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The Irresistible Danger of Matthias Schoenaerts and Michael Shannon

 As we continue Actor Month here's Murtada on Matthias Schoenaerts & Michael Shannon.

One might ask what do Matthias Schoenaerts and Michael Shannon have in common. A hulking body (stocky Schoenaerts and tall angular Shannon). Intensity? Yes but also a certain menacing danger that sweeps through in every performance. It's a danger that comes out sexy with Schoenaerts and somewhat evil with Shannon. One never knows what they are going to do next, and that's why they are so mesmerizing to watch.






Actresses are lauded for emotional honesty, actors for their intensity. Both Schoenaerts and Shannon are definitely intense, burning bright on screen. In addition to that Schoenaerts brings a sensitivity that made him the perfect match for some of the best actresses in the last couple of years. The names tell the story: Cotillard, Winslet, Swinton, Mulligan.

Schoenaerts’ earthy rugged masculinity announced him as a star in the first couple of movies that made their way to the US, Rust & Bone (2012) and Bullhead (2011). His duet with Cotillard is so potent, it brought him comparisons to Brando. And we can see why those came by. He was crude and gruff, yet tender. We could see why Cotillard’s character would fall for him, even if he didn’t. A gentler, more sensitive but no less dangerous Stanley Kowalski. No one could resist.

In Far from the Madding Crowd (2015), he was less dangerous. Outwardly at least. The warmth he brought to the part of the quiet Gabriel Oaks, made the choice for Bathsheba obvious, plot be damned. Or was it just me screaming “What’s wrong with you Carey? Say Yes”, 20 minutes into the 2 hour movie.  It’s again that sensitivity that makes him more than a great actor. It makes him an actress. He’s emotionally volatile but also available. We can read his face. His characters might not be verbose, but they don’t hide their emotions.

Shannon is not quite the actress Schoenaerts is. Although there were glimpses of that in Midnight Special (2016). Many of his admirers love his collaboration with Jeff Nichols. However it is Ramin Bahrani who might have found his sweetest spot. In 99 Homes (2015) he was menacing but had an earthy swagger that was irresistible. It’s a big bold performance. He had to go big, after all he was the embodiment of all that’s wrong with America. Yet Shannon shed away the metaphor and showed the life size character behind it.

On stage I was fortunate to see Shannon 2 years ago in a Brooklyn staging of Eugene Ionesco's The Killer, a meanderingly long sometimes confusing play about life’s big ideas and themes. Shannon matched the play's big themes with a visceral and intense performance. But he added a disarmingly warm presence, that even when I got lost in the play's abundant dialogue I never lost the connection with him. Shannon was a monster of emotions on stage. One didn’t know whether to run away from him or towards him. Whatever he was doing, it was miraculous.

And he’s just as unpredictable in interviews. Like when he was asked, as Superman’s vanquished nemesis Zod, right before Batman vs Superman was released who would win in that contest.

“I’m so utterly unconcerned with the outcome of that fight. So profoundly, utterly unconcerned. I can’t even come up with a fake answer. 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.”

He’s funny but still dangerous. That’s the Shannon we’d like to see onscreen. And while we are it let’s get Schoenaerts in a comedy. Maybe the both of them in one film, shouldn’t we be so lucky.

Schoenaerts achieves that combination of earthiness and danger by being spontaneous on set. Here’s what he said in 2015:

“Yeah, you study and all of that, but you cannot determine the inflections in a sentence before you’ve even got to the set and before you’ve heard your partner say what he or she has to say. What kind of bullshit is that?”

Which of his co-stars do you think Matthias was shading?

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Reader Comments (12)

"Shannon is not quite the actress Schoenaerts is. "
You can say that again! ;)

April 21, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Shannon in Revolutionary Road and Boardwalk Empire. That is all.

April 21, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I loved Schoenaerts in Bullhead, but to my happy surprise Michael Sheen out-sexied him in Far From the Madding Crowd! That scene where Sheen tearfully confesses his devotion to Bathsheba… why that performance was ignored at the Oscars is shocking…

April 21, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPancakes

Add Michael Shannon's performance in The Runaways to the list of his triumphs. The film overall is also unfairly neglected.

April 21, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterken s

Shannon is twice the Actor Matthias is who at the moment has seem miscast in a lot of things but Shannon is our current evil embodiment,I'ld ove to see him and Walken play Father and Son.

April 21, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermark

I, too, saw Shannon in The Killer- and just recently in Lange Day's Journey Into Night. What makes him so thrilling onstage is that he is like watching an animal- a living, unscripted creature that could do anything at any moment.

I also want to see Shannon and Bill Hader play siblings. I find something so similar between the two- their looks, their voice, their presence.

April 21, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAustin

I'm a fan of both. Would love to see Shannon on stage.

I still remember walking into a screening of BULLHEAD knowing almost nothing about the movie and...wow, I don't remember ever having been blown away by a first performance before. (First seen by me, that is; I knew he'd been in other stuff.)

April 21, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterlylee

I found Shannon very sexy and attractive in Midnight Special. I was surprised by my reaction but I view him differently now.

April 21, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMM in DC

I love Shannon in anything... I have never seen a movie with the other gentleman, but want to.

April 21, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterrick

This is one of the reasons I love The Film Experience.

That when we're talking about gorgeous guys, we're talking about Michael Shannon, who is bursting with intelligence, talent, wit, and the ability to explore bits of humanity that we had forgotten/ not known about. Watching him satisfies the core of my being.

April 22, 2016 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Shannon in Take Shelter - volatile and dangerous AND vulnerable and even warm. His big tantrum/breakdown scene at the community lunch is absolutely heartbreaking. Now THAT is some actressing.

April 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

That quote in the end lol. Maybe he was talking about Michelle Williams, she's known as someone who prepares and studies a lot.

April 22, 2016 | Unregistered Commentersummer

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