THE ICEMAN directed by Ariel Vromen, written by Morgan Land and Vromen from the book by Anthony Bruno, with Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Ray Liotta and Chris Evans. An eOne Entertainment release. 106 minutes. Opens Friday (May 17). For venues and times, see listings.
Michael Shannon is a little grumpy right now.
"I'd like to dedicate this interview to Porter Airlines," he says, rubbing his forehead, "who screwed me out of three hours of my life this morning. The flight crew didn't get enough sleep, so we were literally sitting around the airport waiting for them to get a couple of hours."
Time isn't something Shannon can consider a luxury right now. He's at the Toronto Film Festival, and The Iceman is launching tonight - which is why he's sitting with a handful of journalists - but he's also making his Broadway debut later in the week in Grace, opposite Paul Rudd, Ed Asner and Shannon's real-life partner, Kate Arrington.
"Our first preview is Thursday night, yeah," he says, relaxing into the interview. "I was there yesterday for 12 hours and I'll be there for 12 hours tomorrow. I still have glue in my hair because of the prosthetic I wear, and I can't get it out. I need to cut my hair, but I'm still shooting Boardwalk Empire, so I can't until I'm done with that. But, yeah, no, I wouldn't have missed it. I love this festival and I'm excited about tonight."
I wound up seeing Grace onstage a few months later, and Shannon was terrific in it. He's good in The Iceman, too, playing real-life hit man Richard Kuklinski, who claimed to have murdered between 100 and 250 people in the service of the New York Mob. The movie's got problems, but Shannon isn't one of them.
The perpetually busy actor - who also turns up this week in Mud, for his Take Shelter director Jeff Nichols, and will get some major play in next month's Man Of Steel as the fearsome Zod - says he was drawn to The Iceman because of the complexity of its central character.
"I think it's the discrepancy I saw between my reaction to him and how people generally react to him," Shannon says. "I thought it was a very sad story. I didn't think, ‘Oh, I get to be a hit man and wear leather gloves and clothes from the 70s and I'll just be super-cool.' I would watch the videos [of Kuklinski] and I'd think, ‘Oh my god, this is one of the saddest people I've ever seen in my life.'
"In a less extreme way, he reminds me of people I've known in my life who have been prisoners to themselves; even though they have the intellect and the wisdom to know that something's wrong, they can't help themselves. And that, I think, is worth exploring dramatically. And as a person, he merits some thought. I mean, how could you not be curious about how his mind works?"
Someone asks if The Iceman was a more challenging job than usual. Was it hard to shake off a monster like Kuklinski?
"You know, I've been doing this a long time, and I think I'm at a point where I'm not haunted by my work," Shannon says. "I do it and move on. Maybe I went through a similar process [to the one] he probably went through; there's a certain dissociative order there. But I've just got into this thing where it's like they say ‘Action' and it starts; they say ‘Cut' and it's over and you go get a donut or something."