Interview: THE MISSING PERSON actor Michael Shannon

Chase Whale

by: Chase Whale
November 22nd, 2009

THe Missing Person

Michael Shannon's one humble dude. You probably wouldn't expect that after seeing some of his insane performances (BUG, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD). I spoke with Michael on the phone last week about his recent role, THE MISSING PERSON, and the man's answers to all my questions were very honest, very cool, and very well-formed. Check the out the interview, as well as the film's official synopsis, poster, and trailer after the jump!

THE MISSING PERSON's official synopsis: "Writer/Director Noah Buschel’s third feature, The Missing Person, stars Michael Shannon as John Rosow, a private detective hired to tail a man, Harold Fullmer, on a train from Chicago to Los Angeles. Rosow gradually uncovers Harold’s identity as a missing person; one of the thousands presumed dead after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Persuaded by a large reward, Rosow is charged with bringing Harold back to his wife in New York City against his will. Ultimately Rosow must confront whether the decision to return Harold to a life that no longer exists is the right one. The Missing Person co-stars Academy Award © Nominee Amy Ryan and features a strong supporting cast including Margaret Colin, Linda Emond, Yul Vazquez and John Ventimigli"

Missing Person Poster

GATW: Can you talk about how you got involved with THE MISSING PERSON? How you met up with Noah [Buschel, director], and what that process was like?

Michael Shannon: Well basically, it was through Amy Ryan [co-star]. Amy is a friend of mine and we had worked together on another project and Noah had written THE MISSING PERSON and he was trying to figure out who would be right for the part of John and Amy suggested me. And there was a reading, I guess they were trying to drum up some financing for the movie, and they had a reading of the screenplay. So Noah asked me to do the reading and he enjoyed what I did at the reading, I guess, enough to ask me to do the film and it was pretty much that simple. But Amy Ryan definitely was responsible for getting Noah and I in the same room.

GATW: For your role, you play an alcoholic private investigator; did you hang out with any PIs? What type of research did you do for the role?

MS: Well, I actually didn’t hang out with any detectives because I felt like was John was a pretty unique character in a pretty unique situation. You know the thing about the film, at least what I see when I watch it, is that it has a very dream-like kind of imaginary quality to it. I think a lot of this story is actually, potentially going on in John’s head, I don’t necessarily think it’s something that’s actually happening. I mean I wouldn’t want to take that possibility away from anybody watching it, but just in the way I personally approached it, I felt like it was much more than trying to convince anybody that I was a detective or that I understood what it was like to be a detective. It was more about-- what exactly had happened to this guy? What was wrong with him? Why was he living in a dumpy little apartment in Chicago in a drunken haze? And going on that journey.

GATW: This film is obviously an indie film and it’s fantastic. What about indie films draws you to it?

MS: There’s a lot about it actually, generally on an independent film you have to work with fewer resources in a shorter amount of time. Which is a good thing for the actors because on a film that has a lot of money and a lot of time, you spend a lot of time sitting around. But on a lower budget film you don’t spend much time sitting around at all, you show up and you’re working all day and you go home at night with a sense of accomplishment as opposed to just feeling like you sat around all day long doing nothing. So that’s enjoyable.

I also feel like, if THE MISSING PERSON was a big budget studio film it would be a totally different film and Noah wouldn’t have been able to take a lot of the risks that he takes. It’s a very unusual movie and Noah makes a lot of decisions in it that are unconventional and can be confusing or unclear, [things] you have to think about, you have to meet the movie halfway. In a studio movie, it’s all about making sure that you don’t have to think about anything, that you just sit there and are excited the whole time. So I guess those are a couple of the differences I enjoy.

GATW: You just answered my follow up [question], I was going to ask that you have JONAH HEX coming up and if you could talk about indie [films] versus big budget. But I guess you just answered that with big budget you just go in, eat your popcorn and have some fun.

MS: Although JONAH HEX--for a studio movie--it was not a big budget, they were kind of roughing it down there. On JONAH HEX I was only there a couple of days, I just kind of popped in and out and had fun doing a couple of little scenes. But that was a hard shoot, I kind of know Josh [Brolin, star of JONAH HEX] a little bit, and I talked to him about it and he really had to bust his butt on that [movie] to get it done.

GATW: I recently saw [Werner] Herzog’s BAD LIEUTENANT, which is really awesome and you recently did MY SON, MY SON WHAT HAVE YE DONE with him and it’s garnering a ton of buzz but it’s getting a really limited release. Do you know if it’s going to have a wider release after it’s New York December release?

MS: The film MY SON, MY SON WHAT HAVE YE DONE has played in, I believe, three film festivals. It has played at Venice, Toronto and the Telluride [film festivals]. And the critical response has been…not entirely unfavorable from everyone but largely somewhat unfavorable from most people so, I think that’s had an effect on it. It’s a very unusual film, but I don’t know what that would surprise anybody. I mean it’s a Werner Herzog film. I’ve seen most of films and most of his films are extremely unconventional. But for some reason, this one is really seeming to irritate some people. I don’t know why, I don’t know what they expected when they walked into the theater. So I guess what they’re trying to do, the strategy right now, is to bring it out in New York and see how the general public feels about it here and then if people are digging it then maybe they’ll try to branch it out. I mean Werner’s films are not blockbusters, they never have been, and usually people discover them a few years after they come out.

GATW: For my last question, in REVOLUTIONARY ROAD you were this awesome, crazy guy. Same with BUG. Do you like playing those types of characters or is it just what you audition for and that’s what you got?

MS: I’d say it’s a mixture of the two. I mean, I can’t speak for everyone but I find that a life can be pretty challenging and difficult sometimes, and that people struggle. So the characters I gravitate towards usually are struggling with a challenge of some sort or another. I think that’s kind of why drama exists in the first place. I don’t know how interesting or compelling people who don’t have any problems are. I mean I guess that would be nice if the world was filled with people who didn’t have any problems but I don’t know interesting it would be. So yeah, I guess I’m drawn to people who are suffering in some way or another.

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