Michael Fassbender : The Best Irish Import Since Guinness
Posted January 08, 2010 | By Andrew Richdale
Nevermind that Inglourious Basterds star Michael Fassbender is one of the most magnetic actors on the scene; or that he’s charmed the hell out of Hollywood shotcallers like Tom Hanks, Steven Soderbergh, and Joel Schumacher; or that he’s gutsy enough to sign on for a Jane Austen adaptation, two Nazi flicks (one of the vampire variety, the other of the Quentin brand), a role as a cheating husband who rapes his girlfriend’s 15-year-old daughter, and a Christian Bale-esque anorexic-for-the-sake-of-cinema biopic on Irish hunger striker Bobby Day over the course of three years. The bigger question is why don’t you know this badass better? We sat down for a drink with him while he was in New York for the release of his latest film, Cannes favorite Fish Tank (out this week), to find out how to stump a mastermind like Tarantino, why Megan Fox keeps things quick and dirty on set, and the one thing a guy this ballsy is afraid of.
In the last few years, your career has really taken off. Basterds, 300, and a whole slew of others that are on the way. How’d it come to this?
Well, when you’re first starting out, you make lemonade out of lemons. I took what I could get. [British director] Steve McQueen’s Hunger would have to be that sort of major turning point though. When I first read the script, I was like, Are people really going to want to watch an hour and a half of people starving themselves to death and smearing excrement on the wall? Then I met Steve and I knew that I had to work with him. This guy is going to teach me something I thought. He’s got a very strong sense of humanity. Real empathy.
I read that you actually had a lot of fun filming that movie. So I take it you’re not a method actor?
[laughs] When you’re dealing with heavy topic matter, I think it’s important to alleviate that by keeping it as light as possible in between shots. We’d just sort of joke around. Steve and I just really clicked very quickly and everybody had a passion to do their best. I really felt I didn’t want to let any of those guys down.
Your last few films have been about Nazis and hunger strikes and Fish Tank, your latest film, deals with statutory rape. Is there anything you’re not afraid of?
Yeah, a bad script. That’s what it really comes down to. Then my choice would be made purely by the director.
Which is interesting, since you didn’t read the script for Fish Tank before joining the cast. She didn’t even give you all the scenes during filming—just fed you batches of the script week to week, right?
Yeah, I’d seen Red Road and I really liked the way [director] Andrea Rosen deals with her characters. She doesn’t give the audience an easy out. I had to play it pretty much close to myself, because I didn’t even have reference points having not seen the whole script. Her characters do very ambiguous things to one another, and that’s what makes it interesting. We have the capabilities to do these things, all of us. We just make certain decisions at certain moments. That’s what makes it uncomfortable, as an audience, to watch.
You just wrapped up filming this comic book film, Jonah Hex, with Megan Fox. How, uh, hands on was that?
[laughs] It was great. She’s a real trooper. We had a scene together which is kind of violent and she just rolls up her sleeves and sort of gets on with it!
You know, the past like decade in America, we’ve gotten used to this sort of boy-ish kind of guy whose a little more soft than tough. And you ride motorcycles and drink beer damn it! How do you feel you fit into all of that? Do you feel like the shape of masculinity is changing in film?
I think men, in general, we are running scared at the moment, aren’t we? [laughs] We’re a dying breed! But if you look at Al Pacino and a guy like [American actor] Steve McQueen, they’re different forms of masculinity. And different roles require different things of men. Maybe you have more of an artistic character who’s more feminine and a lot of girls like that, too, I think. What’s horrible is if it all becomes one though. You want to have all those various choices.
I can’t get out of here without talking about Inglourious Basterds. You do a hell of a job in it. That bar scene is nothing short of epic. What was it like working with Tarantino?
You know the man eats, breathes, lives film. You could bring up the most obscure movie, like some f@&#$%!’ Swedish film from 1963 or whatever and he’ll know it. It’s quite staggering, actually, his encyclopedia of knowledge.
So he’s like the Ben Stein of film?
Yeah, I did catch him out, though: I asked him…it was either, “What was the name of Sonny Crockett’s crocodile in Miami Vice?” D’you know it?
Can’t say I do.
Elvis. It was either that question I called him out on or “What was the name of the two dogs in Magnum, P.I.?” Which of course are Apollo and Zeus.
So had it really been Ben Stein, you just would’ve won a s$#!-ton of money. So what’s next?
Well, I’m gonna do a Soderbergh film, Knockout, in February in Dublin. It’s sort of a thriller, spy movie. The lead actress is this cage-fighter. Her name is Gina Carano. She’s like a Muay-Thai specialist. And then after that I go on to do Jane Eyre. And then The Talking Cure with David Cronenberg and Christoph Waltz [from Inglourious Basterds].
Back with Hans! That’s a bingo.
Yes, and in this one we actually get to do a scene together! Last time, all I saw of him was when I was dead, on the ground with two f@&#$%!’ exit wounds, one in both butt cheeks, where each testicle had left my body.
So what you’re saying is that it can only get better from here.
Source | GQ Magazine