner Herzog who returns to his 70s-style expressionistic filmmaking. In a performance based on a true story, Shannon plays an actor in a Greek tragedy who takes his role way too literally and kills his mother with a sword, then is holed up in a hostage situation.
Revolutionary Road (2008)
Here he plays an insightful yet mentally disturbed dude, the unhinged raving nut-bag intellectual. Shannon’s character tells Frank and April Wheeler (Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet) that their marriage is doomed. Appropriately, he was introduced for his Academy Awards nomination by Christopher Walken.
8 mile (2002)
He gets to holler at and threaten Eminem, but that’s nothing compared with having a sex scene with Kim Basinger as her abusive boyfriend.
A galvanizing dream cast for this remake of the Russian flick 13 Tzameti co-stars Mickey Rourke, Jason Staham and Ray Winstone to name a few. Shannon is the grand master impresario (or emcee) overseeing a vicious game of Russian roulette.
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007)
Shannon’s part is extremely pivotal in this highly overlooked Sidney Lumet film. He plays a grieving man turned blackmailer who demands payment after his sister is killed in a robbery gone awry.
Grand Theft Parsons (2003)
Shannon plays a hippie-van-driving stoner who helps drive a rock star’s dead body across the desert. Based on a true story and a ton of folklore, this is the tale of the late great Gram Parsons’ (of Flying Burrito Brothers and Byrds fame) wish to be burned at Joshua Tree.
The Runaways (2010)
Here Mike goes over the top for a supremely manic, high energy, wacky take on sleaze ball, Kim Fowley, the L.A. musical producer who formed and mentored The Runaways and many other bands.
Boardwalk Empire (2010-?)
In this ongoing HBO series Shannon rules as Nelson Van Alden, a seething and conflicted, creepily pious prohibition agent attempting to thwart Atlantic City's rampant bootlegging operations.