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Post by Admin on Sun Nov 27, 2011 8:27 pm

Michael Fassbender is having a well-deserved banner year.

After getting all superheroic with James McAvoy in X-Men: First Class this past summer, the Irish thespian is toning things down with a pair of provocative indies that is drawing attention to his powerful dramatic chops. First up is A Dangerous Method, the David Cronenberg-helmed period piece about Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (Fassbender) and his friendship with Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and the troubled young patient (Keira Knightley) who comes between them. Then there's Shame, a modern Manhattan-set drama about a sex addict named Brandon (Fassbender again) who finds his life spiraling out of control shortly after a visit from his freewheeling sister (Carey Mulligan).

Both roles are intense portraits of men who find themselves in extraordinary predicaments. HIH recently sat down with Fassbender to talk about both films, how he approached both characters, and just what garnered an NC-17 rating for the latter movie...

What would Jung say about Brandon in Shame? Fassbender has an idea: "He'd probably tell him it's all right. It's okay. Let's just talk about it...and then go see my friend Siggy Freud."

A Dangerous Method delves into social norms from a time when psychoanalysis was still in its infancy and presents well-known historical figures in a more human light (they got problems just like the rest of us). For Fassbender, the opportunity to work with Cronenberg and a script from Christopher Hampton greatly appealed to him. The dynamic relationships was big draw too. As Fassbender says, "The feeling of the scenes is very accessible because you see they're actually just human beings, doing things to each other that we all do. They have the same lusts and jealousies. There's a lot to play with these characters. They were brilliant people, but with that comes ego as well. I think that's interesting; people, when they're cornered and the reactions they have, and how they deal with people around them, sometimes the closest people to them."

Did he view the topic of hysteria differently (Keira Knightley's Sabina suffers from it)? "I don't have any set beliefs in anything," he tells us. "I'm kinda open to anything. I don't rule anything out." Sounds like the philosophy of a great, chameleon-like actor.

A-Dangerous-Method-5Fassbender with Keira Knightley

How could someone go from playing a psychoanalyst to filling the shoes of a sex addict? Well, it's all about the research. To understand the condition from which his character in Shame suffers he gained huge insight by meeting people who have the same condition and have problems with intimacy.

As for Jung? What was his take on the good doctor? One word: transference. "We all find doctors sexy," Michael muses. "That's why there are so many TV show about doctors because they have the power to save lives, and there's something very attractive about that...It's a very intimate place, the patient and the doctor, and they go to intimate places together."

Being an actor, does he also consider himself a psychoanalyst? Somewhat: "Trying to identify and understand as opposed to judging is very important for me in approaching characters."

On working with Cronenberg. "I was a fan of his...and yes, it was different than what I expected. His films are quite dark and often violent, and he is rather the opposite. He's very sweet and loving and very humorous, which was always fun. He's very collaborative. Many of the great directors I've been fortunate to work with, they have to be great manipulators, and they do their manipulations in the weeks leading up. So it's like a dinner here or when you're trying on your costumes or picking the props. They sort of give you little nudges, drop a phrase here, and ask you questions at certain times, and then once we get on set, there's very little dialogue. Everything's understood."

Film1_shame_michael_fassbender_carey-mulligan.widea_-640x425Fassbender and Mulligan

Shame director Steve McQueen started with the idea of making a film as he says, dealing with “issues that can’t be resolved by shooting or killing people, or revenge in any way, issues having to do with the harder task of self-realization.” McQueen felt that any exploration of the modern self could not skirt past the topic of addiction. Of all the different physical and psychological obsessions, McQueen was intrigued by the challenge of exploring the one that is most rarely talked about or depicted realistically: sex addiction.

“That our main character Brandon’s urges and impulses are focused around sex, I felt was pretty relevant to what’s going on in the world today,” explains Fassbender. “It speaks to this constant drive we have for satisfaction and highs, one that is followed by feelings of shame and self-loathing. It’s a cycle that perpetuates itself.”

With Shame, Michael Fassbender faced a daunting task: to not only examine the world of an addict in the grip of a lifestyle he can’t shake but to create a performance so instinctual, complex and real that audiences could not turn away from the rawness his journey. It became an act of no-holds-barred exposure - literally. Fassbender's completely naked in the role (something we physically see in the opening minutes of the film), and he scoured deep within for the black hole of emptiness that lies just on the other side of Brandon’s suave, seductive cool. How did he wrap his head around the self-loathing? He says, "I spent a lot of time with him. A very big part of it for me is reading the script 350 times, so I'm spending a lot of time with him, thinking what would be his views, gathering little pieces of information every day."

The movie has its fair share of intensely intimate and erotic moments. When we ask what kind of mood was established on set, Michael has a little fun with us. "We had a lot of fluffers around," he laughs.

McQueen elaborates: "You have to create an atmosphere where everyone knows each other. Great actors like Michael are like thoroughbred race horses. they come into a room and will sense if anything is wrong. So you create an environment which is safe in order for people to take risks. That's what one has to do. So it started from the bottom up. Everyone has to be involved, and any great actor has to be in a space where they feel safe to do what they have to do." relationship Brandon has with his sister (played with gorgeous nuance by Carey Mulligan, right) is a tumultuous one that suggests an unspoken and colorful past. When asked if any backstory was created to inform their acting, there's a twinkle in Fassbender's eye: "I'm not going to tell you what that is. It's not really that important, and I'm not just saying that to be tricky. They never mention their parents, so that already speaks volumes. And there is a history between them, and I thought, isn't it great that there isn't a paragraph in this film where it explains what happened, no expositional dialogue. We get it. We get that there's a history between these two, that they're coming from somewhere. And you have wonderfully intelligent people who will go see the film and can fill in the blanks much better than what you can put on to paper."

Why was the NC-17 rating important? Would Brandon's story have been deluded by not showing the full physicality of his acts? McQueen has this to offer: "It's sex. It's a weird think to think that what we do in our daily lives should be censored." We agree. The content of the sexually-charged film is nothing to alert every watchdog about. There's no gimmick to it whatsoever. Simply put, it's a profound look at human vulnerabilities and fears.

For Fassbender the whole nudity issue is...a non-issue: "I keep things very simple. I think this idea of 'Oh my God. you're naked. What's that gonna do for your career?' and it's like, I'm not a politician. My job is to fascilitate characters. I'm a storyteller, and that's it. End of story."


A Dangerous Method opens in NY and LA this weekend. Shame opens December 2.


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