Character actor Michael Shannon earned his reputation as an intense, magnetic performer on the Chicago stage before making the leap to features in the early 1990s. Once there, he captured the attention of audiences with small but significant turns in dramatic features such as "Jesus' Son" (1999) and "Vanilla Sky" (2001), while also displaying a knack for offbeat comedy in "Cecil B. Demented" (2000) and "Kangaroo Jack" (2003). His talent for emotionally and psychologically conflicted characters eventually led to larger roles in independent features such as "The Woodsman" (2004) and most notably "Bug" (2007), where he hypnotized viewers with his portrayal of a schizophrenic whose delusions overwhelm the life of a fragile young divorcee. Critical acclaim for his work in "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" (2007) and an award-winning turn in Sam Mendes' "Revolutionary Road" (2008) along with a showy turn as a sleazy manager in the biopic "The Runaways" (2010) signaled his status as one of the most accomplished supporting actors in Hollywood. Mainstream attention came to Shannon through his role as supervillain General Zod in DC Comics films "Man of Steel" (2013) and "Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice" (2016) before his breakthrough role in Tom Ford's "Nocturnal Animals" (2016) landed him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination.
Born Aug. 7, 1974 in Lexington, KY, Shannon made his professional theater debut in "Winterset" at the Illinois Theater Center. He became deeply involved with theater groups throughout the state, including the acclaimed Steppenwolf Theater Company, but focused much of his energy on the Red Orchid Theater, which he helped to co-found in 1993. As a member of the company, Shannon originated roles in several acclaimed productions, including "Killer Joe" (1998), "Man from Nebraska" (2003) and "Bug" (2003) - each of which would eventually bring him to Broadway and London's West End. "Bug," in particular, helped to cement Shannon in the minds of critics and fans; a harrowing two-person play about a young woman and the mentally unstable drifter who overtakes her life with delusions of insect infestations and government surveillance established him as a formidable presence on the American stage.
Shannon's film and television career ran concurrent with his work on the Chicago and New York stages. After making his small-screen debut in a pair of 1992 television movies, he broke into features with a brief appearance as a groom in Harold Ramis' 1993 comedy "Groundhog Day." His theater work consumed much of his time for the next three years, but by 1996, he was landing small but important parts in independent and Hollywood features. Most of these played to his intense, brooding energy; he was a drug addict in the indie comedy-drama "Hellcab" (1998), a gun-toting psychopath in "Jesus' Son" (1999), and a Vietnam-era sergeant in "Tigerland" (1999). Occasionally, Shannon directed that energy into offbeat comic turns, like his Fassbinder-worshipping guerilla filmmaker in John Waters' "Cecil B. Demented" (2000) or the laconic airman Lt. Gooz Wood in Michael Bay's epic "Pearl Harbor" (2001).
As Shannon's theater commitments grew, so too did the size of his roles in features, as well as the stature of the projects themselves. Many of these roles were unsympathetic, like the abusive boyfriend of Eminem's mother in "8 Mile" (2003) or a trigger-happy ex-con in "Bad Boys II" (2003), though on occasion, they had a lighthearted side, like his henchman to Christopher Walken's mobster in "Kangaroo Jack" (2003) or the cartoonish leader of a white supremacist gang in "Let's Go to Prison" (2006). From time to time, Shannon played characters on the right side of the law - most notably a therapist who attempts to treat Kevin Bacon's convicted child molester in "The Woodsman" (2004) - but for the most part, he was relegated to the dark side in films like "Criminal" (2004) and the offbeat period horror film "Dead Birds" (2004).
In 2006, Shannon reprised his turn as the disturbed lead in William Friedkin's film adaptation of "Bug." Though seen by few during its brief theatrical release, Shannon's hypnotic performance as a man whose plunge into insanity also destroys an innocent woman (Ashley Judd) was singled out for critical praise. The write-ups seemed to give a boost to Shannon's film career, which soon included notable and more multi-layered turns for Oliver Stone with "World Trade Center" (2006), Curtis Hanson with "Lucky You" (2007) and Sidney Lumet with "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" (2007) added to his resume. In the former, he played a Marine who helped to rescue the film's leads from the rubble of the collapsed buildings, while in Lumet's underrated thriller, he is the duplicitous brother of a murdered thief who attempts to blackmail Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke for a share of a robbery haul. Lost amongst these high-profile pictures was "Shotgun Stories" (2008), an affecting small-scale drama that cast Shannon in a rare lead as one of four half-brothers trapped in a violent feud after the death of their father. Though rarely screened outside of the festival and art-house circuits, it found itself on several reviewers' best-of lists at the end of 2008.
That same year, Shannon received some of the best press of his career for performances on stage and in film. He was a guilt-ridden writer who struggles with both substance abuse and the memory of his mother's physical suffering in an off-Broadway production of Stephen Adly Guirgus' "The Little Flower of East Orange" for director Philip Seymour Hoffman. And in Sam Mendes' film "Revolutionary Road" (2008), he once again displayed his talent for unbalanced characters, starring as a young man in a mental hospital who is the only member of a 1950s-era bedroom community to see the hypocrisy and deceit behind the happy marriage of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Shannon again yielded considerable critical praise and netted acting trophies from both the Satellite Awards and the Palm Springs International Film Festival, as well as an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. With his profile sufficiently raised, Shannon had his choice of projects, and dove into work with several critically acclaimed performances. He played an alcoholic detective opposite Amy Ryan in "The Missing Person" (2009) and a cop overshadowed by the scenery-gnashing antics of Nicolas Cage in Werner Herzog's "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" (2009).
