It’s been an exciting year for Michael Shannon on screen. First, Midnight Special, Elvis & Nixon. And now, Loving and Nocturnal Animals.
In Tom Ford’s thriller, Shannon plays a law enforcement officer in the “story-within-a-story” at the dark core the of film. His character Bobby Andes sports a huge stetson as he drives through Texas to help Jake Gyllenhaal’s character find the crazies who kidnapped his family. When Shannon’s detective enters, he commands the scene, and there’s a fantastic confrontation with Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s terrifying character.
Aside from Ford’s Nocturnal Animals, Shannon makes a brief appearance in Loving, reuniting him again with Jeff Nichols after their incredible collaboration in Shalter. I caught up with Shannon briefly to talk about Bobby Andes and his year so far.
Awards Daily: What was it about this script that popped out for you?
Michael Shannon: When I first read the script, I was taken aback because it’s quite brutal. But, it did pose an interesting question. As a father myself, often times I contemplate what I would do if my family were threatened. I think we all like to imagine we’d be heroes. In a moment, you can change from being a hero to a failure. Everything happens so quickly. I was very moved by Jake’s character. Tony going through that experience. Bobby was an angel in a way, helping him deal with the trauma that he was experiencing, and helped him in his search for some sort of justice.
Really, it was meeting with Tom that sealed the deal. He’s such an impressive person, and there’s no way around it. I’m very turned on by other people’s passion for things. If somebody can convince me that they’re making something because they can’t imagine the world without it, then I’m susceptible then.
AD: How did you get to Bobby?
MS: I looked at the circumstances. Bobby is a guy who is at the finish line. He’s seen it all, and you can’t surprise him. He’s absorbed a lot of pain, a lot of other people’s pain. I thought a lot about how people in positions like that, absorb so much trauma from what happens to other people, and he’s been punishing himself with cigarettes for years because that’s what helps him with the stress of what he’s been going through.
Ironically, as we’ve been told, that catches up with him in a bad way. So, because of all of that, and that this could be his last case, he puts everything that he has into him.
AD: I liked the diner scene, when we finally get that insight into who he is.
MS: There’s a lot of regret and he’s at a point when he’s wondering if he’s going to have a legacy, and if he made a difference, and if this is a chance for him to make a difference.
AD: How was it shooting this gritty part of the film?
MS: We shot in Eastern California, in the desert. There wasn’t much there, just rocks and dirt. It was intense, particularly in the car which got pretty hot sometimes. It always felt very authentic even though we weren’t in Texas.
AD: I have several favorite scenes. The first is the confrontational scene, and the toilet scene where you discover the wild Aaron character on the toilet. What do you recall about that?
MS: We shot that towards the end of the shoot. It was one of the last scenes we shot, and we already knew each other, so that helped. I don’t know if it helped Aaron or not. Bobby has seen it all, and this is another lunatic doing something stupid. Bobby isn’t impressed by it, or much of anything.
I admire and applaud Aaron’s willingness to do it. Everything he had to do was tricky, and even though he’s playing the baddie, he still had to be vulnerable and so he had to think a lot of dark thoughts that make you kind of crazy. He was so gung-ho.
AD: Is your character a good guy?
MS: The way Bobby looks at it is irrelevant. All he wants to do is help Tony. I don’t think he cares what anyone else thinks or how they judge him. I think he knows what he thinks is right, and what he thinks is right is that there is some sort of retribution for what happened. He’s not claiming to be any moral authority. He’s not a role model, a life coach or any shit. It’s just old fashioned an eye for an eye thing.
AD: I love how the story is told, in three parts. Were you sad you didn’t get to do a scene with Amy?
MS: I adore her, and she’s one of the top actresses out there. But, I don’t think our characters would have much to say to each other.
AD : You’re working with Guillermo Del Toro, and you have a cameo in Loving. When was that done?
MS: I was there for one day. We shot the scene in order, and we shot the scene in the yard first. It was also the hardest to shoot because it started to rain, and then we kept stopping and starting. Jeff wasn’t sure whether to shoot it in the rain or not. Once we got to the dinner scene, that went fast. We did the couch scene, and I was done.
AD: I love this relationship with Jeff.
MS: We’re very close. I said I’d do whatever he wants me to do. He’s my guy.
AD: You also played Elvis earlier this year.
MS: It was scary and frightening. But once we got into the rhythm of shooting, I worked hard on it. Even when I wasn’t on set, I’d listen to interviews, read up on him. I didn’t know very much about him before I did that movie, so it was a very eye opening experience just getting to know about his personal life and behind the scenes. I spent a lot of time with his best friend, Jerry Schilling. Originally Jerry and I were going to spend a few days together. We went to Memphis. But then, I asked him to spend time on set. This movie meant a lot to him, as it also had to do with his relationship to Elvis, so it was important to me that he be happy with it. He was around a lot, and it was helpful.
AD: You’ve had a year.
MS: I’m happy with all the films without the risk of sounding arrogant. I was very happy with the way Midnight Special turned out, and Elvis & Nixon. I was thrilled with Nocturnal Animals and Loving. There’s not one that rises above the other, and I’m grateful for all of them.
AD: I told Tom how this film sticks with you.
MS: Tom wanted to do just that. Make a film you wouldn’t forget.
AD: I know Tom Ford is all about his detail, so, what should we pay attention to.
MS: The hat. That hat is enormous. I also did a trick with the clothes, as I got sicker, my costumes got larger. It was a nice touch as I’m wasting away.
AD: It’s all in that detail that we notice.