Michael Fassbender has been so busy that it’s tough for him to keep up with all the talking that goes with movie openings. He’s up for awards consideration for all the performances he gave in the 2011–from “X-Men: First Class” and “Jane Eyre” to “A Dangerous Method” and “Shame.” But it’s the latter, a Fox Searchlight acquisition from Telluride, that is most likely to yield awards attention during Oscar season. The Academy steakeaters may not catch up with a romantic women’s picture like “Jane Eyre”; voters tend to look down their noses at a big-budget genre prequel like “X-Men”; and Fassbender’s performance as the uptight analyst Carl Jung–who winds up spanking one of his patients because he loves her–is not as literally exposed and vulnerable as his conflicted sex-addict in the NC-17-rated “Shame.”
Brit director Steve McQueen gave Fassbender his break-through role at age 30 in “Hunger,” which they both committed to 110%, says Fassbender in the video interview below. “There was a recession around the corner,” he recalls. “Thank God ‘Hunger” came about. I worked hard to get it right. For both of us it was very important. I was ready and willing to go to the places that Steve asks you to go. The focus on set is incredible.”
Fassbender has made six movies in the last 20 months and plans to kick back a tad. While there’a a possible Jim Jarmusch movie in the offing, his only commitment is to McQueen for “Twelve Years a Slave,” which he’s keeping mum about. He praises McQueen for helping him “to reach heights that I couldn’t get to by myself,” he says. He likes the long takes on “Hunger” and “Shame” as well as the intense rehearsal/rewrite process that allows the actors to bring more of themselves to each scene. “The camera picks up the tenable energy in the room,” he says.
McQueen first told him about “Shame” in 2008, and by the time Fassbender actually read the script in 2010, what he had imagined was far worse than it was. He had to get over his self-consciousness quickly, he says. “I’m allowing the audience to see the various components of the addiction he’s got…his desperation, shame, disgust…and pain.”
Working with David Cronenberg on dialogue-heavy “A Dangerous Method” was all about adapting to the eloquent literary academic discourse of the early 1900s. “I’d treat it like a piece of music with rhythms and textures, to have firm command of it.”
The AFI FEST screening of “Haywire” was his first viewing of the Steven Spoderbergh actioner, which he enjoyed, even though he got his ass kicked by Gina Carano. “I’m more fragile,” he admits. During filming he was able to train again with the 8711 team from “300,” as well as some Israeli special forces experts who taught him how to use weapons. “I was allowed to do all of it,” he boasts.
As for his vulnerable interpretation of the brooding Mr. Rochester in “Jane Eyre,” he thought, “this guy seems a bit bi-polar,” and sometimes played him as charming and at ease, and others very distant. “I thought this guy was walking around with something on his shoulder the whole time: Bertha in the attic. He was a classic Byronic hero with elements of vulenrability… He needs [Jane] more than she needs him, she’s going to be the one who heals him.”
Fassbender returned to big-studio filmmaking with Ridley Scott’s outer space opera “Prometheus,” in which he plays an android. His physicality was inspired by the swimmer Greg Louganis, he says.
If “Hunger” required Fassbender’s 100% commitment, ever since then, he says, “that’s my approach anyway.”