'White Lie' star Michael Shannon is more about the work than show biz fanfare

Michael Shannon's "A Little White Lie" film is showing in theaters and streaming on pay-per-view platforms. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
1 of 5 | Michael Shannon's "A Little White Lie" film is showing in theaters and streaming on pay-per-view platforms. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK, March 9 (UPI) -- Nine Perfect Strangers, Boardwalk Empire and Man of Steel star Michael Shannon says he related to his character in A Little White Lie because he, too, can be uncomfortable with the fanfare associated with his work.

"I have a tense relationship with all of that showboating," the actor told UPI in a phone interview Monday, saying he doesn't love the "hullabaloo" of campaigning for awards.


"People are always trying to get you to focus on other things. It's not enough to just do the work. You've got to try to get the work out into the world, where people will pay attention to it," he said.

"There's so much for people to choose from nowadays, you have to find a way to make an impression."

Shannon said part of him just wants the work to speak for itself.


A Little White Lie, the film adaptation of Chris Belden's novel, Shriver, is showing in theaters and streaming on pay-per-view platforms.

Written and directed by Michael Maren, the comedy casts Shannon as Shriver, a lonely man apparently mistaken for a lionized, but reclusive, author unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight when he is invited to speak at a university literary festival.

The film's cast also features Don Johnson, Zach Braff, Kate Linder, Aja Naomi King and Da'Vine Joy Randolph.

"Shriver is a guy who's come against a lot of hard knocks over the years, and he's struggling to get by, working a pretty thankless job as a superintendent in a building. He, obviously, has a bit of a drinking problem," Shannon said.

"He's trying to forget some of the ordeals he's been through over the years, and he stumbles onto an interesting opportunity by chance to go to a fancy university and pretend to be somebody that he isn't -- a famous writer who just happens to have the same name."

Shriver has nothing to lose when he receives a note from Dr. Simone Cleary (Kate Hudson) informing him he has won a prestigious prize. Hoping it is a car, he accepts.


"Initially, he has trepidation about the whole thing, but he talks about it with his friend (Mark Boone Junior) and his friend says, 'Well, you'd be crazy not to go. They'll probably treat you like a king. Just take advantage of it and have a good time,'" Shannon said.

"He's somebody who has a lot of uncertainty. He's not entirely comfortable around other people, and he is kind of in a fog."

For much of the film, Shriver is seen alone drinking or trying to write something fresh to share with his new colleagues.

"I always love having a scene partner. One of the fun aspects of acting is responding to your fellow actors -- listening and reacting and all that," he said.

"It definitely seemed appropriate for this character. He's an incredibly lonely person, but I enjoyed shooting these scenes. You're never really alone on a film set. There's always people around, even if you are the only one on camera."

Shannon, whose real-life father was a college professor who taught business and accounting, said he enjoyed exploring the world of academia, which, in this film, is portrayed as an insular bubble filled with a real community of passionate readers and thinkers.


"I spent a lot of time hanging out with [my father]. I even sat in on his class a couple of times. So I had a little bit of exposure. But it was a very different curriculum. It was a different arena than what's in this movie," Shannon said.

He acknowledged the film mirrors what a lot of people who actually obtain liberal arts degrees face -- their skills don't necessarily translate into jobs outside the campus atmosphere.

"It's this weird kind of environment. I guess it's some sort of shelter, but it's a false sense of security because once you get out of it, you can't depend on it leading to much of anything," Shannon said.

"Don't get me wrong: I think it's beautiful that they study literature and they care about literature and I hope that continues to be the case," he added, noting he starred in Fahrenheit 451 several years ago and would hate to see that world -- one in which books were destroyed and ideas suppressed -- become reality.

Something else Shannon found compelling about A Little White Lie was how it addresses people's tendencies to treat others based on their preconceived notions.

"You can't judge a book by its cover. Everybody says that, But I think this is a really vivid and layered depiction of why this is the case," he said.


The fact that Shannon got to reunite with Johnson, his co-star from Knives Out, was icing on the cake.

"Don and I had a lot of fond memories of making Knives Out. He is one of the sweetest people I've ever worked with," Shannon said.

"It's hard for me to believe I'm working with this guy, having watched him on TV when I was growing up. I never thought in a million years that I'd be working with him," he said.

"That's always surreal when you have those experiences in this business. He's so funny and so generous. I just love that guy."

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