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Michael Shannon explores a range of roles

Michael Shannon stands 6 feet, 3 inches. Big guy. Carries a big, George Costanza-size wallet too, which he plops on the table at the RH Restaurant at West Hollywood’s Andaz Hotel with sincere apologies. “It’s ridiculous,” he says. “My whole life is in here.”

A glimmer of Shannon’s life can also be seen on screen in “Take Shelter,” the critically praised drama in which the 37-year-old actor plays a father worried about losing his family as well as his mind. We talked to Shannon about the film, being a dad and taking on the role of the evil Gen. Zod in Zack Snyder’s upcoming “Superman” reboot.

What made “Take Shelter” click for you?

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If I could sum it up in one sentence, it’s ‘How do you have a family, people you love tremendously, knowing how fragile and messed up the world is?’ I don’t think it’d shock anyone if, five minutes from now, Los Angeles wasn’t here.

But we just signed Albert Pujols.

[Laughs] Or maybe not. I don’t think I’m a pessimist. It’s just gotten to the point that, when I walk by the newsstand, I put my hand up so I don’t have to look at the headlines.

Having a 3-year-old daughter must have informed your work on this.

I’ve never worried so much about anything in my life as I do my daughter. I worry about everything. Am I a good enough father? If I’m away from her, I worry I shouldn’t be away. I worry about what the world’s going to be like when I’m gone. Will she be OK? It’s just an infinite list of things.

But you’re not a pessimist.

All right, I lied. I’m kind of a downer. It’s my natural inclination. Did you know that, as of Halloween, there are officially 7 billion people in the world?

We had leftover candy. How does that work?

Obviously, it’s speculative. But … 7 billion.

And you’re partly responsible for one of them.

Well, yeah, and with my daughter there’s all the great things too, the love and the fun. She’s the thing that’s made me happier than anything else. So it’s not all gloom and doom. But they’re so vulnerable. And you want to protect them.

It’s instinctive. And that’s what drives your character in “Take Shelter.”

Curtis wants to protect his family. But you’re always trying to figure out: Am I the problem? Or is the world the problem? Curtis explores both possibilities. Ultimately, I think it’s a combination of the two.

I doubt Gen. Zod worries about these things.

No. Defeating Superman requires a particular focus.

You read Ulysses S. Grant’s memoir to try to get into Zod’s head space?

Just the whole notion of being a general. I’ve never really felt like a general before. Maybe a sergeant.

Did reading Grant help?

You have to get past the beginning part, where he’s talking about everyone he’s been related to in his life. It’s kind of like reading the beginning of the Bible. Forget about the begatting, man. I want to read about you! He wrote it at a really hard time in his life. Mark Twain had to help him with his publishing deal so he wouldn’t be screwed over.

I’d like to have been at that meeting.

That’d be a good play. Let’s work on it. But I’ll have to play Twain. Grant was like 5 foot 4. Know why I know that?

Watching “Jeopardy”?

I did a reading for that Lincoln movie [Steven] Spielberg’s making and they asked me to read the part of Grant. I’m sitting there, reading the screenplay, and it says, “Ulysses S. Grant, famously short, only 5 foot 4…" So I just start hunching down in my seat, you know? I guess that’s why I’m Zod instead of Grant.

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