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Michael Shannon as General Zod in ‘Man of Steel’: No need to kneel

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Updated: June 2, 2013 6:08AM

NEW YORK — “Kneel before Zod,” commands Michael Shannon, echoing a line from “Superman II.”

The friendly actor who plays General Zod in this summer’s Superman epic “Man of Steel” is trying very hard not to talk about that film. But for a reporter from Chicago, where Shannon made his name on the stages of Steppenwolf and A Red Orchid, he decides to make an exception.

“I hope I don’t get into trouble for telling you this, but I don’t say that line in the movie,” he divulges. “I do not say, ‘Kneel before Zod.’ But I’m perfectly happy to say it to you right now.

“Chicago, kneel before Zod!” he jokes.

Shannon doesn’t have time for world domination today. Besides “Man of Steel” (opening June 14), he’s pushing projects including “Mud,” now in theaters, and “The Iceman,” out May 17. It’s the true story of Richard Kuklinski, a contract killer whose family had no idea what he did until his arrest in 1986.

Q. Tell us more about General Zod. Do you wear the funky leather outfit?

A. I think the word is “negligee” when it comes to my outfit. It’s blousy. Just kidding. It’s actually pretty tight. It’s a real turn-on. Everyone will want to go back home and buy one. … The truth is [the movie’s] great. I saw it last week and it blew my mind. It was a screening just for me, and I sat there tickling myself with glee.

Q. Is your Zod different from what Terrence Stamp did with his Zod in “Superman II”?

A. I love what Terrence did. He was the malevolent source of rage. Our director Zack [Snyder] asked me to make Zod less like a villain and more like a general. He’s trying to protect the place where he rules. There are a lot of generals on Earth who are responsible for the killing of a great number of people. They’re trying to preserve something. So, he’s not bloodthirsty, raging Zod.

Q. How can the man in “The Iceman” be a contract killer and his family doesn’t have a clue?

A. The director, Ariel Vromen, is a friend of mine. He gave me this script and honestly I had never heard of this guy. But when I read it and watched the real Kuklinski’s interviews, I was absolutely fascinated. I met with some of the people who knew him, and they told me he was like a Sherman tank. He was impossible to penetrate. He didn’t want you to know what he was thinking. [His wife] was the type of woman who didn’t ask where he was going. If he got up in the middle of the night and left the house, he didn’t say anything about it. But he always had money, paid the bills and made sure his family had a nice life.

Q. With all of these movies, plus your series “Boardwalk Empire,” do you have this feeling that you’ve finally arrived?

A. I can’t say that I have that sudden success felling. “Suddenly” is a song. It doesn’t describe my career thing. Nothing has been sudden in my career. I got my SAG card 20 years ago doing “Groundhog Day.” Since then it has been a slow and steady race. I’ve gotten really lucky with the people I’ve met and the relationships I’ve made. I’ve worked with really fine artists. Just intersecting with them makes my life easy.

Q. You’re back in Chicago to work with A Red Orchid in July and August in a Sam Shepard play called “Simpatico.” How will you ever walk around the city incognito anymore after “Man of Steel”?

A. (Laughing) I will always walk around Old Town. This time around I’ll just wear Saran Wrap around my face as a disguise. I’m sure all the drunk frat guys will still scream at me. I guess I won’t be anonymous. Maybe I need some Botox? … Nah, it’s too late for me.

Big Picture News Inc.

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