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Michael Shannon's Best Roles

Updated on April 25, 2013

Michael Shannon may be getting a mainstream breakthrough with his role in Man of Steel, but this big-budget-blockbuster follows a string of lesser-known quirky roles. He has attempted many diverse characters from an outspoken rock and roll record producer to a fuming neurotic Prohibition inspector to a struggling construction worker trying to protect his family from a storm. Michael Shannon's style of acting can be compared to Johnny Depp's if Depp's humor is replaced with cynicism. With his signature low, insidious voice Michael Shannon would be my pick for the Joker if he was ever recast for a sequel to The Dark Knight.

Like Johnny Depp, Michael Shannon was born in Kentucky. There he participated in theatre productions until he began landing small roles in films like Pearl Harbor, Vanilla Sky, 8 Mile, and Groundhog Day. Shannon reveals little in interviews preferring to maintain his privacy and says he never wanted to be famous but just enjoys acting.

Here are some of Michael Shannon's best performances:

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Agent Nelson Van Alden in Boardwalk Empire

Set in Atlantic City, this Prohibition-era drama on HBO combines excellent acting, tension, violence, and intriguing plots. Michael Shannon plays the uptight Agent Van Alden, a Prohibition enforcer for the government, whose anger is always simmering just beneath the surface. Van Alden is a religious man who believes in his work but still has trouble resisting the vice that surrounds him in Atlantic City. His well-paced outbursts of violence help to hook the audience into watching the show. Shannon stars alongside Steve Buscemi and Michael Pitt who play Irish-American gangsters.

Kim Fowley in The Runaways

This may be my favorite Michael Shannon role. Shannon delivers an energetic performance of the eccentric and nefarious Kim Fowley, The Runaway's record producer. The movie is set in the 1970s and is meticulously directed by Floria Sigismondi who has an eye and an ear for detail. It tells the story of Joan Jett's first band, The Runaways, and their troubled rise to fame. Shannon's Fowley is a good foil to the timid Cherie Currie played by Dakota Fanning and the shy Jett played by Kristen Stewart. Shannon shows no remorse as he torments the rock and roll band into shape.

John Givings in Revolutionary Road

John is an unemployed mathematician who has just returned to quaint 1950s America from a mental asylum where he received numerous shock treatments after a nervous breakdown. John is disillusioned with the way people live. Based on the Richard Yate's novel, Revolutionary Road exposes the hypocrisies of the American dream. Most of the movie is about Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) and April(Kate Winslet) Wheeler's marriage, but John's monologues are definitely the highlight of the movie and they have a profound influence on the Wheelers who are torn between conforming to suburban life and moving to France. Shannon was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for this role.

Curtis in Take Shelter

Take Shelter is an independent movie about a troubled man named Curtis who is seeing visions of a storm. He may either be prophetic or schizophrenic and feels he must take measures to protect his family while he investigates his family history for signs of schizophrenia. Meanwhile the people around him become more and more concerned about his erratic behavior. This is one of Shannon's few roles as the lead actor and he pulls it off well. Vivid storm effects and a spectral score complement Shannon's performance.

Hopefully Shannon's newfound success with Man of Steel will land him many more interesting roles in the future. His latest appearance is on doing a hilarious reading of angry sorority girl Rebecca Martinson's e-mail to her sorority sisters.

What is your favorite Michael Shannon character?

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