10 Things You Might Not Know About Michael Shannon

Rich Fury/Getty Images for Canada Goose
Rich Fury/Getty Images for Canada Goose

With critical acclaim for his portrayal of the fish man’s nemesis in Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water and his current turn as a lawman butting heads with David Koresh in the Paramount Network’s Waco, people are increasingly waking up to the fact that Michael Shannon is a national treasure. With his sharply-etched face and looming frame, Shannon’s formidable screen presence tends to elevate whatever project he’s involved with. (The 2017 Bigfoot holiday comedy Pottersville is one possible exception.) Here are 10 things you might not have known about the actor.

1. HE DOES NOT LIKE HIS PERFORMANCES BEING INTERRUPTED BY VOMIT.

Michael Shannon appears at the Golden Globe Awards
Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

Shannon got his start as a theater performer and often appears in stage plays between film roles. While appearing on Broadway in 2012 for a play titled Grace, Shannon told the Chicago Tribune that he began to grow irritated when an obvious commotion in the audience broke his concentration. Believing someone might have been drunk, he complained to the stage manager afterwards. The man informed that him someone in the balcony had vomited into the orchestra section, causing widespread panic. In retrospect, Shannon admitted the crowd was “pretty restrained” in their reaction.

2. HIS FIRST FILM ROLE WAS 25 YEARS AGO IN GROUNDHOG DAY.

Migrating from his native Kentucky, Shannon performed theater work in Chicago before trying his luck in Hollywood. His first role was opposite Bill Murray in 1993’s Groundhog Day, where Murray’s character gifts him with tickets to WrestleMania. Shannon was just 18 years old at the time.

3. HE DOES NOT GIVE A SH*T ABOUT SUPERHEROES FIGHTING.

Michael Shannon stands in front of a truck at the 'Man of Steel' premiere
Mike Coppola, Getty Images

One of Shannon’s highest-profile roles to date was the Kryptonian supervillain General Zod in 2013’s Man of Steel. While he did not reprise the role for 2016’s Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, that did not stop one enterprising reporter from asking if he was picking sides in the fictional superhero faceoff. After explaining that he fell asleep while trying to watch the movie on a plane, he told Vulture that he was “profoundly, utterly unconcerned” with who would win.

“I can’t even come up with a fake answer,” he said. ”I guess I have to root for Superman because he killed me, so I would hope that he would continue his killing spree and become like a serial killer Superman. That’s a new take on Superman. We’d all be in a heap of trouble if Superman was a serial killer. He could just wipe us all out. But then he’d be lonely.”

4. TALK SHOWS WERE AMBIVALENT ABOUT HAVING HIM ON.

With his dry sense of humor, Shannon’s offscreen persona can sometimes have people doubting whether he’d make for a good late-night talk show guest. In 2013, he told The New York Times that his aloof disposition may have cost him an appearance on David Letterman, an invitation he had been coveting since he was a teenager. “How many movies do you gotta do to get on David Letterman?” he asked. “All I’ve wanted since I was 15 freaking years old was to be on David Letterman. I mean, I’m in Man of Steel. I think they all think I’ll be violent.”

Following this interview, Shannon was booked to appear on Letterman's show. No one was harmed.

5. HIS DAUGHTER HAD NO INTEREST IN HIS ACTION FIGURE.

A General Zod toy that resembles Michael Shannon
Amazon

Playing General Zod afforded Shannon the opportunity to have his likeness etched into toy form, from action figures to elaborate and expensive collector's items. Asked whether his young daughter thought that was interesting, Shannon told the The A.V. Club that a diminutive version of her father held little intrigue. “I can’t say she, personally, is terribly interested in them,” he said. “She’s more into the My Little Pony and Tinkerbell thing.”

6. YOU WILL NOT FIND SHANNON ON SOCIAL MEDIA.

Michael Shannon appears at the Toronto Film Festival
Jonathan Leibson, Getty Images

Do not expect Michael Shannon to retweet a particularly poignant cat or dog video. In 2012, he told The A.V. Club that social media is not part of his routine. “I don’t do any of that social media stuff. I have people telling me all the time, ‘You should do Twitter, you should do this, you should get on Facebook.’ Are you insane? I’m not doing any of that crap. I stay the hell off that thing. Every once in a while, I send a business email, and that’s it.”

7. HE WORRIES HIS STOMACH WILL RUMBLE DURING AUDIOBOOK RECORDINGS.

A 2012 photo of Michael Shannon
Mike Coppola, Getty Images

Shannon was invited to read the audiobook for playwright and actor Sam Shepard’s final book, Spy of the First Person. While he felt honored to be asked to be a voice for the late author, Shannon told the Chicago Tribune that voiceover work was not without its hazards. “I spent a lot of time trying to breathe quietly, and dealing with stomach noise,” he said.” They had a little bowl of breakfast bars in the recording studio, and the producer at one point says to me, ‘You should eat one of the breakfast bars.’ And I said, ‘Nah, I don’t like breakfast bars.’ So he says, ‘Well, put a pillow over your stomach, then.’”

