Fish Tank | They Just Do Things | Interview with Michael Fassbender [Spoilers]
Posted January 08, 2010 | By Darrel Manson
They Just Do Things
Interview with Michael Fassbender
In Fish Tank, Michael Fassbender plays a key role in a girl’s coming of age story. He plays her mother’s boy friend, but he also ends up in a sexual relationship with the girl. In a recent roundtable interview Fassbender discussed the film. Having recently been seen in Inglourious Basterds, he was asked if the prominence of that film changed things for him. Not really. To be fair, is has for sure sort of affected things on this side of the water, for people who haven’t seen Hunger of anything that I’ve done before. So getting to meet filmmakers and interesting scripts are coming my way. I’ll have to wait and see what happens next. I am waiting to start this one film which is an independent film with a guy called David Jacobson who did Down in the Valley with Ed Norton, maybe five years ago. I think the financing is finally in place, which is a good thing. Hopefully that will start in January. But I haven’t been doing anything since Jonah Hex which finished in May – just been reading a lot. When asked about having a relationship with a sixteen year old girl in the film, he replied: Yeah, I know. I kind of knew when Andrea [Arnold] gave me the premise of the story what was going to happen. Since Director Andrea Arnold doesn’t give the actors the whole script, Fassbender was asked what it was like working like that. I as a bit nervous to begin with because I usually do a lot of prep, then by the time I get on set I’m ready to go. It was a bit disconcerting not to have the whole script to look at so I could form a character and get an idea of the decisions he makes throughout. But I got an opinion that she wanted to keep it fresh and wanted to keep it light and didn’t want me to load scenes knowing what was coming later. So it was fine. I said to her it would be great for me if I could get on Friday the next week’s pages and scenes, and then I had the weekend to take a look at it. Then I could take it day by day from there because I’m bad at learning lines, really, and I need some time with that. You know, she’s very good at creating a safe and creative environment to work in. She’s great at that. And once we got going it was fantastic. There was some improvisation; we stuck sometimes to the script; sometimes we threw the script away; and then we mixed and matched. Like Rebecca [Griffiths] who plays Tyler, was very good at improvising. Sometimes with the lines she’d feel a little boxed in. So a lot of the time we’d sort of improvise with her, stick to the script with Katie [Jarvis] and Kierston [Wareing] and just sort of mix it up. It was fun. And it’s always nice to have some sort of risk element involved and feeling like you’re going to fall flat on your face at any point. It’s sort of exciting.
He was asked about working with Katie Jarvis, who plays the central character, Mia. Katie had never acted or danced before making this film. The most important thing was just to make sure that she was comfortable and didn’t feel like she was being taken advantage of. Katie comes – it’s not autobiographical or anything, but she comes from a working class family – council estates sort of upbringing. So she’s a tough girl, but she’s also vulnerable like Mia. These kids – I’m sure it’s the same in America in the projects – they can be quite defensive because they’re protecting themselves. They’ve been hurt before by their immediate family or society. So she was at times kind of guarded. Once again, Andrea did a great job making her feel safe – making her feel like we weren’t out to manipulate her, take advantage of her. And I just tried to keep it light – being a bit of a jackass on set and make a fool of myself so she wouldn’t feel so pressurized. We just tried to keep it light. But in terms of acting with her, I had no advice to give her. I just tried to keep up with her. She’s very real and very truthful and she’s got this honesty about her. She’s got really strong intuition. So she was great. I just had to react to her. And it was the same with Kierston and the same with Tyler. We were all doing that. We were all sort of bouncing off each other allowing each other to sort of breathe. It was really sort of loose and creative. He was asked, since this film has such a harsh depiction of life, what was the hardest part to shoot. I suppose the controversial scene. Obviously it was in the back of my mind that she would be comfortable with it. And she never knew that it was going to happen. I don’t know if she had guessed it; I’m sure she did as we started filming. But I always knew it was going to come at some point. So just to make sure that we got that scene – that we got the right tone for the scene and that she would be comfortable to do it and how far we could really go with it. I guess that was always in the back of my head. I was worried if she would feel like I was copping free feel or anything like that. You never know. It’s like you say, it’s the first time for her coming into an imaginary world. Just getting a grip on a film day for her. You have to get up at 5:30 in the morning and go to seven or eight at night. The only advice I could give her was how to pace herself in a working environment and how to maintain your energy in those down periods when you’re waiting around. I always think that filming is kind of like sprinting; you have your down time and then you’re on. Whereas theatre’s like a marathon; you practice, practice and then you’re off. So I could really only give her advice on the ins and outs of the business, but in terms of acting there was nothing really I could tell her to do. I’m always wary of actors trying to direct other actors anyway. There’s a director for that.
