Best known for playing the malevolent General Zod in “Man of Steel,” Oscar-nominee Michael Shannon now stars in Warner Bros. Pictures’ supernatural thriller “Midnight Special” as Roy, a peaceful and thoughtful man — not prone to violence, but will nevertheless fight with everything he’s got when it matters.
Roy and his wife (Kirsten Dunst) were members of a cult, and within those confines their only son Alton was born. When the boy began to exhibit unique powers, the cult’s leader stepped in to “adopt” him, as such an extraordinary child couldn’t be raised by ordinary people. Alton’s mother was likely excommunicated for her protests, while Roy took a different tack: silently planning and waiting for a chance to break free with the boy. “From that moment,” director Jeff Nichols suggests, “his goal was to make sure Alton was okay. And when it became clear that Alton needed to be somewhere else, Roy was determined to get him there.”
As Shannon sees it, “Roy’s son means more to him than anything. It’s a feeling I can identify with, being a parent. It reconfigures your central nervous system. You can be a person who’s kind of aimless, not quite sure of what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s important and what isn’t, but when you have a kid, all that changes. The second you pick them up… that’s your child. And for Roy, no one is going to threaten that child or take him away without him doing something about it. It’s a huge thing to be a father, and I love to see a filmmaker of Jeff’s talents exploring that in a meaningful way.”
Nichols’ working relationship with Shannon is so well honed that they no longer rehearse. “I will talk for days about back-story, where a character comes from and where he’s going to end up five years from now. I enjoy that because I’m a writer and these are the relationships I created, so of course I want to sit down and talk about it,” Nichols admits. “Mike usually has one or two questions and that’s about it. He understands the character. So when we show up on set we don’t rehearse, we just start rolling. His style very much suits the way I write. He’s able to hold such emotion in his face. I don’t often have a lot of dialogue so something else needs to be going on, and Mike provides that for me.”
Interestingly, much of what Roy does on Alton’s behalf, he does on blind faith. “I think he believes Alton is somehow in touch with something beyond our experience,” Shannon concludes. “There are a lot of people who believe there’s more to the world and reality than we perceive; it’s not an uncommon belief. Whether this power is coming from God or not, Roy feels that Alton is about to harness it, but he doesn’t know the whole picture and he’d be the first to admit it. Roy doesn’t have the full spectrum of what’s going on with Alton, although he learns more throughout the movie. But it doesn’t matter to him. It all comes back to the fact that this is his son, and he’s going to protect his son, and he’d do the same thing whether this boy had special powers or not.”
“Midnight Special” is now playing exclusively at Cinema 2000 group of theaters, namely Century City, Commercenter, Eastwood, Festival Mall and Shang Cineplex. The film is distributed in the Philipines by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.