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Michael Fassbender: I am a regular guy

Posted October 22, 2013 | By Cindy Pearlman

On the big screen Michael Fassbender excels in playing edgy, intense characters, including a sex addict in Shame (2011), a mutant terrorist in the making in X-Men: First Class (2011) and a tyrannical slave owner in the upcoming 12 Years a Slave.

The German-Irish actor promises, however, that this intensity stops when the cameras aren’t rolling.

“I’m just a regular guy,” he says. “I keep my life pretty simple.” That’s not usually possible for a resident of Hollywood’s A-list, but Fassbender, who lives in London, says that he manages reasonably well.

“To be honest, it’s not too crazy,” he says. “Fans approaching me is a random thing. People will come up and say, ˜I saw you in this or that, can we talk about it for a second?’ That’s pretty nice.” The 36-year-old Fassbender still has room to rise, though, and life might not be as low-key for him if he scores hits with Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave and Ridley Scott’s The Counsellor.

“I’m not on the level of Brad Pitt or George Clooney,” he says. “I don’t envy that kind of fame. It’s nice to be somewhat anonymous.” Sitting for an interview on a rainy fall morning in Toronto, Fassbender has the looks to rival Clooney or Pitt. Clad in dark slacks and a black sweater, he’s tall and lanky, with dirty-blonde hair and a warm smile.

Written by Pulitzer Prize-winner Cormac McCarthy, The Counsellor is set to open on October 25. Fassbender plays a young, ambitious lawyer who finds himself in deep trouble when he gets involved in drug trafficking. The powerhouse cast also includes Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, John Leguizamo and Pitt himself.

“It’s the kind of movie that you can’t really get out of your head,” Fassbender says. “It’s what Cormac does so well in his work, which is to remind us that each action has a reaction.

“I play a guy who can’t be naive,” he continues. “He’s a defence lawyer who works on the Mexican border. He meets criminals all the time and defends them.

He’s arrogant. He believes that he’s above anything happening to him.

He sees a money investment with a huge reward on the end of it.” Cruz plays the counsellor’s slightly naive girlfriend, and Fassbender considers that relationship the hinge on which the movie turns.

“These two people are in love and they have a life together,” he says. “This was crucial to the story. She’s the island in his life that’s pure and beautiful.” His love scenes with Cruz, Fassbender jokes, weren’t enhanced by the fact that her husband, Bardem, was also in the film.

“It’s awkward to do love scenes, especially since Javier was sitting at the end of the bed,” Fassbinder says with a laugh. “You just want to make sure that everyone is comfortable and safe.”

12 Years a Slave, opening on October 18, tells the based-on-fact story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from New York who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in pre-Civil War America. Fassbender plays brutal plantation owner Edwin Epps, a Bible-thumping, whip-wielding drunk and rapist.

“He’s not the sharpest tool in the box,” Fassbender says. “He needs to keep people suppressed and controlled to find order in his world.” The film includes the violent rape of a slave who is later whipped by Epps.

“It’s horrendous,” Fassbender says. “The man I play was in love with this woman and doesn’t know how to process that information. He tries to quash his feelings by beating her and turning to violence instead of his real feelings.” Nonetheless, the actor adds, he doesn’t see Epps as a lost soul.

“A lot of people are saying, ˜Oh, he’s so evil,'” Fassbender says. “I prefer to think of him as a human being caught up in something so complicated and so unjust.

I tried to find the human being, as opposed to some evil plantation owner.” The actor calls the film ‘one of the most complex movies I’ve done.’ “Obviously being a slave is the worst deal,” Fassbender says. “I had to look at the other side. I had to ask myself how being the suppressor is affected by his actions. How does it affect the person administering the pain and suffering? Eventually I thought of Epps as a boil on society,” he says. “He represented this sick society.”

Fassbender admits that sometimes Epps was hard to shake off after work.

“I always try to leave the role behind at the end of the day,” he says. “That’s part of the job. When I’m on the job, I have a massive responsibility to do a role justice and speak the truth. At the end of the day, I’m back to being me again and my own truth.” Part of that is not to look back on his work once he’s left the set.

“The worst feeling in the world, for an actor, is to leave the day’s work, get in your car and go, ˜Oh, I should have done that,'” Fassbender explains. “You’re halfway home at a red light and go, ˜Why didn’t I play it that way?’ Me, I try to avoid second guessing,” he says. “I just go home and relax. Or relax somewhat “ the truth is that you’re always living with the character, thinking what would he do? But you still have to try to exorcise the demons.”

Fassbender was born in Germany to a German father and an Irish mother.When he was 2 the family moved to Ireland, settling in Killarney, County Kerry, where his parents ran the West End House, a popular restaurant where his father was also the chef.

He grew up loving movies, including the classic Alien (1979).

“My parents allowed me to see it, for some reason, when I was 12,” Fassbender recalls, œwhich was odd because they were very strict. In Ireland, where I grew up, the film was rated for 18-year olds or older. I was so wet behind the ears, but my parents thought it was a worthy movie. I’ll never forget running home very disturbed,” he says.”I wish they didn’t let me see it at that age.”

Fassbender’s first career breakthrough came when he was cast as Sgt. Burton Pat Christenson on the miniseries Band of Brothers’ (2001). He went on to such films as 300 (2006), Hunger (2008), Inglourious Basterds (2009), X-Men: First Class, Jane Eyre (2011) and Shame. Closing the circle in a way, he also played android David in Scott’s Alien prequel, Prometheus (2012).

“I’m in the 1 percent of actors who are given an opportunity,” Fassbender says. “It’s truly a dream come true. At a certain point you think, ˜Am I going to be allowed do what I love?’ I was given a ˜yes’ answer, which is a miracle. There was a time when I was a guy working behind a bar, dreaming of becoming a jobbing actor,” he adds. “To be in this position now is surreal.”

Ahead is more of the same. Fassbender will resume his role as Magneto in the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past. That’s due next year, as is Terrence Malick’s as-yet-untitled film, set in the music scene in Austin, Texas, and costarring Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling and Natalie Portman. He’s also developing movies through his production company, Finn McCool Films.

Away from the set, the actor says, he lives simply.

“I don’t dwell on my career when I’m not working,” Fassbender says. “It’s about being with family and friends. You need to keep your priorities in order. At least, I try.”

Source | Qatar Tribune

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