He was asked about limitations on the roles he would be willing to play. I just go on the basis of who the director is and what’s written on the page. Obviously I didn’t have the written page this time, but I’d seen Red Road and I was impressed by that film. So I just put my trust in her and I knew she was a great filmmaker. Those are the only things that cause me to make a decision, just on the director and the material. Doesn’t matter if it’s commercial or low budget. He was asked about the importance of his work being recognized or “is the work the work?” The work is the work. I’d be lying if I said it’s not nice to get these things, for sure. But I try not to get caught up in it, because then you get disappointed. It’s kind of weird as well in a creative capacity to have “this is the best film.” I don’t know if there’s a parallel in sports: you’re the fastest runner or the second fastest runner. I think it’s always nice to have fellow peers acclaim work by praising each other’s work. I think it’s always a nice environment, like when you go to these festivals and it’s just about enjoying all the work that’s out there and a celebration of film. He was then asked about his take on his character in the film, Connor. As I say, it developed as I as going along, because we were going through it scene by scene. He’s, for the most part, a good-natured person. I think he’s got issues with responsibility; he’s pretty irresponsible. I think he’s an escapist. I think he’s not somebody who can handle his problems head on; he tends to run away from them. I do think that he’s good-natured and kind-hearted and just in a moment made one decision as opposed to another. I think he definitely crossed a line and abused a position that he had because she’s missing a fatherly figure, but she also had a crush on him and that should have been fairly evident to him. Guys do things, I guess, because they kind of, I don’t know, need a little ego boost or are feeling a little sorry for themselves. I think what’s interesting about it is that it’s not – what Andrea does really well and what I got from Red Road is she’s non-judgmental of the characters she portrays. They just do things and that’s life. There’s no good person in it, no bad person. There’s elements of everything in everyone. I though it was more interesting to play Connor as a normal, everyday guy because then when you’re watching it as an audience member you’re like, “Shit, that’s in me too. I have the possibility to do things like that.” You’re not so far removed. We’re pretty much made up of the same things. Then I think it’s more thought provoking, as opposed to this is a pedophile and he should be punished and this is the punishment at the end. No. This is just life and life goes on. And what happens to her after this is how her next chapter of her life begins. It’s almost like at the end of the film she’s starting her new adventure. I think what’s interesting about Connor is he gives her that self-belief that her mother’s not giving her. He gives her that confidence that she can get on in this world.
One of the interviewers noted that he gives Connor a family man quality. I do think that he comes from a working class kind of background, but not as extreme as that. You find in situations like that there’s lots of kids in a small space. Parents are having sex in the next room. It’s not like middle class is very structured: “Go to your room. Mommy and Daddy have something else to do.” It’s all sort of there and in the mix. It’s like you’re looking after each other, do you understand? I think he’s very easy with kids. He comes straight into her life, handles the little girl very well and realizes she’s a teenager trying to be cool and she’s becoming an adult. He’s very good at recognizing that with her and treating her in that respect. So yeah, I think he’s a very personable person. He’s a very humane character. He was asked about his project with a character and how much of the character’s background and history he develops aside from the script. I’ll always sort of put together an autobiography of some sort. Obviously in this one I couldn’t really do it to the same extent; I could just do a rough outline to help me. Usually I think about what his parents’ profession would be and what sort of decisions he’s made through his life, whether he had brothers or sisters or was a single child, how that would affect what I think is happening in the script. You just kind of look at if and if it’s logical, try it out. Sometimes it doesn’t really work, so you try something else. But if it’s logical, you can really do anything. Anything is possible that will fit in the scenario. With this one I just kind of played myself for the most part and tried to keep it as close to me as anything I’ve done, really. In terms of what I wanted to bring on the screen with Connor, I think he doesn’t seem threatening at all. There are flashes of certain areas, where I thought “Okay.” Like when he grabs her and puts her in her lap and slaps her on the ass. I thought, “Okay. That’s dodgy.” But it’s just like little flashes of it. But I just tried to keep him kind of light and as amiable as possible. And then the secrets come out and the audience does that work for you. He was asked if having so little of the script became somewhat freeing to put himself into the role more. Yeah, I suppose I’m like, “Yeah! Well the teacher told me I didn’t have to do any homework, so….” There was an element of that for sure, but I worry that I’m up to scratch when I’m doing things, whether it’s up to standard and whatnot. But that was something at the beginning that I was quite worried about, but once I made the decision to do it I knew that I just had to give myself up to it and not let that be niggling away at me. To just go for the ride because I thought the way that I work is so specific, then I thought who knows if my way of working is right. Why not try this and see where it leads. So I just let go and put my trust in Andrea. He was asked if he thought it helped Katie that they were going through this experience together. I think it probably did, but I do think that she was very good at handling dialogue and she was very professional in that regard. So I’m not sure. It would be interesting to know how Katie would do if she had the script. I think Andrea was the real master and that’s the way she wanted to do it and it was a good choice, really – for Katie, for sure. Like I said, they can be quite defensive, these kids, and Katie was quite defensive at the beginning. To slowly allow her to get comfortable with the idea of acting with the camera here to begin with, then take it hurdle by hurdle and it works out in the story that she’s kind of discovering things as she goes along. So maybe it’s a more organic process.
Source | HollywoodJesus