Part II: Q&A with Michael Shannon about his challenging role in ‘The Iceman’

This is Part II of the April 27, 2013 interview with Michael Shannon at Manhattan’s Waldorf Astoria hotel.

Written for Examiner

Michael Shannon
Michael Shannon in ‘The Iceman’ credit: Millenium Entertainment

Examiner Dorri Olds: Would you ever want to sit down for a coffee with killer Richard Kuklinski to ask him anything?
Michael Shannon: Coffee? Uh, no. I watched the unedited video of Richard Kuklinski, which is over 20 hours long, so it’s hard for me to imagine a question that I didn’t already see him answer. Honestly I can’t imagine that he would want to answer any question I asked him anyway. He’d probably think I was an idiot for trying to pretend that I was him.
What did you learn from the interviews?
The interview was the paint I used to paint the painting that you watched. Everything I do in that movie is inspired by that interview.
Was there anything specific?
What surprised me was how sad he was. The initial response to him usually is, “This man is a monster. A cold-blooded ruthless killer, an assassin.” The way it’s edited on HBO, that’s the presentation, but the more I watched him and listened to him talk, the sadder and more tragic I found him to be.
Do you see comedy in your future? Did you have fun reading that hilarious sorority letter?
Yeah, it was a lot of fun. I mean I didn’t go to a university and I was not in any groups so it’s completely foreign to me. I guess that’s what makes it so bizarre and funny is that I don’t even know what this girl is talking about. I don’t even really know what I’m talking about. You know, I’ve done comedy historically. I did an improv in Chicago for years and I’ve been in some films that I would consider comedic. Maybe those films don’t get as much attention as the dramatic ones. I don’t know.
Did you see the video of a guy who had Kuklinski tattooed on his arm?
Oh wow, no. I hope he goes to see the movie. [Smiles] I guess some people are comforted by, wait comforted is not the right word. I’m going to have to think about this. [He squinched his brow and closed his eyes and put his head in his hands for a few minutes before looking up again to continue] Okay, he’s a man, you know like a lot of people, like Taxi Driver and the Network thing, it’s like a guy whose not going to take it anymore. You can’t knock this guy around or he’ll give it to you. The guy getting Kuklinski tattooed on his arm is a guy who wants people to know that you don’t mess with him. Know what I mean? That’s what Kuklinski was trying to do most of his life. He was trying to puff up his own chest to cover up all the anxiety and the trauma that he had dealt with his whole life. Most people want to project an image of being tough and able to deal with the world. Unfortunately, a symbol of that is a Mafia type. Like, ‘Ooooh, Mafia guys, they can handle anything so don’t mess with them.’ People are always trying to feel safer.
How do you feel about seeing yourself on film?
I feel proud of the two movies I just did: “Man of Steel” and “The Iceman.” “Man of Steel” is a very exhilarating movie. It’s a powerful film and it also has surprising gravity to it. It’s definitely intended to be hugely entertaining but it’s not completely without some subtext about morals. I don’t know if I can say I’m more or less proud of either one of them. They’re very different processes. “Iceman” was a very difficult movie to make. We didn’t have a lot of time and we didn’t have a lot of money. There were days when we literally didn’t think we’d be able to shoot the whole movie. We thought we’d have to cut scenes out of the movie because we were running out of time and money. When I watched it and saw that it’s all there, that’s something I’m proud of.
Crime thriller. Rated R. 105 minutes. Opens in New York City this week on Friday, May 3, 2013.
‘The Iceman’ test scene