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Michael Shannon, 'Man Of Steel' Star, On Playing An Empathetic Version Of General Zod

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There is no kneeling before Zod in "Man of Steel." Zack Snyder's Superman reboot casts Michael Shannon as the villainous general, but leaves behind the catchphrase that Terrence Stamp made famous in "Superman II," when he played the same role. That's not the only difference: Shannon's Zod is a super villain who, in another movie, might be the hero. "There's a reason for everything that he's doing," Shannon said, "and it has a lot more to do with his love for Krypton than his hate for anything else." Ahead of the June 14 release of "Man of Steel," Shannon spoke to HuffPost Entertainment about his version of Zod, what Snyder brought to the film and why he doesn't regret doing "Bad Boys II."

Some incredible actors have played villains in a superhero movie. Before signing on for this, did you try to reach out to anyone for advice on what to expect?
You know, I would love to talk to other actors about how they approach these things, but I honestly don't really run into them very often. I usually just see whoever I'm working with. I think a lot of actors like their privacy. A lot of the big-time movie stars live on a ranch in the middle of nowhere. When they're not working, they like to be left alone. I would have no idea how to even get ahold of them.

In an earlier interview with one of my colleagues, you mentioned how sometimes shooting this movie felt like a "Monty Python sketch" because of the heavy CGI element. You've co-starred in blockbusters before, but were you prepared at all for this style of filmmaking?
It took a little getting used to. It's interesting because we started by shooting in Illinois for some Smallville stuff. So we were in the actual real environment, but our costumes and some of our props and what-not were fake. That dichotomy between being on a real farm but having so many things that were not real was kind of discombobulating. Then we went to Vancouver and started shooting on green screen and everything was imaginary and it actually some how became easier. There wasn't that schism any more. We weren't in a real place doing pretend things. We were in a total pretend world.

Zod is a very large force in the film -- he almost literally explodes into his first scene. As an actor, how do you guard against playing big but not going too far over the top?
I guess you just remember what the point of all of it is. To me, Zod isn't giving a performance. Zod is trying to save Krypton. Everything that he does every step of the way in the movie is for that one purpose. He doesn't care whether you think he's overacting or under-acting, because he's not acting. He's trying to get something done. I think Zod is typically thought of as a very rage-filled and hateful person. The way we approach it, though, is that he just seems like a desperate person in a desperate situation.

Zack is known for being a very visual filmmaker, but how did you find him as a director of actors?
I was incredibly impressed. Very early on, when we were shooting the Krypton sequence, he had very insightful, thoughtful things to say. Not just, "Louder, faster, bigger." The dimension that you see in Zod -- a man who is not just a raging psychopath but an actual person -- that all started with Zack. The approach of questioning why Zod was doing what he was doing? That was usually because Zack was asking me those questions. To Zack, the relationships were really important. It's something that can get glossed over by the spectacle of the film, but I think the most powerful thing about this story is the relationships between these characters. They're very complex and the stakes are so high. I think Zack knew he could make it as big of a spectacle as anybody -- and that would satisfy some people -- but to have a movie that really stands the test of time, you needed that element to it. It can't all be wall-to-wall explosions. There's got to be somebody in there to care about.

You're a great character actor who has played a wide variety of roles. When you decide to star in a movie like "Man of Steel," which millions of people will see, do you worry that the exposure will rob you of some of your screen anonymity?
It's not really something I can afford to worry about if I want to keep working. I think at the end of the day, I'm showing that I can change my stripes depending on what the story calls for. You know, "Boardwalk Empire" is a very popular thing too, and that's something I'm very identified with nowadays. But it would surprise you what I get identified with. I was at the grocery store yesterday and one of the guys working there said to me, "Oh, I see you got your ear back." I was like, "What the hell is this guy talking about?" Then I realized it was a "Bad Boys II" reference, because my character gets his ear shot off. So as big as a movie as this is, I have been around the block a couple of times. People have memories like elephants.

We're coming up on the 10th anniversary of "Bad Boys II." What do you remember about that one?
I loved being in Miami. That was a lot of fun. When we shot the big sequence in the swamp where the said ear is shed by the bullet, we had a lot of down time. We were shooting nights. Henry Rollins is in that picture, and he has been a hero of mine for a long time. I remember one night -- it was very surreal -- we were sitting there at 3 in the morning in the swamp and Henry Rollins and I just started talking about music. So, if for no other reason, that job was totally worth it.

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