Despite the young ladies in lingerie with guitars imitating real life rock legends, the true star of The Runaways is Michael Shannon as the infamous Kim Fowley. Perfectly insane and yet oddly charming, he commands your attention every time he’s on screen, he completely embodies the role and becomes the dynamic and much loathed and loved Rowling… diamond studded collars and all.
If one things is for sure, Shannon is one of the best actors out there for crazy roles. We were able to talk to Shannon about what it took to transform himself into the character and a whole lot more…
When you’re playing a real person with such a great distinctive personality how much creative liberty do you have and how much do you stay true to them?
Michael: With this I was pretty intimidated going into it because I did take it pretty seriously to be play a real person. A person who a lot of people are very passionate about, I mean, Kim is not a household name in Dubuque, Iowa but in L.A. he is certainly a legend. I felt a lot of pressure to try and get it right so. I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with Kim for whatever reason. We did have dinner one night and that was really helpful but I mostly referenced an interview that Kim did on the Tom Snyder Show. I probably watched that interview 200 times. So yeah, every morning when I would show up to work there was a little DVD player in the trailer and I would just pop it in and just sit there and start watching until they would call me in. Go do a scene then come back and watch it again, I just kept watching it, hoping for the best.
Do you have a sense that his sort of management style has to collapse at some point, like it does on Cherie? It can’t sustain itself at that level…
Michael: Yeah. I feel like there’s a lot of factors though. Although it does seem very different now, Rock N’ Roll is supposed to be chaotic and some way temporary. You know, exist in the moment. But then you see, nowadays it all seems so much, I don’t know, healthier somehow. You look at somebody like Taylor Swift. Man, she seems really together and really happy. (laughter) There’s none of this drama, so I don’t know what changed. I mean…
Interviewer: There’s always Britney Spears.
Michael: Yeah, there’s Britney Spears.
Was there any trepidation in saying some of the more insane or sexual things Kim says to these young girls?
Michael: I don’t know. I mean, to be honest, it’s like, at least its not subliminal. It’s just the way he sees it. I mean, to me it’s a lot more disturbing nowadays where it’s a lot more subliminal. Girls can walk around in these… you know! You watch a show on like Nickelodeon and there’s all these high school girls that are dressed like they’re ready to walk on Hollywood Blvd. or something and I’m like…that’s to me more disturbing then like being in a room [and saying something] like “This is the way it is. If you want to be Rock N’ Roll, this is the way Rock N’ Roll works and this is what’s going to get their attention and this is why they’re going to listen to you.” That’s the way it is. It’s been that way, I mean look at Elvis shaking his hips around.
Did you go back and find more records that Kim had produced for Helen Reddy to stuff he wrote for KISS?
Michael: I have a great album that I have Kim’s put together, it’s called “Other People’s Garbage”. Oh yeah, I love those weird songs. God I love those songs. Something about “I’m a big fat Alasken…”
Do you ever aspire to doing a say, a nice romantic comedy, what one may call a conventional leading man role, or are you really drawn to these intense, crazy characters?
Michael: Well I don’t know. It’s kind of what comes to me. I’m not, I mean I’m not Gerard Butler, I’m just not. He’s him and I’m me. We both do different things. But there’s not people calling me up every morning saying “So Mike what do you want to do?” With the situation like this, it’s good for me because I think they felt, Floria and the Lenses felt there wasn’t anyone else that could do it. To be honest, truth be told, they probably could have gotten a bigger name for the part.
Did the script to you through an agent? I mean, how did you, do you…?
Michael: I heard about it through an agent. My agent called and said, “The Lenses and Floria really want to meet with you on The Runaways” but I had, you know, The Boardwalk Empire pilot going on and there was a huge shroud of you can’t do anything else, this is what you do. And for a long time I didn’t even think I was going to be able to do The Runaways and then finally Art was able to make some phone calls and get it sorted out. I’m glad he did.
Are you just in the pilot or are you going to be a regular?
Michael: No, I’m a regular character. I mean in this regard, maybe you will be surprised although I mean I play the law enforcement guy on the show. I’m the law man, so there you go.
I can see you as being kind of the intimidating law man.
Michael: Yeah. So, Nelson special agent Van Alden. Yeah, I guess it’s coming out in September.
The past couple of years seem to be going very well for you, are you pretty satisfied with how things are going?
Michael: I’m very happy. I get to have my cake and eat it too. I mean I still get to do a lot of stage which I love to do and all the films I work on I’m pretty proud of, mostly very proud of.
How different in experience was doing Jonah Hex, a big comic book movie?
Michael: Jonah Hex was, yeah that was just fun. I mean, I’m not in Jonah Hex a lot. I have a couple scenes, cameo. But I had a really fun character to play. I’m kind of this corny guy. This snake oil salesmen kind of guy with these mangled teeth, and sort of this hunchback, big stone piped hat. It was a lot of fun, pretty relaxed for me in a way. Josh Brolin, it was not relaxed for him. He had to work really, really hard. He actually, in my carnival he has a scene where I had to watch him exert himself quite a bit. I was like thank God I’m not him. I get to just stand up here and cackle while he’s rolling around in the dirt down there.
See Michael Shannon in The Runaways in theaters now!