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Busy actor Michael Fassbender is on a wicked run

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Busy actor Michael Fassbender is on a wicked run Empty Busy actor Michael Fassbender is on a wicked run

Post by Admin on Fri Dec 02, 2011 3:27 am

Busy actor Michael Fassbender is on a wicked run
By By Susan Wloszczyna, USA TODAY
Updated 5h 9m ago

NEW YORK – There is naughty. There is nice.

Todd Plitt, USA TODAY

From 'Jane Eyre' and 'X-Men: First Class' to 'A Dangerous Method' and 'Shame,' Irish actor Michael Fassbender has had a busy year.

Then there is the nicely naughty Michael Fassbender.

And when he's just plain bad? Boy, is he ever good.

Expect the Oscar Santa to take note of the actor's wayward escapades during this season of movie-awards cheer as Shame, Fassbender's flesh-baring descent into the hell of sex addiction, is unveiled today in theaters.

However, it's a very different person than the tortured soul onscreen who arrives at a hotel cafe for an early-morning interview. Attired in fashionably relaxed civilian clothes, the model-trim actor, 34, looks like a hipster rendering of a matinee idol: square of jaw, ginger of hair and twinkly of eye. And, happily for all the so-called Fasscinators out there, currently single.

Yes, he is a sex symbol. But, as he himself notes, "You pay a price to enter the club."

You wouldn't guess Fassbender has spent much of the past year committing some questionable if downright disturbing acts for the sake of cinema. Not that such risk-taking is surprising. After all, this is a guy who dropped 33 pounds from his already lean frame to bring to life the jailed IRA martyr Bobby Sands in 2008's Hunger, which also was the debut of Shame's British director Steve McQueen.

But his De Niro-like dedication as a starving hunger striker finally caused Hollywood to sit up and take notice.

"There's not a lot of actors like him," says McQueen of his leading man. "He is an artist. That's the difference. Artists are often searching for something unattainable, but they are willing to search and go the distance. There's also a wonderful feminine quality in Michael. Of course, he brings his he-man macho side. But there is a sensitivity that is quite beautiful."

Those who have been trying to catch up on the back story of this rapidly rising star will learn that the German-born, Irish-raised lad spins a mean yarn, is a bit of a mama's boy (and proud of it), tried to be a heavy-metal guitarist in his youth and is a former altar boy who likes to raise a glass and have a laugh.

But for some reason, filmmakers tend to perceive a certain unsettling or unsavory quality hidden behind his charming exterior. Is "Fassy,'' as his fans fondly call him, as dark and dangerous as his characters? "Of course, I am," he says with a chuckle. "I'm dark and dangerous all the time."

He pauses. "I don't know. I've been lucky. This is what I dreamed of when I started at 17. All my heroes like John Cazale, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Brando — there was an element of the character actor in these guys. That was the benchmark for me."

From 'Eyre' to 'X-Men'

If his dream was to appear in four high-profile films in 12 months — a body of work that just won him an honor from the National Board of Review — it certainly has come true.

His run began with spring's romantic Jane Eyre, in which his Rochester gazes upon the reluctant governess with ravenous intent while his secretly stashed mad wife rages above in a locked attic. As the vengeful super-mutant Magneto in the summer blockbuster X-Men: First Class, he finds twisted pleasure in conducting sadistic metal-bending mind games with exiled Nazis. And as the deceptively upstanding psychiatric pioneer Carl Jung, he paddles and whips a willing female patient as a form of erotic therapy in the just-opened A Dangerous Method.

But Fassbender is never more vile in his virility or callous in his cruelty than he is in Shame, with its explicit encounters that have earned the drama a restrictive NC-17 rating.

Whether trolling the Internet for porn, hiring random call girls or casually stalking strangers in subway cars, his Manhattan office worker Brandon prowls for sexual release with the single-minded intent of an emotionally dehydrated vampire.

Carey Mulligan, the waifish Oscar nominee for An Education who co-stars as Brandon's equally damaged lounge-singer sister, found acting opposite Fassbender to be electrifying — especially as he unravels in the face of her character's disruptive re-appearance in his life.

On the set, she says, "Michael is genial and great, and doesn't put on a personality for people. He just is who he is."

But while the cameras rolled, "I saw the danger in him. Whether it was a violent, aggressive scene or a calm and empathetic one, I saw danger there. More often than not, he would be different in every take. He had the license to grab me and do things. You can't be delicate and careful. It was so exciting, I never knew what he was going to do."

Being inside of Brandon's head did take a toll on Fassbender. "This was a tougher job than Hunger," he says. "Shame was done in a very concentrated time and I was coming off four other films. I was pretty tired at that point. Mentally it was more taxing, to be honest. I remember one day in particular. Sitting in my trailer, thinking, 'Oh my God, I better take a break.' "

He must be running out of words to say in interviews at this point. "I don't think too much about it," he says with a shrug. "I try to make it as conversational as possible and try to enjoy meeting new people."

Tequila helped sex scenes

Yet given the thematic nature of both A Dangerous Method and Shame, the actor does find himself entering deep discussions about sex with virtual strangers. The question most inquiring minds want to know: What's it like to get totally naked in a movie?

His usual reply: "I just try to throw it back at them and say, 'How would you feel?' "

Yes, but unlike most of us, he's actually getting paid to drop his drawers. A wicked glint flashes in his blue-green eyes. "Well now, it's funny that you say that" — he makes a move as if reaching for cash in his back pocket — "I've got a hundred dollars just to start with and we will work our way up."

Just as tales were told of Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis downing liquor to loosen up before their hot-and-heavy sex scene in last year's Black Swan, a similar story was leaked by one of the burlesque performers who joined Fassbender for Shame's climactic ménage à trois.

"Yeah, we did a couple shots of tequila," he says. "It's no big deal. You take a couple shots and then, 'Let's get on with it.' I met Calamity and DeeDee that night, so you've got to get to know each other pretty quickly. You knock back a couple and, you know, get groovy."

But Fassbender mostly relies on other means to get ready for a role. Dangerous Method director David Cronenberg classifies Fassbender as a "wild Irish boy," but co-star Viggo Mortensen— who plays Jung's mentor Sigmund Freud— was duly impressed with his work ethic. "He obviously was very prepared," he says. "He read the script over and over again, and approached it as a piece of music. He was working on the words and trying to find a cadence."

But the story of Michael Fassbender himself isn't about to end any time soon. He next appears in Steven Soderbergh's action thriller Haywire early next year. Is he a bad guy? "It depends," he says cagily. And summer brings Prometheus, Ridley Scott's spinoff to his 1979 sci-fi classic Alien, in which he plays an android.

Then there is the chance that Oscar might come calling. For Fassbender, who didn't find fame until he was 30, it's all just icing. Besides, he already picked up a best-actor prize at the Venice Film Festival for Shame: a rather sizable gold loving cup that he keeps in his bathroom.

"I treated it like we treat the Sam Maguire Cup for Gaelic football in Ireland," he says. "I filled it up with whatever alcohol I could get, and I was just feeding everyone from the cup."

Let's see someone do that with an Oscar.

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