Life and careerShannon was born August 15, 1974 in Lexington, Kentucky, and is a grandson of entomologist Raymond Corbett Shannon. His mother, Geraldine Hine, is a lawyer, and his father, Donald S. Shannon, was an accounting professor at DePaul University. He was raised by his divorced parents in both Kentucky and Chicago, Illinois. Shannon began his career as a stage actor in Chicago, where he helped found the "A Red Orchid Theatre", where he still regularly performs. He has since worked with Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Northlight Theatre, and other acting companies. Shannon originated the role of Peter Evans in Bug in 2004 and also starred in the 2006 film adaptation with Ashley Judd and Harry Connick, Jr, directed by William Friedkin. His roles in Bug, Killer Joe, and Man From Nebraska were written by Steppenwolf ensemble member Tracy Letts.
Shannon made his film debut with a small role in Groundhog Day in 1993 as a wedding groom. Later, he had roles in Jesus' Son, Pearl Harbor, 8 Mile and Vanilla Sky. He played the villain in Kangaroo Jack. After a role in Bad Boys II, he had a major role in Grand Theft Parsons as the hippie, Larry Oster-burg. In 2006, he played the leader of a prison white supremacist group, Lynard, in Let's Go to Prison. Other roles include a gambler in Lucky You and Peter Evans in Bug. He starred in Shotgun Stories (2007), a performance for which he was widely acclaimed.
Shannon has appeared in several shows in the West End in London, including a production of Woyzeck directed by Sarah Kane. In 2008, Shannon was featured in the off-Broadway production of Stephen Adly Guirgis's The Little Flower of East Orange, presented by LAByrinth Theater Company and The Public Theater, directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman and also featuring Ellen Burstyn.
Shannon's role in Revolutionary Road, also starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo Dicaprio, earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He portrayed Doc Cross Williams in the film adaptation of Jonah Hex. Shannon will play a dirty cop in the upcoming film Premium Rush, directed by David Koepp. In the 2010 HBO television show Boardwalk Empire, Shannon plays the role of Federal Prohibition agent Nelson Van Alden. He is currently starring as Felix Artifex in Mistakes Were Made at the Barrow Street Theatre in New York City through February 27th. He has recently been cast as the villain General Zod in Zack Snyder's Superman reboot, Superman: The Man of Steel.