Distinguished character actor Michael Shannon essayed a diverse series of characterizations onscreen, beginning just after the start of the new millennium. A veteran member of Chicago's experimental Red Orchid theatrical troupe, Shannon specialized in small, multidimensional portrayals that added to the overall effectiveness of each project -- per his contributions to Vanilla Sky (2001), 8 Mile (2002), and Bad Boys II (2003). Whenever necessary, Shannon imperceptibly blended into the material at hand. He played a therapist in Nicole Kassell's psychodrama The Woodsman (2004), yet by virtue of his emotional intensity and eccentric look, Shannon evinced an ability to dominate with his onscreen presence, as well. Nowhere was this tendency more evident than in William Friedkin's psychological thriller Bug (2006). As adapted by Tracy Letts from his own stage play, the film concerns a shabby and skanky drifter (Shannon, reprising his role from the play) with a serious complex of delusional schizophrenia, who believes that bugs are crawling beneath his skin and enters a terrifying pas de deux with a young waitress (Ashley Judd). Shannon followed it up with a memorable contribution to Oliver Stone's World Trade Center -- as a military man desperate to help in any way possible during the 9/11 tragedy -- and Sidney Lumet's Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007), a crime thriller about two brothers who team up to rob a jewelry store. Shannon grabbed his first taste of stardom with his breakout role as a mentally disturbed man in Sam Mendes' adaptation of Revolutionary Road. His truthful, menacing character cut through the main characters' self-deception, and Shannon's off-kilter delivery won him glowing notices from critics, as well as a nomination for Best Supporting Actor from the Academy. He worked steadily after that success appearing in The Greatest, Jonah Hex, and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. In 2010 he had a pair of critical successes that included his work as a repressed federal agent on the HBO series Boardwalk Empire, and his portrayal of the eccentric rock entrepreneur Kim Fowler in The Runaways. In 2011 he again earned raves for his work a schizophrenic in Take Shelter. His intensity got him cast relatively often as bad guys, something he put to great effect in the 2012 action film Premium Rush and in the criminal biopic The Iceman.
Biography by Nathan Southern
- Started acting so he could get out of playing sports.
- Is a founding member of A Red Orchid Theatre in Chicago, where he originated the role of Peter in Bug. He went on to reprise the role, opposite Ashley Judd, in the 2007 film version.
- Made his film debut in 1993's Groundhog Day.
- Portrayed the abusive boyfriend of Eminem's mother (played by Kim Basinger) in 8 Mile.
- During an emotional scene in his audition for Revolutionary Road, the casting director told him that she had "never felt so personally wounded by an actor's reading."
- Both parents have been married five times.