His part of the film took only five days to shoot, but Shannon's John Givings has an indelible impact. In three short scenes with Frank and April Wheeler (Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet), the psychologically troubled young man acts as shrink, surgeon and exorcist, opening the couple's suburban wounds and exposing the grievances inside. As Shannon notes, "He's trying to say, I see the truth of your circumstance, that we can be totally honest with one another. Wouldn't that be nice." Shannon, 34, also plays up John's ruthless wit: "Because his life is so difficult, he's chosen to turn it into a game to have fun at any cost." It's a breakout turn for Shannon, who has built a neat résumé of off-kilter characters (Bug, Shotgun Stories) and who, with his subtle, nervy portrait here, dominates the screen whenever he's on it. The actor gives full props to director Sam Mendes ("No matter how much thought you've put into it, he's thought about it more"), but Shannon is the one who brings this discomfiting character to searing, sympathetic life.
Reported by Lina Lofaro
Next Dakota Fanning