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Fassbender takes another leap with 'Shame'

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Fassbender takes another leap with 'Shame' Empty Fassbender takes another leap with 'Shame'

Post by Admin on Tue Nov 29, 2011 9:03 pm

Fassbender takes another leap with 'Shame'

Published: November 29, 2011 1:56 p.m.
Last modified: November 29, 2011 5:47 p.m.

TORONTO - Michael Fassbender compares working with director Steve McQueen to a skating lesson.

"It's kind of like being on an ice rink and skirting around the edges and hanging onto the railing, and Steve encourages you to go let go of the railing and go in the centre of the ice rink," says Fassbender, who stars as a sex addict in the McQueen-directed "Shame," which opens Friday in Toronto.

"You're going to have a lot more fun there, you're going to fall over a few times, sure, but it's not as bad as you think it is.... Just let go and let's see what happens.

"Hey, what's the worst that can happen? You make a mistake, you look stupid, whatever."

These days, a misstep for Fassbender seems highly unlikely.

In the few short years since the 34-year-old German-born, Irish-raised actor was introduced to filmgoers in McQueen's 2008 tour-de-force "Hunger," his career has quickly ascended to the cinematic stratosphere.

After turning in a devastating portrayal of hunger striker Bobby Sands in McQueen's auspicious big-screen debut, Fassbender went on to appear in Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" (2009). This year, he has so far popped up in the acclaimed "Jane Eyre" and the blockbuster "X-Men: First Class." And, he stars as Carl Jung in David Cronenberg's upcoming "A Dangerous Method."

Then, there's "Shame."

Fassbender's portrayal of Brandon, a New York City bachelor with an insatiable appetite for anonymous sex and online pornography, has already earned him a best actor award at the Venice Film Festival and early Oscar buzz.

Like "Hunger," "Shame" is visually spectacular, no surprise given McQueen's pedigree as an artist (he won Britain's Turner Prize in 1999).

The cold, blue streets and subways of New York echo the hue emanating from Brandon's computer, which he uses to troll for sex.

McQueen, 42, says the genesis of "Shame" was his interest in the prevalence of sex addiction in the Internet age.

"We went to New York, we spoke to experts in the field, we spoke to sex addicts," McQueen explained at September's Toronto International Film Festival.

"From there, this narrative was built, the whole idea of the Internet and how there's easy access to pornography and how this addiction has sort of swelled in a way."

"The story emerged through the research. That's what I liked, similar to 'Hunger.' We read all the books, of course, about the hunger strike, but also by going out there and finding out the details ... all the things that never made the page was the stuff I was interested in."

Fassbender, too, began to ponder the effects of the sexual images that bombard society.

"(Even) in terms of dealing with a soda drink or even a breakfast cereal, there's sex everywhere in terms of there's money to be made off it. Obviously it's a huge primal instinct, it's something that's very alive within us," says Fassbender, who was also promoting "A Dangerous Method" at the festival.

McQueen does not shy away from explicit sexual imagery in "Shame" — the film's opening moments give viewers an eyeful of Fassbender — and that decision has resulted in an NC-17 rating in the United States, a distinction which is bound to hamper the film at the box office.

There's also been speculation that the rating will harm Academy Award prospects for "Shame," since voters have generally tended to avoid NC-17 films.

Many directors re-cut their movies to avoid such a rating, but Fox Searchlight has accepted the NC-17. In September, McQueen was adamant that he wouldn't edit the film.

"If people want to put barriers up for people to see movies, I can't do anything about that," says the director. "I won't change movies in order to sort of fulfil a certain kind of law.

"My film is not at all exploitative. It's not pornography in any way. It's just basically talking about things that happen every day."

He was equally emphatic in his belief that the role of Brandon was meant for Fassbender.

"I think it was one of those situations when you work with an actor and you have that kind of trust ... for me there's only one person who could have done this. Because it's all about trust isn't it?"

The director and actor have clearly developed a cinematic shorthand, and in "Shame," they welcomed actress Carey Mulligan into that fold. The "An Education" star plays Brandon's wayward sibling Sissy, who upends his life by crashing at his apartment.

"That was a very rewarding experience working with her," says McQueen. "It takes time (to develop an on-set relationship) ... there's admiration but at the same time, you know, who is this person really?

"Then things start working ... she more than flew."

Says Fassbender: "She's an actress who obviously loves her job and she wants to work with the best, so to work with Steve and to do things that are perhaps not required by other people in other films, she would be crazy not to jump at the opportunity.

"And she did. She jumped in feet first. The evidence is on the screen."

Fassbender's praise of his director — whom he credits with changing his life — seems to know no bounds. McQueen's intense work ethic, he says, rubs off on cast and crew alike.

"Watching him with the whole crew is very interesting. What he achieved in 'Hunger,' when everyone came to work there was so much passion in the whole crew. Not just the actors and key players in and around the camera, I mean the whole crew," says the star.

"He leads by example. I think he's a very honest person. Very open and not afraid to look nerdish or ... feminine or sensitive or vulnerable and with that comes an enormous strength and people look up to it and people ... want to please him. So there's a great industrious energy on set."

"Shame" opens in Toronto on Dec. 2, in Vancouver on Dec. 9 and in Montreal on Dec. 16. Alliance Canada says the film will be rated 18A in Ontario and British Columbia and 16+ in Quebec.


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