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A hunger for X-tremes

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A hunger for X-tremes Empty A hunger for X-tremes

Post by Admin on Sat May 28, 2011 2:06 am

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A hunger for X-tremes
May 26, 2011

X-Men First Class charts the epic beginning of the X-Men saga, and reveals a secret history of famous global events.
From IRA prisoner to mutant villain, Michael Fassbender does it all for the fans, writes Stephanie Bunbury.

MICHAEL Fassbender does a little pantomime that illustrates the first decade of his career in one unmistakable motion. He gestures pulling a beer. For 10years, this most charismatic of actors was in and out of work, never quite cracking it, never quite recognisable enough. He thought he was on the fast track in 2001 when, at the age of 23, he bagged a part in the prestigious television series Band of Brothers. As it turned out, he wasn't. "That was a good lesson for me because I got knocked back down and I didn't work for a year after it," says the now 34-year-old. It was back to the bar.

The film that swung his fortunes around — that meant he would go on to work with Quentin Tarantino in Inglourious Basterds, to star as Carl Jung opposite Viggo Mortensen's Freud in David Cronenberg's much-awaited A Dangerous Method and to be offered blockbusters, including the forthcoming X-Men: First Class — was first-time filmmaker Steve McQueen's Hunger. When Hunger screened in Cannes in 2008 — a lifetime ago now — Fassbender was suddenly transformed into a fully fledged star. "That film was massive," he says. "It changed my life."

Hunger is an intimate story of Bobby Sands, the IRA prisoner who undertook a fatal hunger strike in the Maze Prison in 1981. Almost the opposite of the political tract many unionists were expecting, it was muted, contemplative and emphasised the humanity of both prisoners and guards. As Sands, Fassbender had to stop eating, starve and die; to play those final scenes, he followed a diet consisting almost entirely of a daily tin of sardines for 10weeks, his final weight of 58kilograms being the same as Sands when he died. It was a performance that was hard-won, raw and absolutely to the point.

X-Men seems about as far away from Hun-ger as it's possible to be within one art form but Fassbender seems to have approached it with the same spirit of determination. He never read comics as a child; he wasn't interested. He did X-Men because he knew he would be working with James McEvoy. He was also playing the younger version of a character — the magnetism-controlling Erik Lehnsherr, aka Magneto — established by Ian McKellen, one of British theatre's greatest names.

Being such a stickler for preparation, however, he got stuck into a pile of comic books. They surprised him.
Still of James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender in X-Men: First Class. Click for more photos
X-Men: First Class

"I found how actually sophisticated they can be," he says. "You have a fantastical world around the story but at the core of it, there's a really interesting topic such as prejudice and people feeling like outsiders."

The X-Men are mutants, born with special powers that brand them as threats to the normal human world, who must be contained or eradicated. "With X-Men, you've got the civil rights movement at the time when we set this film," Fassbender says. "So there are all these elements to do with racism and fear of something different within society."

There is a whole different level of criticism brought to bear on a film such as X-Men: First Class, however, from the legions of comic fans who know every story and every strip panel by heart. Fassbender has already run the gauntlet of Comic-Con. More than anything, he liked that the crazy attendees in costume were more important than the celebrities on the podium.

"What's refreshing is that the festival belongs to them, as opposed to most film festivals where it's about the people who make the films," he says. "You're the visitor."

He doesn't even mind the fact they will, inevitably, get stuck into the film.

"They are very passionate and very opinionated and that's a good thing, you know?" he says. "It's good to be kept on your toes and have a bit of pressure. It hopefully brings out the best in oneself."

Fassbender grew up in Killarney, in south-west Ireland, where his father, a German chef, ran a restaurant on the coast with his Northern Irish mother front-of-house. Every holiday they would head north to visit family. He remembers the checkpoints, the guns and the hum of constant tension. He moved to London to go to drama school when he was 17 and his accent is a sort of transient hybrid subject to where he is but his public persona never gets any less Irish. "Brooding, wild and dangerous" was one producer's description of him.

He laughs when this is quoted back at him. "You're the journalist," he says, not unpleasantly. "That's your realm. I just do my job, put on a character and hopefully that's a good job. I consider myself pretty boring and ... I don't know ... childlike, I suppose. I like to go out with friends and enjoy myself I think as much as anybody else does but I haven't had much time for anything other than work in the past year. If I'm not working, I like to travel. I like motorcycles." What about the brooding? He laughs again, with real amusement this time. "I think! Think! On the toilet, I brood."

