Michael Fassbender Interview
Michael Fassbender Interview
Michael Fassbender is a German-Irish actor whose career has seen him working with the likes of Quentin Tarrantino on Inglourious Basterds, starring as the enigmatic Mr Rochester in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, and battling the Persians alongside Gerard Butler in Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel 300. Now he’s donning a helmet once again as he takes up the mantle of Magneto in the X-Men Origins film, X-Men: First Class. Here he talks to View’s Matthew Turner about bending metal with his mind and the conflicting ideologies of the two lead characters.
These characters were established in the comic books but also on-screen by Sir Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. So, where did you look to inform your portrayal of them?

Michael Fassbender

I think when I found out I’d got the job I thought about studying Ian McKellen and getting my hands on anything I could where he was a young man on screen. You know, just studying his physicality and voice and whatnot. But then I sat down with [director Matthew Vaughn] and we discussed it and he decided that that wasn’t the way that he wanted to go, so at that point I ditched that idea totally and then just sort of used the comic book material and source material that was available. I was spoilt really because there is so much there.
How difficult is it to portray a lot of emotion while trying to bend metal with your hands?

Michael Fassbender

Well, I’d been trying to work out how I could physically represent constipation through my hands? [Laughs] But seriously, I didn’t really know what to do. I mean, there was an element of me obviously that feels like a bit of an idiot, as a grown man, trying to sort of bend metal things with my hands. I wasn’t even sure whether I should have physicalised it with my hands. But the safety net, really, was that Erik at this point in his life was not really sure how to harness these powers and so it is a little bit haphazard and random. Of course, it’s only through meeting Charles that he really sort of unleashes his full potential. I was really happy when I watched the film because I’d seen some of what Bill [Milner] had done with the young Erik, which was amazing, but I hadn’t seen him do any of the metal stuff, and I was really happy to see in the film that I was sort of echoing what he had started. So, I think it worked okay.
There’s duelling ideologies in this film – one that works for Charles and one that works for Erik – so who’s right?

Michael Fassbender

That’s your call. For me, that’s what interests me as an actor and also as an audience member. When I go to the cinema, unfortunately nowadays, especially with the big commercial films, the audience is spoon-fed through the entire experience and they don’t have to do any work. But I believe that if you go and see a film you should have to sort of invest something yourself and you have to do a little bit of the work as an audience member. So when you leave the cinema you should be having those conversations either with yourself – if you’re crazy like me - or with friends afterwards. It’s like, “Well, should I be backing Erik or Magneto when he did this, because it was really bad?” But there should be an ambiguity. The grey area is what’s interesting. I don’t like, “Okay, here’s your villain, here’s your hero ...” That makes it just too comfortable and easy for an audience.
Is part of the appeal of appearing in a movie like X-Men also the complexity of the emotions and the big themes that come with the stories – perhaps more so than with other comic book movies?

Michael Fassbender

I think that idea of alienation, for whatever reason, is still very prevalent within our society and a lot of people deal with it – most people deal with it at some point in their life unless they’re sort of the golden child. I think that’s something that we all need to address. I think the fact that we, as a race, still continue to be very tribal and we haven’t really moved away from that over hundreds and hundreds of years of experience ... that’s quite interesting.
How did you feel about such an important historical event as the Cuban missile crisis being appropriated for this movie?

Michael Fassbender

Well, I wasn’t around during that period of time but my parents were and I think there was something very interesting going on in the world at that time where everybody was unsure and there was a real sense of anxiety. People were building bunkers outside their houses and were stocking up on three years’ worth of canned goods. Nobody really knows the intrigue or how close we actually got to nuclear war at that point – what happened behind the scenes? What was going on? So, I think there’s a mystery around that that’s definitely there to be exploited.
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Content updated: 14/12/2019 10:08

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