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Michael Fassbender, Supervillain With a Sensitive Side

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Michael Fassbender, Supervillain With a Sensitive Side Empty Michael Fassbender, Supervillain With a Sensitive Side

Post by Admin on Mon Jun 13, 2011 11:50 pm

June 2, 2011, 1:00 PM ET

Michael Fassbender, Supervillain With a Sensitive Side

By Alexandra Cheney

Michael Fassbender isn’t your average villain. The German-born, Irish-raised actor plays the young Magneto, a mutant with power to both generate and control magnetism, in the coming film “X-Men: First Class.” He cries, struggles with his power and forces people around him to pick sides (some don’t choose his).

Speakeasy caught up with an amiable Fassbender to discuss the emotion that comes with a superpower, espionage and Kevin Bacon’s German. Here is the first of a two-part interview.

The Wall Street Journal: You are fluent German speaker.

Michael Fassbender: That’s what my CV says.

In your opinion, how great was Kevin Bacon’s German in this film?

I mean obviously Kevin is someone that goes home and does his homework. I know that in the buildup he’d been working very hard on that and very hard on the Russian and it’s very precise. He would turn to me a little bit on the Caspartina boat and say “how did that sound?” and I would say “sounds good to me” and then Nana [Fischer], who was doing my makeup and hair, I would turn to her and “I was like, how did mine sound Nana?” So we had this connection of who was looking after who, but he did a fantastic job.

Because this film is a prequel, you had some pretty big shoes to fill as Ian McKellan picks up the role of Magneto in the later films. Did you watch his performances or feed off of them to tap into yours?

Well, as you say they are like size 14s, aren’t they? I got out the three films and was thinking to myself, should I do what Robert De Niro did in “The Godfather” in terms of studying Brando and bring that to the character in “The Godfather II?” And then I met up with Matthew [Vaughn], it was our first meeting, and asked him, “so what’s the deal here, should we approach it that way” and he said “well I think this character reminds me in some respects in this early incarnation of him as Sean Connery Bond in the 60s.” We’re setting it in the 60s and he liked that sort of look. And also the fact that Connery had this interesting element within his accent, which is unusual. Matthew said to me that I had something similar and he wanted to explore that. I sort of then cleaned the slate and started afresh. I really concentrated on what was in the comic books. It’s so dense, the material there, that I was really spoilt in terms of putting a biography together.

There are decades upon decades of comic books. What part of the comics did you focus on to add to your character?

There is one story within the comic books that I found very moving. While Erik is in the concentration camps as a child he meets this gypsy girl called Magda and when he breaks free of the concentration camp, he frees her also. They run off together and fall in love and have a child. He tries to live a normal life, as anybody would with a family, and what happens is a mob goes crazy and burns down his house and his child gets killed because of it. Consequently he wipes out the entire village and Magda gets totally freaked out by that and leaves him. Once again he’s left alone. Any person that comes into contact with him, because of human’s reaction to his power, gets taken away from him. That what happens in the concentration camps, his mother gets killed by [Sebastian] Schmidt, so you have a very damaged character there, emotionally. Someone who has had a very bleak childhood. So that was interesting to work with that, and this idea of a lone wolf, someone who doesn’t really trust anybody or allow himself to open up to anybody except when he meets Charles and that’s the interesting thing, the relationship between these two guys.

Often in superhero films actors struggle with the emotional facet of the superpower. In the scene with you and James McAvoy where you both shed a tear, what did you turn to get that performance.

I was looking through the script and at some point I wanted to show vulnerability. I’m not interested in some guy who swans through the film looking very cool all of the time and sort of getting his own way. I wanted to show that damaged personality somewhere. And then in that scene I was like, “here’s an opportunity, when he’s caught off guard, when Charles is trying to open up the full potential of thus guys power.” In terms of how to get there, I prepped in my head what to do in that scene. It was very important that I reach that moment. I try to breathe a certain way and get to a mental relaxation and focus and then by filling my mind and getting sort of Zen almost, I can start to tap into things. It’s down to realizing and focusing and breathing.

You don’t go to a sad moment in your life?

Sometimes you do do that. But sometimes I find when I do that it can be a frustrating thing. You are trying to force something, trying to force an idea onto something. The times I found when it happens is when you let go and you trust on your emotional recall but at times you try and trigger something but I can bounce back and have the reverse effect.

Because you get caught up in that moment versus your character’s moment?

Not necessarily, you’re just “think about that time, think about that time” and its bounding you up. You don’t want to become bound, you want to keep things free flow and sometimes if you are forcing an idea it can bind you up.

How did you suppress your Irish accent?

I took the Irishness out of my accent and neutralized it. I wanted this guy to be European, that’s why I fought very hard to have the scenes where I am speaking in different languages. I wanted to show an intelligence to the guy, wanted to show that he was very much a European character and he was very adaptable. You could drop him into different situations and he would come out on top. So it was a matter of me trying to take the Irishness out of certain vowel sounds. Hopefully the accent is un-placeable.

What scenes did you fight for? Were there not a lot of scripted foreign scenes?

The bank manager scene started out in German and there was this concern that subtitles would put people off. Obviously it didn’t set back “Inglorious Bastards” in any way in terms of financial success. But Matthew called me up one night and he was like “don’t go crazy but what do you think of basing the bank scene in Geneva, they wouldn’t be speaking German, they would be speaking French, what do you think about doing it in French.” And I was like, “that’s a great idea,” and then you go off and learn French. I thought it was very important that we keep a very international feel to it. Like Kevin Bacon speaking Russian and German, I think it adds a different level of intrigue about it as well these kind of guys, they way they can move from country to country and speak languages. It adds an espionage element to it.

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