Michael Shannon Talks ‘A Little White Lie,’ ‘The Flash’ Movie and More

Mar 12, 2023

Academy Award-nominee Michael Shannon has been nonstop busy the last couple of years, between streaming series like George & Tammy and Showtime’s upcoming Waco: The Aftermath, Jeff Nichols’ The Bikeriders, and highly-anticipated blockbusters like the DCEU’s The Flash. During an interview with Collider’s Steve Weintraub, Shannon sat down to talk about his upcoming work, including a smaller-scale project, an indie film titled A Little White Lie, featuring a stellar cast and an original screenplay.

In A Little White Lie, Acheron University is coming up on its 92nd Annual Literary Festival, a celebration of great works and great authors. Unfortunately, interest in the festival is waning, but English professor, Simone Cleary (Kate Hudson), has an idea that she says could put them back on the “literary map.” The reclusive and renowned author, Shriver, of what’s hailed as “a modern day Ulysses, only funnier,” has agreed to attend the festival… or has he? When the invite is mistakenly sent to another Shriver (Shannon), a Shriver more like the down-on-his-luck protagonist in the novel, the handyman decides to take this opportunity to reinvent himself, or at least reap the benefits of the real author’s adoring fans and other writers. In addition to Shannon and Hudson, A Little White Lie stars Don Johnson, M. Emmet Walsh, Peyton List, Jimmi Simpson, and Zach Braff.
With A Little White Lie now available to rent or purchase digitally, Shannon discusses how he got involved with the movie, how COVID affected filming, and getting the opportunity to work alongside someone “with decades of experience and someone so firmly etched into the cinema landscape,” like M. Emmet Walsh. He also shares what it was like getting that call from director Andy Muschietti to reprise his Man of Steel role as General Zod for The Flash, what it’s like working with the filmmaker, and discusses his directorial debut, Eric Larue, written by his “good friend,” Brett Neveu. For all of this and more, you can read the full conversation below.

COLLIDER: You know I’m a fan of your work, and you’ve done some great work over the years. If someone has actually never seen anything you’ve done, what is the first thing you’d like them watching, and why?

MICHAEL SHANNON: Oh, dear Lord. Hmm. Well, I don’t know. I think I’ve said to a couple of people that Take Shelter is probably the movie I’ve made that’s the closest to my heart, you know. Just because of what it’s about and it kind of encapsulates, to a certain extent, how I feel living in this insane world we live in. So, yeah, that would probably be the one.

Yeah, this Jeff Nichols guy, he’s okay.

SHANNON: Yeah, we just finished another one, The Bikeriders. I think it’s gonna be pretty cool. It’s about a motorcycle gang. Yeah.

I am familiar with it. It’s your eighth time working with him. I am very aware.

SHANNON: [Laughs] Yeah, I do every one.

But getting into why I get to talk to you today, what was it about the project that said, “Oh, I want to do this.”?

SHANNON: Well, the director, Michael Maren, he came to Chicago to meet me, and I was doing a play at the time at Red Orchid, the little theater I’m with in Chicago. He came to the play and then we went and had dinner afterwards, and I really just found him to be a fascinating person. He’s had quite a life. He was a war correspondent, and he had to deal with some health issues that were pretty daunting, and I just had a lot of respect for the guy. I thought it was a really rich character with a lot of corners to look around in, and I just love the moral – I don’t even know it’s the moral of the story, but the point the story was trying to make, I thought was worth making, you know?

Image via Saban Films

You worked with a great cast in this, but for me, when I see M. Emmet Walsh in a film, I’m always very happy. I’m curious if you could talk a little bit about working with him because he’s been doing this a long time, and he’s just a really great actor.

