'Midnight Special' features Superman nods and 'Man of Steel' actor Michael Shannon

By Karen Butler  |  Updated March 18, 2016 at 1:47 PM
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NEW YORK, March 18 (UPI) -- Michael Shannon fans may geek out when they see the actor who played General Zod in Man of Steel talking about Superman in his new movie Midnight Special.

Written and directed by Mud and Take Shelter auteur Jeff Nichols, Midnight Special mixes genres, effectively playing at times like a mystery, road-trip movie, a family drama and a sci-fi flick. The story follows Roy [played by Shannon] and his childhood best friend Lucas [played by Joel Edgerton] as they whisk Roy's son Alton [played by Jaeden Lieberher] away from the religious compound where he was raised and regarded as a savior because of his inexplicable powers. The trio goes on the lam from church officials, as well as government authorities who see Alton as a threat. The fugitives ultimately meet up with Kirsten Dunst's Sarah, who was run off the ranch because she didn't want to relinquish her rights as a parent to the cult's leader. Throughout the film, Alton can be seen reading comic books and quizzing his dad about the central hero in them.

Asked by UPI at a recent roundtable interview with reporters in New York if the Superman and Kryptonite references were in his script before he partnered with Warner Bros. to make the movie, Nichols replied: "No, they were Wolverine jokes."

"I had originally written it as Adamantium, which is the metal that binds Wolverine's bones. I am a nerd. And, of course, we were at Warner Bros. and they have the DC Universe and everything else, which I just hadn't thought of that before, I don't know, mainly because Kryptonite seemed too obvious and I wasn't even thinking about the General Zod connection or anything else. But I looked at Mike and I said, 'Look, we're going to have to change it to the DC Universe and it's going to be Kryptonite,' and he was like: 'I think that's OK. I think that's going to be OK.' But I did discuss it with him because I was like, 'I don't want it to be cheesy.' And it worked."

So, what did Shannon think about giving a nod to one of his most well-known roles?

"I just remember that night [Nichols] suddenly got kind of insecure about it a little bit. Like: 'Should I do this? Is this a bad idea or is this going to draw too much attention?' But I think it's really sweet and innocent," the actor told UPI in a separate roundtable interview, where he sat alongside Edgerton and Dunst. "And it's so good to see Alton -- this little boy -- so powerful and so vulnerable at the same time, asking about Kryptonite. I just thought it was really perfect, so I am glad he left it in there."

Told it's fun for audience members to see the child reading the comic books in the backseat of the car while General Zod sits upfront, Shannon acknowledged, "Yeah, yeah."

"You were a villain in that movie, right?" Dunst addressed Shannon.

"That's a matter of perspective," Shannon deadpanned.

When another journalist asked if Mary Jane from Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy just admitted she hadn't seen Man of Steel, the actress quipped: "Why do I have to watch every superhero movie? Is it required?"

"Solidarity," Shannon declared.

Co-starring Adam Driver and Sam Shepard, Midnight Special is in theaters now.

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