Tough call. You're having freaky visions of a coming apocalyptic storm. Do you get some therapy? Or ... like a modern-day Noah, do you build an ark (or, in this case, a really elaborate underground bunker)? Y'know ... just in case.

Michael Shannon takes on that dilemma in "Take Shelter," a new film written and directed by Jeff Nichols, which hits L.I. theaters Friday. Shannon plays Curtis, a working-class man driven to protect his wife (Jessica Chastain, who's all the rage now thanks to her work in "The Tree of Life," "The Debt" and "The Help") and young deaf daughter (Tova Stewart).

Shannon, a Kentucky native, leaped from character actor to "guy-to-watch" status after his impressive performance in Nichols' first indie film, "Shotgun Stories," and his breakout role as a disturbed man who gives Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio an earful in "Revolutionary Road" (earning an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor).

He now stars in HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" (as Treasury agent Nelson Van Alden), and he'll soon be seen in "Premium Rush"; the Superman drama "Man of Steel"; and a third Nichols film, "Mud" (with Reese Witherspoon).

Shannon, who lives with his girlfriend and young daughter in Brooklyn, recently spoke to Newsday contributor Joseph V. Amodio on the phone while on location in Vancouver.

What attracted you to the script?

I'd really enjoyed working with Jeff [Nichols] on his first movie. And I was immediately moved by his new script. It was coming from a very personal place. Jeff was starting a family and, uh, I think he felt a little shaky about being a man. The script is a poetic expression of that. But it's poetry people can actually understand.

Did you feel shaky, too?

I was also starting a family. And in the script, Curtis' father has passed away, and my father passed away recently ...

I'm sorry. I didn't know that.

Oh, that's all right. It's just ... there was a lot of synchronicity there.

It feels like a modern parable -- the fear of something coming, but we don't know what.

It's nature. And a spiritual struggle for Curtis, because he doesn't believe in God. People who do can say, "Well, everything happens for a reason." But if you think it's just arbitrary ... then nature can be terrifying.

Yes. Were you here for the hurricane?

I was. We live in Brooklyn, in an evacuation zone. The landlord literally sandbagged the exits -- so we had to get out of there or ... we were gonna be in there. We went to my girlfriend's mother's place.

What's it like working with Hollywood's new "It" girl?

Like working with Meryl Streep when she did "Deer Hunter." I can imagine 30 years from now being like, "I got to work with Jessica Chastain." It's hard to talk about without sounding like a cliche. But she's just got the sweetest heart. She was always concerned about others, like Tova, the little girl playing our daughter: "What's Tova doing? Is she OK?" Going through the sign language with her. She has a real maternal instinct.

Some years back, you were frustrated you couldn't do certain projects because you weren't famous enough. Has that changed since "Revolutionary Road" and the Oscar nomination?

I've been working pretty much nonstop since then. A lot of that's been "Boardwalk," which has been a great blessing. Being on TV is a whole different ballgame. You do a movie -- people say, "Hey, nice movie." But you do a TV show, and you become part of somebody's life. People think, "Ohhh, you're this guy. That's who you are." And they see you for years.

Is Martin Scorsese still taking part?

He watches all the episodes and gives notes. I think he'll direct another episode. Season 2 is pretty wild. It makes season 1 look tame.

What's next for you?

Right now, I'm shooting "Man of Steel," the new Superman thing, playing General Zod. I'd like to do some theater. I may be around [New York] in the spring for a production of "Uncle Vanya" at SoHo Rep. But that's still being put together.

Well, when "Man of Steel" comes out, you'll be a huge hit at your daughter's day care.

Yeah. [He laughs.] She's actually here visiting me in Vancouver. She came to the set. She was pretty excited.

What's it like playing a dad now that you're one yourself?

It comes a lot easier. When you have a kid, it's like you develop this whole new nerve in your system, and it goes directly into your heart. And it's connected to this child. It's like, if a fly lands on her forehead, you feel you're gonna have a meltdown. It's this incredible ... bond. And that's very hard to ... to imagine, if you don't have it.

Top Stories


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months