Michael Shannon, who will be seen in The Iceman releasing today, says he is drawn to characters who are struggling

Michael Shannon who we last saw as General Zod in Man of Steel now plays Richard Kuklinski in The Iceman directed Ariel Vromen. The film, based on a true story, tells the story of Kuklinski, a killer for hire who is also a devoted family man. Ray Liotta and Winona Ryder also star. In this email interview, the actor shares his thoughts on his character among other things.

What attracted you to the role?

It’s a very intimidating role. I was able to find some sort of empathy for Richard Kuklinski because I feel like he was mistreated as a child, a hard upbringing and he struggled with that damage his whole life. With Kuklinski, what drew me to him is that he was a man full of rage, darkness and sadistic impulses yet somewhere deep inside of him there was also a shred of caring, tenderness and wanting to have a family, be able to provide for this family and take care of them. I found the duality of that a very interesting challenge to play.

Can you tell us about your character?

My character, Richard Kuklinski is a killer-for-hire. At the same time, he is a devoted husband and a loving father.

What preparation did you do?

Well, the research I did for the role was not incredibly extensive. I did start reading a book about Kuklinski. Then, Ariel said I was reading the wrong one, I should read the other one.

And I realised that they are both accurate and inaccurate and it's probably really hard to know truth at all about what had happened because I don't think Kuklinski told the truth all the time. And then there's the interview. The famous interview on HBO. I was able to get an unedited version of that interview. It's over 20 hours long I think. I spent hours watching and trying to figure out how his mind worked. Interviews are probably the best thing to have and learn how somebody talks, his movies and other things.

What do you look for when choosing a part?

I seem to be drawn to characters who are struggling with something and who seem to have some sort of difficulty making their way in the world and want to try and improve themselves in some way or overcome the obstacles in their past.

What was your experience working with Ariel Vromen?

One of the challenges faced was to find a balance between the two sides of his existence - his family life and his professional life. Ariel was actually very helpful in this regards because the way he scheduled the film we kind of compartmentalised it where we started with the stuff with Ray and David Schwimmer and then we moved into the Chris (Evans) scenes which kind of kicks it up a notch. And then, Winona came. And then on we focused more of the family stuff. I actually had the luxury of separating it out a little bit which is more than Kuklinski ever had.

Can you share your experience of working with Winona Ryder and Ray Liotta?

Winona was fantastic. It’s a very difficult role she was playing. It’s hard for people to believe that Richard could have kept his violent job a secret from his family. That was something that Winona had to wrestle with, but she’s got a really big heart and throws herself into what she does. You just feel for her every time she is on screen; you feel what she is going through. My co-stars helped me a lot. But Ray, he scared the hell out of me. I really felt Ray had a keen awareness.