With relish, actor Michael Shannon enjoys Chicago, plots life after ‘Shape of Water’

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On a film distributor’s dime, when an actor rolls up in a sleek black SUV for an interview it’s usually in the vicinity of a red carpet at a big film festival or in front of a swank hotel laden with free-loading junket journalists.

This was different. The other week I interviewed two-time Academy Award nominee and longtime Chicago resident Michael Shannon. He rolled up in a rapper-worthy SUV, but this was in front of the Billy Goat, just off Lower Michigan Avenue, at 8 in the morning. No glamour. No witnesses. It was the SUV roll-up equivalent of the tree that falls in the forest when no one can hear it.

“All the years I lived in Chicago, I’ve never been here!” Shannon says. He ducks his head, heads down the steps and we order egg and cheese on kaiser sandwiches and coffee. Shannon is taken with the pickle stash and relish bin next to the register. “Now we’re talking,” he says.

This week — the first week of December, a few weeks after his Chicago promotional visit tied to the Chicago International Film Festival — is a typical week for Shannon, 43, in that he’s a prominent part of yet another new film. In Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water,” the actor plays the cattle-prod-wielding government operative who has discovered, and captured, an Amazonian river creature, half-man, half-amphibian. Shannon shares the screen with several other splendid talents — Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer and Michael Stuhlbarg among them.

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