Shannon's next collaboration with Herzog on "My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?" (2009) received better reviews, based on a real-life murder case where a San Diego man, inspired by an ancient play, killed his mother. Although the challenging film did not garner universal acclaim, Shannon's wild-eyed conviction to his part could not be denied. He again brought his trademark weirdo enthusiasm and killer instincts to inhabit legendary (and infamous) manager Kim Fowley in the band biopic "The Runaways" (2010). As the man who brought together Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) and Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) to form the all-girl hard rock band, Shannon was mesmerizing as the foul-mouthed, unscrupulous and fascinating Fowley. His appearance in another major studio film, the comic book adaptation "Jonah Hex" (2010), found him overseeing a gladiator circus in the supernatural-tinged Western starring Josh Brolin. He rounded out the year with a starring role on the much-anticipated HBO series, "Boardwalk Empire" (2010-14), where he played a zealous Prohibition agent who uses brutal violence to uphold the law and his Protestant faith.
Back in features, Shannon earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination in the Best Actor category for his performance as a young husband and father plagued with apocalyptic visions in the tense indie drama "Take Shelter" (2011), which reunited him with "Shotgun Stories" director Jeff Nichols. The pair collaborated yet again on "Mud" (2012), though Shannon appeared in only a supporting capacity. Meanwhile, he clearly had fun playing the tightly wound corrupt cop hounding Joseph Gordon-Levitt's rebellious bike messenger in the Manhattan-set chase movie "Premium Rush" (2012), and he brought a chilly air of menace to his lead role as a hired killer in "The Iceman" (2012). The following year, he took on his most high-profile part to date, portraying the villainous alien militant General Zod in the 2013 Superman franchise reboot, "Man of Steel," which he reprised in the sequel "Batman V. Superman: Dwn of Justice" (2016). Supporting roles in foreclosure drama "99 Homes" (2015), romantic drama "Freeheld" (2015) and "Loving" (2016) followed before Shannon scored a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his role as a police detective in Tom Ford's twisty thriller "Nocturnal Animals" (2016). That same year, Shannon starred as Elvis Presley in the indie comedy-drama "Elvis and Nixon" (2016), about the peculiar real-life Oval Office meeting between the singer and the president.
Cast (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Made professional theater debut in "Winterset" at Illinois Theater Center
Made small screen debut in CBS TV movie "Angel Street"
Co-founded Red Orchid Theater
Made film debut in Harold Ramis' "Groundhog Day"
Originated role of Peter Evans in "Bug" at Gate Theatre in London
Played a drug addict in indie film "Hellcab"
Appeared as a gun-toting psychopath in "Jesus' Son"
Cast as a Vietnam-era sergeant in "Tigerland"
Co-starred in John Waters' "Cecil B. Demented"
Featured in Michael Bay's epic "Pearl Harbor"
Portrayed the abusive boyfriend of Eminem's mother in "8 Mile"
Reprised role for off-Broadway production of "Bug"
Played a therapist treating a convicted child molester (Kevin Bacon) in "The Woodsman"
Co-starred in Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center"
Made directorial debut at Red Orchid Theater for Eugene Ionesco's "Hunger and Thirst"
Reprised role as a mentally disturbed drifter in William Friedkin's adaptation of "Bug"
Cast opposite Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke in "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead"
Directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman in off-Broadway production of Stephen Adly Guirgus' "The Little Flower of East Orange"
Portrayed the institutionalized son of a local real estate agent (Kathy Bates) in Sam Mendes' "Revolutionary Road"; earned Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor
Appeared in Western action/drama "Jonah Hex" opposite Josh Brolin and Megan Fox
Played the manager and producer of "The Runaways," starring Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett and Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie
Cast as Agent Nelson Van Alden on HBO series "Boardwalk Empire"
Cast in action drama "Machine Gun Preacher," starring Gerard Butler
Starred as a young husband and father plagued by apocalyptic visions in "Take Shelter"
Played a corrupt NYC cop opposite Joseph Gordon-Levitt in action thriller "Premium Rush"
Portrayed the title contract killer in "The Iceman"
Debuted as Zod in "Man of Steel"
Played a cutthroat real estate businessman in the critically-acclaimed dramatic thriller "99 Homes"
Landed a supporting role in the holiday comedy "The Night Before"
Reprised role of Zod in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice"
Appeared in bi-racial romance drama "Loving"
Cast in lead role in sci-fi drama "Midnight Special"
Appeared as Lee Keller in "Wolves"
Portrayed Elvis Presley in "Elvis & Nixon"
Played Bobby Andes in "Nocturnal Animals"
Cast as the villain, Richard Strickland, in Guillermo Del Toro's arresting fairy tale "The Shape of Water"
Co-starred with Hilary Swank in Elizabeth Chomko's writing and directing debut, the drama "What They Had"
Played real-life FBI hostage negotiator Gary Noesner on the mini-series "Waco"
Starred opposite Katherine Waterston in the dark drama "State Like Sleep"