SHANNON: Yeah, that was kind of a dream come true. I’ve been watching him for years, and much like when I got the opportunity to work with Christopher Plummer in Knives Out, it’s just… You know, getting an opportunity to work with someone with decades of experience and someone so firmly etched into the cinema landscape, you know. And Mr. Maren, our director, had us do a lovely scene on a park bench. I think it’s in the film a little bit, but when we did it, it was a very long take and it was an improvisation, and it was just so… I couldn’t believe I was sitting on a park bench improvising with M. Emmet Walsh. It’s definitely one of those pinch-me moments. “Pinch me, I must be dreaming.”

Yeah, the scene is in the film and I actually could tell as I was watching, I’m like, “I’ll bet you Michael is really enjoying this moment because of who he’s sitting with.”

SHANNON: Yeah, exactly, and he shared his sandwich with me, which was sweet. But it’s just incredible the longevity that some people have. I hope I’m still kicking around when I’m that age. It’s hard to imagine, but I’m over here in Ireland right now and we got Anthony Hopkins on the stage next to us. Somebody said he’s 85, 86 years old. Just blows my mind, but I guess that’s one of the great things about acting is you can just keep doing it.

You know, it’s a lottery in terms of what happens with your body and genetics.

SHANNON: Yeah, exactly. Well, if you take care of yourself or not, you know?

Image via Saban Films

100%. One of the unique things about this film though was you shot it, COVID hits, and then you have to wait like a year before doing a few more days of photography. What was it like actually stepping back on set after a year to inhabit a character?

SHANNON: You know, when we got shut down, and I knew that that was gonna happen, I initially was very anxious about it. I thought, just because I had no point of reference really, it’s not anything I had ever experienced before, and I thought it was gonna be impossible. But it kind of surprised me, frankly, how easily I clicked back into it. I guess it just goes to show that all this work is kind of lodged in your subconscious somewhere. And I had the experience, in theater, of doing plays more than once, like years apart from one another. It was kind of a similar experience where you just realize that there’s some filing cabinet inside of you that you can put these people in and just open a drawer at a later date and they’re still standing there, waving at you. It’s kind of weird.

I’ve heard rave reviews of Andy Muschietti’s Flash movie, and I know that you are coming back to play Zod because it’s in the trailer. What was it like getting the phone call from Andy, or whoever called you, saying, “Hey, we want you to come back play this character again. It’s like a multiverse.”

SHANNON: As I remember it, in Man of Steel Superman breaks my neck, which was the cause of much consternation amongst certain people because apparently he’s not supposed to do that. So I thought, “Are they sure they got this right? How is this possible?” And then they get it to me and, much like what we were talking about the COVID situation, I was a little worried like, “Am I gonna remember what I did?” But, much like the answer I just gave, it kind of came floating back to me out of the ether.

Can I ask you what it was like collaborating with Andy? Because I don’t know if you’ve seen the trailer, but the footage looks fantastic.

SHANNON: Andy came highly recommended from other friends I have that have worked with him. Everybody who works with him just adores him. He’s really creative, I mean, much like Zack [Snyder] was, and very very visual. He’s a brilliant artist. He would just do these drawings while we were rehearsing and every time he did it I was like, “Can I keep that? That’s really amazing.” And I actually have one of them at home. But, yeah, really I would like to work with him again, frankly, if the opportunity arises because it was a lot of fun.

Image via Warner Bros.

You directed a feature, Eric Larue, and it’s your first time directing something. I’m curious, what was it about the material that said, “This is what I wanna do my directorial debut with.”?

SHANNON: Wow. It would be hard to come up with a concise answer to that question, but the fellow who wrote it is a really good friend of mine. He’s a playwright and I’ve worked with him, I’ve acted in his plays and I directed one of his plays, so I was just very familiar with his voice and his point of view. And he had written a screenplay of a play that he wrote a very long time ago that I was just a really big fan of and he gave it to me, and it was just one of those things when I read it. It’s like I could feel it in my bones. I just knew what it was and what it needed to be, and I couldn’t imagine anybody else directing it. But it was strange because I wasn’t looking for that. I wasn’t, and it’s not a great way to make money or anything, but I’m sure glad I did it.

A Little White Lie is available to rent or purchase digitally from Amazon and Google Play.

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