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For Fassbender, roles are personal

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For Fassbender, roles are personal Empty For Fassbender, roles are personal

Post by Admin on Sat Dec 17, 2011 8:47 pm

For Fassbender, roles are personal

Article by: COLIN COVERT , Star Tribune
Updated: December 15, 2011 - 3:53 PM

The fast-rising movie star stays focused on "passion, preparation and enthusiasm."

Michael Fassbender, left, and "Shame" director Steve McQueen.

Photo: Matt Sayles, Associated Press

If you hope to flatter Michael Fassbender, don't mention his talent. He considers that quality vastly overrated.

"Talent is perhaps 35 percent of it, you know? Unless you're some kind of prodigy or absolutely gifted." The attribute he values most is determination. "But the one thing I don't want to do is walk away from a day's work and say, 'I messed up today because I was lazy or I didn't do my homework.' That's a horrible feeling." He prepares for a film by reading the script 300 times or more.

Fassbender's 2008 breakout role set the pattern for his disciplined approach to his craft. "Hunger," a film directed by English artist Steve McQueen, detailed the last six weeks in the life of Irish republican hunger striker Bobby Sands. To play the starving prisoner, Fassbender crash-dieted to 127 pounds. In the summer blockbuster "X-Men: First Class," he gave tragic stature to the comic-book villain Magneto. As "Jane Eyre's" mysterious heartbreaker Mr. Rochester, he sent off so many mixed signals that he could scramble radar. In "Shame," opening this week, he reunites with McQueen, playing a successful, self-assured executive concealing a secret life as a sex addict. January brings "A Dangerous Method," his portrait of Carl Jung, the kinky, conflicted pioneer of psychoanalysis, with Keira Knightley as a patient and sadomasochistic lover.

Fassbender's characters aren't black and white; sometimes they're not even gray. In a phone interview, the 34-year-old Irish/German actor traced his preference for playing heroic villains and villainous heroes to his own background. "If you have a character who's conflicted within himself as well as the relationships around him, then all the better. There's more to play with. For me, it's just more thought-provoking. What I like about the movie experience, whether it be action adventure or more of a social commentary, is that audiences leave the theater talking about the characters and having to weigh their own moral compass with that of the character."

It's vital for him to be aware of his own insecurities and failings and represent those in the parts he plays, he said. "Even if it's some sort of a fantasy role, I've got to embed it in some sort of reality for myself at least. Then we'll have more chance of the audience investing in it."

Fassbender was "very average at school" with the average fantasy of becoming a rock guitarist. That changed at 17 when a teacher encouraged him to try theater. "I thought if I work hard at this, then I could perhaps be good enough to make a career out of it. " By the next year he was hooked, staging and starring in a youth production of "Reservoir Dogs." Quentin Tarantino repaid the gesture in 2008, giving Fassbender a plum role as a German-speaking English spy in "Inglourious Basterds."

Though he is a hot property, with a Steven Soderbergh spy thriller and Ridley Scott's "Alien" prequel just over the horizon, Fassbender remains focused on his craft. The key to success, he says, is not to be too attracted to fame or swayed by recognition.

"With passion, preparation and enthusiasm, you learn," he said. While filming the many sexually explicit scenes required for "Shame," he didn't feel the need to establish privacy parameters. He gave McQueen his implicit trust to film whatever he needed. "My safety net was covering as much of the material as I could," which gave him the confidence to come on set "without railings."

The film pushes all manner of audience boundaries, with long unbroken takes, sparse dialogue and few specific details about the characters' inner lives. Fassbender said it's exactly those qualities that will draw the right filmgoers to it.

"There's an intelligent audience out there, and people aren't stupid," he said. "They have their own luggage and history that they can bring and also participate as opposed to sit there and be spoon-fed everything. 'This is the bad guy and he's dressed in black, by the way, and here's the good guy and he's dressed in white.' It's a little bit more complicated in life."

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