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Roughly three years after its victory, and Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water still feels like an unusual Best Picture winner. Not that it isn’t good. It’s actually great. But the love affair between a mute woman (Sally Hawkins) and a fish creature (Doug Jones) isn’t quite the usual Academy fare. Some found it to be a surprising win. Michael Shannon, a co-star in the film, was also portrayed as “surprised,” because he didn’t attend the Oscars the night that his movie won.
Michael Shannon, who plays a U.S. Colonel ordered to test the mer-man, famously was photographed hanging out in a Chicago watering hole the night that The Shape of Water took home the top Oscar. He had the ceremony on the TV, but wasn’t in the theater to support his director. We had Shannon on our ReelBlend podcast, though, and he told the real story behind that picture, and his reason for being in the Windy City.
The owner of The Ale House took that photo. Bruce, or one of the owners. … Anyway, he took the picture and he said, ‘You have no idea what this is going to do!’ And I said, ‘What are you talking about Bruce? Who’s going to care about that silly picture?’ And here I am. [laughs] But, I was in town, honestly, because the show that I had directed was closing. And I had been gone – because I had been working on Little Drummer Girl and I had missed most of the run and my cast… this play ran through the winter in Chicago, and it was a brutal winter. People were getting sick. People were slipping on ice. I mean, my cast had just gone through Hell to do this show. And it was a very popular show for the theater and I felt like I owed it to them to be there for the closing, which was in the afternoon. It was a matinee. So I went to the last performance, and then we had a reception afterwards and I told everybody how much I appreciated the hard work they had done. And then we had a little after party at The Ale House.
But don't get me wrong. I mean, I'm phenomenally proud of the fact that I'm in The Shape of Water, and I'm phenomenally proud of the fact that I worked with Guillermo and I don't take it lightly. Not one bit. But I'm also very proud of the work I do in Chicago at my little theater company. So I felt like I owed it to my people to be there.
Basically, Michael Shannon is exactly as authentic, humble, generous and interesting as you had hoped. And isn’t that something to celebrate?