Acts of devotion: Michael Shannon is seriously dedicated to the art of acting.
By Jason Anderson | Photographed by Seiji Fujimori
There’s something in Michael Shannon’s eyes that puts people on edge. Klaus Kinski had it. Christopher Walken has it, too. There’s a wildness there, a quality we’re quick to associate with madness. But that association is limiting, even if it’s true that these actors excel at playing men who’ve come unhinged, like the troubled neighbour in Revolutionary Road, a role that earned Shannon his first Oscar nomination, or Nelson Van Alden, the principled but ever more compromised lawman he plays on HBO’s Prohibition-era mob drama Boardwalk Empire.
The look is suggestive of deep-seated emotion that cannot be controlled or concealed, no matter how hard we try to keep it from the surface. If the eyes are really any kind of window to the soul, this is the force that threatens to shatter the glass. Yet that force has served the 38-year-old actor well, becoming a feature as distinguishing as his six-foot-three frame, his youthful face and a voice that would’ve suited a fire-and-brimstone Southern preacher.