Oscars: 'Nocturnal Animals' Star Michael Shannon on His Nomination and Cigarette Diet

Courtesy of Focus Features
Michael Shannon in 'Nocturnal Animals'

The haunting thriller helmed by Tom Ford landed the actor his second Academy Award nomination.

While Shannon appeared in 10 films in 2016, it was Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals that landed the actor his second Oscar nomination (his first was in 2009 for Revolutionary Road). In the haunting thriller, he plays a cancer-ridden West Texas police detective who is hell-bent on solving one last mystery.

Ahead of the big awards show, The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Shannon while he was on the set of his upcoming film The Current War, in which he stars opposite Benedict Cumberbatch, Nicholas Hoult and Tom Holland. Here, the Kentucky native discusses meeting the fashion designer turned director, the cigarette diet he went on to play his role and the kind of projects he's looking to tackle next.

What were your first conversations with Tom Ford like?

We had a meeting about the script. He struck me as a sincere and kind person. I wasn't sure what to expect. I mean, I'd never met a fashion mogul before, so it was kind of a first for me. Well, I guess that's not true. I've met Miuccia Prada, but she didn't ask me to do a movie. I could tell he really loves movies. He seems like a fellow I'd like working with, so I said yes.

What attracted you to your character, Bobby Andes?

Bobby is a throwback. He's this salty, cantankerous guy — but he's got a good heart. He's taken a lot of shit over the years, and he's looking to do one last good thing before he shuffles off this mortal coil. It's a very lyrical character storyline.

What was the most challenging aspect of your character to nail down?

I was supposed to be real skinny so I didn’t eat a lot — but that’s kind of old news at this point. Seems like everybody is doing that nowadays.

So did you go on a specific diet?

I went on a cigarette diet. I smoked a lot of cigarettes because my character did. That was my research, smoking cigarettes.

In what ways is the character similar to you?

I mean, I’m not from Texas and I’m not a police detective. I’ve never had a gun, or even much interest in law enforcement. But maybe our sense of humor. There’s a sense of humor in there that might be my sense of humor.

What was the most difficult scene for you to shoot?

The stuff where we pick up Ray [Aaron Taylor-Johnson] and take him to his place, that scene where I'm trying to get Jake [Gyllenhaal]'s character to tell Ray that he knows who he is and knows what he did —that's a very delicate sequence in the movie. Building the tension there, we worked on that quite a bit.

Besides Nocturnal Animals, of course, what’s been your favorite movie this awards season?

Mostly documentaries, honestly. I really liked Tower. It’s an amazing movie. And I liked Fire at Sea. I found it very moving. And Gleason is also pretty powerful stuff.

What type of projects are you looking to tackle next?

I just like to be surprised. I like to see what people send my way. There always seems to be somebody with something, which I guess is a good thing. But I don’t have any grand plans or designs. I’m actually kind of interested in taking a break. I’m very tired.

A version of this story first appeared in a February standalone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.