Across the Universe: Meet Magneto
Posted January 2011 | By Don Kaye
Our exclusive look at ‘X-Men: First Class’ with star Michael Fassbender
One of the summer films that the fan community is the most curious about is “X-Men: First Class,” which arrives in theaters June 3 and stars James McAvoy (“Wanted“) as powerful telepath Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender (“Inglourious Basterds“) as master of magnetism Erik Lehnsherr, two young mutants who join forces in the 1960s to make the world safer for their kind before they split apart and become, as Professor X and Magneto, bitter enemies. In other words, the film is a prequel to the three previous “X-Men” pictures (not counting “X-Men Origins: Wolverine“), with McAvoy and Fassbender playing younger versions of the characters first established onscreen by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen.
The film is directed by Matthew Vaughn (“Kick-Ass“) and also stars January Jones (“Mad Men“) as mutant vixen Emma Frost, Kevin Bacon as the villainous Sebastian Shaw, Jennifer Lawrence (“Winter’s Bone“) as Mystique, Jason Flemyng as Azazel and many more in a story that pits Xavier and Magneto against the powerful evil of Shaw’s Hellfire Club. No footage has been released from the movie yet, but thanks to 20th Century Fox, MSN is premiering a brand-new image from the film and presenting an exclusive interview with Michael Fassbender. We reached Fassbender via phone in New York, where he is preparing for a few more days’ shooting on the film, to talk about taking on the role of one of the comic books’ greatest anti-heroes.
MSN: What drew you to play this character and take on the challenge of assuming a role established by Ian McKellen?
Michael Fassbender: Hopefully I won’t disappoint the fan base out there, because I know that what Ian McKellen did sort of latched onto a lot of imaginations and was very successful. But what drew me was the script and Matthew Vaughn and the fact that James McAvoy was going to be playing young Xavier. I thought it was a fresh take on the whole story. I’ve never been a big comic book enthusiast, but I thought it was an interesting concept to go back to when they were both friends and initially came together.
After you signed on for the role, did a box come in the mail packed with hundreds of “X-Men” comics for you to peruse?
Yes, it did, and I got knee-deep into them once I got involved. That was all my source material, because it’s all there in the comic books in terms of a backstory and formulating the character. I did also watch the other films and took notes from those, but took most of my references from the comic books.
As someone coming to this from a sort of open perspective and not really being a fan, what did you learn about this character?
He’s such a complex character, really, and the idea of him being a villain is interesting considering his history (Lehnsherr is a Holocaust survivor who lost his family in the camps, and later lost his wife and daughter) … he’s a very solitary individual, and the pain and grief that’s gone on even before we meet him in this film is an interesting pool of information to draw from, in coming up with this Machiavellian character for whom the ends justified the means. You can see where he’s coming from. Human beings don’t have the greatest track record in what they’ve done throughout history, so his point of view is, “Well, we are the next stage of evolution — (humans) are to us what Neanderthals were to Homo sapiens.”
He’s always been a fascinating character because he’s not completely wrong, but thinks that everything he does is right, no matter what the cost.
He’s an extremist, and that’s always a dangerous place to be. By the time we leave him at the end of this movie, he’s become very clear about what he wants and his decisions and his game plan.
Early word on the movie’s story line draws parallels between Xavier and Lehnsherr and Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X in terms of the methods they use to achieve their goals. Did that comparison come out for you while making the film?
You don’t set out to play these things that way, but it’s a good parallel to have in the back of one’s mind, as something to take from real life as a reference. I didn’t study any Malcolm X videos or anything like that. But it clarifies where both these characters are coming from. Hopefully by the end of the film, the audience is like, “Damn, why didn’t these two guys stay together?” They have enough in common and not in common to keep each other in check, and hopefully the audience will feel like they could have worked together for the greater good.
The words “reboot” and “prequel” are thrown around so much these days, and are sometimes even used interchangeably. Is this a reboot of the entire “X-Men” franchise, or a true prequel where you could watch this and then sit down and watch the three earlier films and see a connection?
I think the fundamentals are the same. The main thread of the story is still the same. I don’t really know how to answer the question because I haven’t seen this one yet, so I haven’t had a chance to watch it side by side with the other ones and see if they’re relative to each other. Hopefully they are, I think, but also we want to do something fresh as well and open a whole new chapter with this without totally betraying what was laid down before.
One of the criticisms of “X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006) was that a lot of mutant characters were jammed into the film, introduced and then never developed. There are a lot of mutants in this film as well, but from your perspective are they handled better here?
The cool thing about this movie is that I think it does deal with each individual mutant, and the ones they’ve chosen are all very much individuals and unique personalities with unique gifts. What’s interesting is that we’ve gone back to a period where the mutants don’t know that there are other people out there like them. They just think they’re freaks and outcasts from society … all of these new characters are fearful of their gifts and uncomfortable and misplaced in society, so hopefully when they all sort of come together and realize they’re not alone and feel more comfortable in their own skin, that’s a discovery for all the characters that you experience.
The film is set in the ’60s and Vaughn has said he wanted to capture a certain look — specifically referencing the James Bond films of that era. He has also said that the costumes will be more like the comics’ versions and not the black rubber look of the other “X-Men” films. Can you comment on both of those ideas?
There’s a scene where they just sort of transformed this hall in London into Buenos Aires Airport, and I just looked around this mock airport and said to myself, “My God, I’ve just had a feeling of being in the ’60s.” From the colors to the costume designs to the production design itself, there’s a sort of nostalgia in the air when you look around the room. It’s just from my own perception of the ’60s, and all that came with it in terms of the music and the fashions and so forth, but all of that comes across in the visual references that we all have. All of that is there to encapsulate the feeling of that era, for sure.
As for our costumes, we went back and forth on so many things. We added things that worked in the comics, took them away again, and stripped them down again. … When it came to the Magneto suit, you know, there’s various stages of what has been done with it, but you will have something that is traditional to the comics. There is a helmet (laughs), which is of course essential to keep Charlie-boy out of my head, and the colors are also kept traditional to the comics, that sort of red and purple. I don’t know if I’m giving you too much, but I’ll say it anyway (laughs).
Fans of the “X-Men” franchise were not completely happy with the way that the third film, “X-Men: The Last Stand,” was handled, even though it was financially successful, and there were grumblings about the “Wolverine” film as well. Is there a sense that you’ve set out to earn back the fans’ trust with this one?
I certainly hope so. My face is gonna be up there and my name is gonna be attached to it. I’ve got a lot of faith in Matthew, and everyone is very passionate and working very hard to earn back any trust that’s waned a little bit from the last film.
This interview is one of the first of the early stages of prerelease publicity for the film, which has been kept very much under wraps until now. Any other thoughts that you want to get out there about the movie at this point?
Well, I just hope that this and some of the photos that are being released will whet the fans’ appetites for the summer. Hopefully they’ll be excited.
Source | MSN Entertainment