You may not have heard of Michael
Shannon, and that doesn’t bother him one bit. You might even leave his latest
film, the Eisenhower-era marital drama Revolutionary Road, without taking the time
to pick his name out of credits
that include better-known co-stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet and
Whether or not you could pick
Shannon out of a lineup, it would be impossible to walk away from Revolutionary
Road without being shaken by his
blistering performance as John Givings, a recovering psych-ward patient who
might just be the sanest inhabitant of a Connecticut suburb where desperation
and malaise seem to be universal conditions.
It’s a role that Shannon, 34,
regarded as the ultimate privilege, in part because of his history with the
1961 novel by Richard Yates.
“The first gift my girlfriend ever
gave me was the book Revolutionary Road,
which is a rather unusual gift to give to your significant other,” he says.
“When I say it’s incredible, that really means something because I’m not a very
vigorous reader. I usually get about 20 pages in and I get distracted. But this
book was like lightning, I couldn’t put it down.”
Shannon, a Kentucky native who
began his professional acting career at the Illinois Theatre Center outside
Chicago, is hardly some stranger to the big screen who lucked into a part
alongside the handsome duo that made Titanic the biggest box-office smash in history,
then stole every
one of his scenes with them.
Having earned critical acclaim for
a supporting role in last year’s Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead and
his memorable starring turn in 2006’s Bug, a jarring thriller about a Gulf War
veteran convinced his
body is infested with microscopic vermin, Shannon is hardly one to be
intimidated by the opportunity to perform on the same stage as two of the most
widely recognized actors on the planet.
“Leonardo and Kate don’t act like
movie stars,” he explains. “They go out of their way to make you feel like
you’re on a common ground with them, which is gracious but also intelligent.
They make everyone around them feel comfortable enough to give their very best
performances, and on top of that, they’re incredibly sweet.”
Now, with Revolutionary Road in theaters
and generating him plenty of Oscar buzz – he’s
already been nominated for supporting actor honors by the Chicago Film Critics
Association and the International Press – Shannon is taking a wait-and-see
approach before preparing an acceptance speech.
“It’s like going to an amusement
park for the first time,” he says. “It’s exciting, sure. But I’m reluctant to
buy into something until it’s actually happening. Let’s just say that if I’m
invited to the Oscars, I’ll be sure to RSVP.”