Mostly, however, he seems to work; there cannot be an actor alive who drives himself harder than Fassbender. When he was starving himself for Hunger he didn't see anyone, retreating monastically into the sort of mental space Sands might have occupied. For the film's most demanding scene, a 22-minute argument about the morality of suicide, most of which is filmed in one shot, he and actor Liam Cunningham moved in together to rehearse around the clock. "It's the way I work, anyway," Fassbender said later. "Look, there are no secrets to anything in life. Tiger Woods is Tiger Woods because he practised that f---ing swing 100times a day. Why should acting be any different?"

He says immediately after Hunger's success he expected his new-found heat to last all of three months, so he grabbed opportunities while he could. Meanwhile, his star continued to rise. He went on to make another small, intense film, Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank, in which he plays a stranger who upends the life of a sour teenage girl. There was the Tarantino and then the Cronenberg; there was a rich adaptation of Jane Eyre with Mia Wasikowska playing Jane to his Rochester. He worked with Steven Soderbergh on Haywire, a female-led action thriller. But once X-Men: First Class went off for its long sojourn in post-production, having all those effects grafted on to it, he returned to his heartland to work again with McQueen.

Their new collaboration is called Shame, shot on a low budget in New York; Fassbender plays a philandering New York man-about-town whose tearaway young sister moves in with him. There was no massive weight loss involved and no excruciating scenes where he had to argue the case for his own death but he says it was even more gruelling than their first outing. "I don't know exactly why but with Steve you know it's going to be super intense and super rewarding," he says. "You know, he always deals with something very relevant, very human and something that is, in some respects, the elephant in the room."

Now he's working with Ridley Scott on a huge film called Prometheus, rumoured among bloggers to be a prequel to Alien. Working with Scott is like a masterclass, he says. "When you work on something like that, it's a real privilege to see the top people in each department work as a team," he says. "You can learn so much just from watching how something that big functions."

But in terms of his own tasks, he says, the work is the same whatever the size of the production. "You still want to get it right, or get it as close to right as possible," he says. "Because I always think of it like a fan. I like to go see a good adventure film as much as I like to see a film with a social commentary in it but they have to be of a certain quality, otherwise you've failed. We did an awful lot of work on X-Men each morning approaching each scene, making sure all the beats were there. And I still have to do my homework. I have to have something to bring to the table."

Like Tiger Woods, he still has to work on that swing.

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A hunger for X-tremes Empty Re: A hunger for X-tremes

Post by Admin on Sat May 28, 2011 2:08 am

Magnetic performances give actor the X factor
Stephanie Bunbury
May 20, 2011

Suit up ... Fassbender as Magneto.

Michael Fassbender has an unmistakable little pantomime that illustrates the first decade of his career.

Michael Fassbender has an unmistakable little pantomime that illustrates the first decade of his career - he mimes pulling a beer. When he won a part in Band of Brothers in 2001, at the age of 23, he thought his career had taken off. It hadn't, at least until Steve McQueen, an artist turned filmmaker, chose him to play IRA prisoner Bobby Sands in the 2008 film Hunger. ''That film was massive,'' he says. ''It changed my life.''

Hunger, which opened the Directors' Fortnight in Cannes in 2008, required him to get his weight down to 58 kilograms on a diet centred on a daily tin of sardines.
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It also required him to carry out one of the most forceful scenes in modern cinema: a 25-minute argument about the morality of suicide, 17 minutes of which was done in one shot.

Overnight, he became the go-to actor for credible directors - Tarantino, Soderbergh, Cronenberg. And now, almost as suddenly, he's doing blockbusters. Fassbender plays the young Magneto in the new X-Men backstory flick, X-Men: First Class, out on June 2.

Fassbender was never a comics fan, so he was surprised when he dutifully started reading them. ''I found how actually sophisticated these comics can be,'' he says. ''You have a fantastical world around the story but at the core of it, there's a really interesting topic matter of racism and prejudice and people feeling like outsiders and misfits.''

Speaking of which, do those exacting comic-book fanboys scare him? ''Well, they are very passionate and very committed,'' he says. ''And that's a good thing, you know. It's good to have a bit of pressure.''

When X-Men: First Class went to post-production, however, Fassbender returned to his heartland, shooting a low-budget film with McQueen in New York City. The new film, Shame, casts Fassbender as a philanderer whose young sister moves in with him. He says it was more difficult than shooting Hunger.

''I don't know exactly why,'' he says. ''But you know he always deals with something very relevant, very human and something that is, in some respects, the elephant in the room. Something nobody speaks about.''

More intense than X-Men: First Class, then? Maybe not. ''It depends what you think of as intense,'' he laughs. ''I'm bending metal in X-Men and lifting submarines, stuff like that.

''It's just different. But the commitment levels remain the same. I still have to … come in with something to bring to the table.''

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