Michael Shannon on His Unhinged Sorority Letter Reading and Playing a Serial Killer

The Iceman Michael Shannon - H 2012

The Iceman Michael Shannon - H 2012

The "Iceman" actor also praises his co-star Winona Ryder, saying of her film comeback: "I never thought she was gone."

Michael Shannon, in person, is quite something to behold.

With the chiseled jaw of Buzz Lightyear, the menacing eyes of a comic-book villain and the unsettling intensity of Christopher Walken, this actor's actor doesn't need to do much to put strangers on edge. Shannon, who plays a mob hitman in the drama The Iceman, seems aware of the effect of his imposing stature, crediting his physicality for a rare comedic gig: reading aloud that viral email from an unhinged Delta Gamma sorority sister for the humor site Funny or Die. The footage (see it here) has Shannon sending up his psycho-guy image to hilarious effect, shouting things like: "Sigma Nu is not gonna want to hang out with us if we f--king suck!"

"Apparently Funny or Die wanted to work with me for a while," he tells The Hollywood Reporter. "A couple of days after I made that video we actually had a two-hour pitch meeting and we're probably gonna do some other stuff together. But I think they just saw underneath this grotesque exterior, the humorous underpinnings that define my personality."

Shannon attended an Iceman screening in New York City on Monday alongside co-stars Winona Ryder and Ray Liotta and director Ariel Vroman, who said of the Funny or Die spot: "I loved it! And it's helping us I hope. Everybody finally knows Michael Shannon finally."

REVIEW: The Iceman

Shannon portrays real-life contract assassin Richard Kuklinski in the film, which opens May 3 and is based on Anthony Bruno's book The Iceman: The True Story of a Cold-Blooded Killer. A devoted husband and father living a double life, Kuklinski was arrested in 1986 for murdering more than 100 people with a ruthlessness and chilling sense of detachment that earned him his nickname. He died in prison in 2006.

If the man were still alive, could Shannon summon the courage to meet him face to face?

"I would, but I don't know what I would say to him, and I'm afraid that he wouldn't like me very much," says Shannon. "And he'd probably think that I wasn't up for the job of playing him in a move. 'Cause I'm really not much like him. I spent so much time with him watching the interviews that that was a much safer situation 'cause I wasn't in the same room with him."

When asked whether this film is another step toward Ryder's comeback, he responds: "I never thought she was gone. I think she chooses to work less frequently nowadays because she's been doing this a long time and she has other interests in life, so I was actually very flattered that she thought this was worth her time. She's as much a legend to me as she is to anybody else. So it was kind of a dream come true to get to work with her."

Twitter: @ErinLCarlson

Email: erin.carlson@thr.com