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Distinguished character actor Michael Shannon essayed a diverse series of characterizations onscreen, beginning just after the start of the new millennium. A veteran member of Chicago's experimental Red Orchid theatrical troupe, Shannon specialized in small, multidimensional portrayals that added to the overall effectiveness of each project -- per his contributions to Vanilla Sky (2001), 8 Mile (2002), and Bad Boys II (2003). Whenever necessary, Shannon imperceptibly blended into the material at hand. He played a therapist in Nicole Kassell's psychodrama The Woodsman (2004), yet by virtue of his emotional intensity and eccentric look, Shannon evinced an ability to dominate with his onscreen presence, as well. Nowhere was this tendency more evident than in William Friedkin's psychological thriller Bug (2006). As adapted by Tracy Letts from his own stage play, the film concerns a shabby and skanky drifter (Shannon, reprising his role from the play) with a serious complex of delusional schizophrenia, who believes that bugs are crawling beneath his skin and enters a terrifying pas de deux with a young waitress (Ashley Judd). Shannon followed it up with a memorable contribution to Oliver Stone's World Trade Center -- as a military man desperate to help in any way possible during the 9/11 tragedy -- and Sidney Lumet's Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007), a crime thriller about two brothers who team up to rob a jewelry store. Shannon grabbed his first taste of stardom with his breakout role as a mentally disturbed man in Sam Mendes' adaptation of Revolutionary Road. His truthful, menacing character cut through the main characters' self-deception, and Shannon's off-kilter delivery won him glowing notices from critics, as well as a nomination for Best Supporting Actor from the Academy.
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