8. HE PLAYED A SHIRTLESS TRIBUTE TO DAVID BOWIE ON STAGE.

Shannon’s acting chops are not in question, but not many people know he’s prepared to rock out when the moment presents itself. He formed the rock band Corporal in 2002 and released an album in 2010. For a tribute concert in January 2018 dedicated to the late David Bowie, Shannon threw away his shirt and got on stage to channel Iggy Pop and perform “Lust for Life.”

9. LOTS OF PEOPLE JUST ASSUMED HE’D BE PLAYING DAVID KORESH IN WACO.

Michael Shannon is photographed during a public appearance
Roy Rochlin, Getty Images

With his intense stare and brooding demeanor, Shannon is often invited to portray characters that descend into either lawlessness or outright madness. For the Paramount Network’s Waco, he’s a federal agent trying to outmaneuver religious cult leader David Koresh. As soon as people heard “Waco,” however, they assumed he’d be playing the unhinged one.

"I actually got mad at [film director] Ethan Coen,” he told GQ. “I was on an airplane and Ethan was sitting behind me. He said, ‘What are you doing here?’ And I said, ‘I’m shooting Waco.’ And he’s like, ‘And playing Koresh?’ I’m like, ‘Damn! Why does everybody always ask me if I’m playing Koresh?’ I forgot for a second I was talking to Ethan Coen. I really kind of regretted it afterwards. I should have stifled my irritation.”

10. “SHANNONING” IS BECOMING A THING.

Michael Shannon and Octavia Spencer make an appearance to promote 'The Shape of Water'
Robyn Beck, AFP/Getty Images

On the set of The Shape of Water, Shannon’s penchant for getting things right in a single take did not go unnoticed by the rest of the cast. Speaking with The Verge, Shannon said that his last name became a verb that denotes excellence in performing. “Octavia [Spencer] came up with this term on set, ‘Shannoning,’ where you get something right in one take,” he said. “Every once in a while, after one take, Guillermo would be like ‘That’s perfect!’ and Octavia would say, ‘I Shannoned it!’”

10 Things You Might Not Know About Robert De Niro

RALPH GATTI, AFP/Getty Images
RALPH GATTI, AFP/Getty Images

Robert De Niro is part of the pantheon of independent-minded filmmakers who cut through Hollywood noise in the 1970s with edgier fare to create what became known as “The New Hollywood.” Following stints with Brian De Palma and Roger Corman, De Niro teamed up with Martin Scorsese for the first time with 1973's Mean Streets, which launched a fruitful artistic collaboration that has produced some of the best movies of the past half-century.

Even after his shift into commercial comedies like Meet the Parents, “dedication” has remained De Niro’s watchword. The two-time Oscar winner has earned Hollywood legend status with panache and bone-deep portrayals. Here are 10 facts about the filmmaker on his 75th birthday. (Yes, we’re talkin’ to you.)

1. HIS FIRST ROLE WAS IN A STAGING OF THE WIZARD OF OZ—AT AGE 10.

Robert De Niro got bit by the acting bug early. He threatened to thrash a hippopotamus from top to bottom-us as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz at the tender age of 10. (This is the remake and casting the world needs right now.)

2. HE DROPPED OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL TO PURSUE ACTING.

Robert De Niro arrives at the UK premiere of epic war drama film 'The Deer Hunter', UK, 28th February 1979
John Minihan, Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

De Niro’s mother, Virginia Admiral, was a painter whose work was part of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and his father, Robert De Niro, Sr., was a celebrated abstract expressionist painter. So the apple falling into drama school instead of the art studio still isn’t that far from the tree. Having already gotten a youthful dose of stage life, De Niro quit his private high school to try to become an actor. He first went to the nonprofit HB Studio before studying under Stella Adler and, later, The Actors Studio.

3. HE’S A DUAL CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES AND ITALY.

De Niro is American, Italian-American, and, as of 2004, Italian. The country bestowed honorary citizenship upon De Niro as an honor in recognition of his career, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing to the passport office. A group called the Order of the Sons of Italy in America strongly protested the Italian government’s plan due to De Niro’s frequent portrayal of negative Italian-American stereotypes.

4. HE GAINED 60 POUNDS FOR RAGING BULL.

Preparing to play the misfortune-laden boxing champ Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull required two major things from De Niro: training and gaining. For the latter, De Niro ate his way through Europe during a four-month binge of ice cream and pasta. His 60-pound-gain was dramatic enough that it concerned Martin Scorsese. It was one way to show dedication to a role, but the training element was even more impressive. De Niro got so good at boxing that when LaMotta set up several professional-level sparring bouts for the actor, De Niro won two of them.

