Shan­non brings char­ac­ter­is­tic in­ten­sity to Ice­man

Yorkshire Post - Culture & The Guide - - FILM - Tony Earn­shaw

THE word on Michael Shan­non is that he is in­tense. In­tense to in­ter­view. In­tense in his prepa­ra­tion for a role. In­tense on the set with his fel­low ac­tors.

And it was that same in­ten­sity that made di­rec­tor Ariel Vro­man so de­ter­mined to land 6ft 4ins Shan­non as Mafia hit­man Richard Kuk­lin­ski, aka The Ice­man.

Vro­man first pitched the idea to Shan­non at an Os­cars party sev­eral years ago. Later they wound up in the same bar and Shan­non agreed to take part in a screen test. The four-minute scene has since gone on­line with film buffs around the world recog­nis­ing what Vro­man knew: that Shan­non is an in­cred­i­ble screen pres­ence.

“It was an op­por­tu­nity for Ariel to get a lit­tle warm-up be­cause he wanted to make this film for such a long time,” Shan­non re­calls. “I think it was good to get that prac­tice run and see what it was like. And it was a lot of fun.”

For his part Shan­non was in­trigued by the no­tion of a killer who would per­form the most heinous acts with­out blink­ing an eye – and then re­turn home to his wife and daugh­ters.

That stone-faced, dead­eyed ap­proach to the role is Shan­non’s trade­mark.

In ev­ery­thing he has done – from an early part in Ground­hog Day via sup­port in Je­sus’s Son, Pearl Har­bor, Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Road (a one scene per­for­mance that steals the show) and the forth­com­ing Man of Steel as Gen­eral Zod – Shan­non never wa­vers.

“I guess any time I take a job, I’m not afraid to dig into some­thing, no mat­ter how ugly it may be,” he says bluntly. “To me, that’s where the sto­ries are: that ugly, dark, con­fused place. Those, un­for­tu­nately, for bet­ter or for worse, tend to be the most in­ter­est­ing sto­ries. Peo­ple are fas­ci­nated by them.

“Any time that you look at a por­trait, it’s just a deeper un­der­stand­ing of what­ever it is that you’re look­ing at. The value of mak­ing this movie is to give you some idea of what Richard Kuk­lin­ski’s life might have been like. Here’s a fel­low that peo­ple are in­trigued by and want to know more about. Hope­fully, we’re giv­ing them that in­sight.”

In­deed they do. Kuk­lin­ski not only kills with­out feel­ing, he ca­su­ally cuts up his vic­tims and stores them in a freezer. It was the part of his modus operandi that led to his nick­name in the pa­pers.

Vro­man and Shan­non to­gether fo­cus not so much on the grue­some­ness of Kuk­lin­ski’s trade but on his abil­ity to com­part­men­talise his life. Al­ways a con­tract killer, he was never a part of the es­tab­lished Mafia fam­i­lies. And as a dot­ing fa­ther to his chil­dren, he could step away from the day job even af­ter car­ry­ing out the most hor­ren­dous acts.

Shan­non’s on-screen wife, Deb­o­rah, is played by Wi­nona Ry­der, mak­ing a sig­nif­i­cant screen come­back. The two en­joyed a sparky chem­istry with Ry­der emerg­ing from the ex­pe­ri­ence as a full-on Shan­non fan.

“Wi­nona was fan­tas­tic,” says Shan­non. ‘It’s a very dif­fi­cult role she was play­ing. It’s hard for peo­ple to be­lieve that Richard could have kept his vi­o­lent job a se­cret from his fam­ily. That was some­thing that Wi­nona had to wres­tle with. You feel for her ev­ery time she is on screen; you feel what she is go­ing through.”

Says Ry­der: “Michael has played un­hinged char­ac­ters be­fore, but this is a very in­ter­est­ing por­trait. It’s unique and very com­pli­cated.”

The Ice­man opens to­day. Man of Steel opens on June 14.

PIC­TURE: AP PHOTO/JOEL RYAN

ICE TEAM: Michael Shan­non, left, with di­rec­tor Ariel Vro­man and costars Wi­nona Ry­der and Ray Liotta.

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