5. HE AND MARLON BRANDO ARE THE ONLY ACTORS TO WIN OSCARS FOR PLAYING THE SAME CHARACTER.

De Niro won his first Oscar in 1975 for The Godfather: Part II, for portraying the younger version of Vito Corleone—the wizened capo played by Marlon Brando, who also won an Oscar for the role (Brando’s came in 1973, for The Godfather). No other pair of actors has managed the feat, although Jeff Bridges came close in 2010 when he was nominated for playing Rooster Cogburn in Joel and Ethan Coen's True Grit (a role originated by John Wayne in Henry Hathaway’s 1969 movie of the same name). Oddly enough, Bridges was in contention for the role of Travis Bickle, the role that earned De Niro his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

6. HE DROVE A CAB TO PREPARE FOR TAXI DRIVER.

If you’re looking for commitment to a role, ask Hack #265216. De Niro got a taxicab driver’s license to study up to play Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and spent several weekends cruising around New York City picking up fares. It’s possible that having his teeth filed down for Cape Fear is the most intense transformation he’s undergone for a role, but picking up a part-time job to live the lonely life of Bickle is more humane.

7. ONE OF HIS FILMS POSTPONED ONE OF HIS OSCAR WINS.

The 53rd Academy Awards—where De Niro won for playing Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull—were originally scheduled for March 30, 1981 but were postponed until the following day because of an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. The would-be assassin, John Hinckley, Jr., claimed the attack was intended to impress Jodie Foster, who Hinckley grew obsessed with after watching Taxi Driver.

8. HE LAUNCHED THE TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL IN THE WAKE OF 9/11.

Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal speak onstage at the 'Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives' Premiere during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at Radio City Music Hall on April 19, 2017 in New York City
Theo Wargo, Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Producer Jane Rosenthal, philanthropist Craig M. Hatkoff, and De Niro founded the Tribeca Film Festival in 2001 as a showcase for independent films that would hopefully “spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan” after the devastation of the 9/11 terror attacks. With its empire state of mind, the inaugural festival in 2002 featured a “Best of New York Series” handpicked by Martin Scorsese and drew an astonishing 150,000 attendees.

9. HE WAS ONCE INTERROGATED BY FRENCH POLICE CONCERNING A PROSTITUTION RING.

One of the most bizarre chapters in De Niro’s life came when he was publicly named in the investigation of a prostitution ring in Paris. The 1998 incident included a lengthy interrogation session (De Niro filed an official complaint) and a pile of paparazzi waiting for him when he left the prosecutor’s office. De Niro railed against the entire country, vowing to return his Legion of Honour and telling Le Monde newspaper that, "I will never return to France. I will advise my friends against going to France.” (He had cooled off enough by 2011 to act as the Cannes Film Festival’s jury president.)

10. HE LOVED THE CAT(S) IN MEET THE PARENTS.

Meet the Parents’s Mr. Jinx (Jinxy!) was played by two Himalayans named Bailey and Misha, and De Niro fell in love with them. He played with them between scenes, kept kibble in his pocket for them, and asked director Jay Roach to have Mr. Jinx in as many scenes as possible.

National Portrait Gallery Celebrates Aretha Franklin With Week-Long Exhibition

Courtesy of Angela Pham BFA
Courtesy of Angela Pham BFA

With the passing of Aretha Franklin on August 16, 2018, the world has lost one of its most distinctive voices—and personalities. As celebrities and fans share their memories of the Queen of Soul and what her music meant to them, the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery will pay tribute to the legendary songstress's life with a week-long exhibition of her portrait.

Throughout her career, Franklin earned some of the music industry's highest accolades, including 18 Grammy Awards. In 1987, she became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Nearly 30 years later, in 2015, the National Portrait Gallery fêted Franklin with the Portrait of a Nation Prize, which recognizes "the accomplishments of notable contemporary Americans whose portraits reside in the National Portrait Gallery collection." (Madeline Albright, Spike Lee, and Rita Moreno are among some of its recent recipients.)

Milton Glaser's lithograph of Aretha Franklin, which is displayed at The National Portrait Gallery
© Milton Glaser

Franklin's portrait was the creation of noted graphic designer Milton Glaser, who employed "his characteristic kaleidoscope palette and innovative geometric forms to convey the creative energy of Franklin's performances," according to the Gallery. The colorful lithographic was created in 1968, the very same year that the National Portrait Gallery opened.

Glaser's image will be installed in the "In Memoriam" section of the museum, which is located on the first floor, on Friday, August 17 and will remain on display to the public through August 22, 2018. The Gallery is open daily from 11:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. and admission is free.

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