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Italian Empire

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Post by Admin on Mon Jan 09, 2012 12:02 pm

From MFO Italian Empire

United artists

They laugh a lot. You understand without any doubt that Michael Fassbender likes his director’s company, both when he nods at his statements and when he gently mocks him, because, from time to time, Steve McQueen’s artistic soul seems like ranting a little. The audience came to know this couple with “Hunger”, in 2008, when it won the Caméra d’Or in Cannes and McQueen was awarded with the Carl Foreman BAFTA. This year it was Fassbender’s turn to be awarded in Venice as best actor for his sex addicted portrait in “Shame”, their New York drama. Fassbender always dreamt to work with a director and form a couple the way it happened to Scorsese and De Niro. And here it is. His fellowship with McQueen is pleasant, collaborative and gave way to an extraordinary and complex work. Empire interviewed them in the Soho hotel during the London Film Festival, trying to understand the origins of this wonderful friendship.

Empire: When you met on “Hunger” set, did you get along well immediately?

Steve McQueen: Well … I think that any good friendship has some conflict, particularly at the beginning. But this is great, because it allows you to understand fully the person who’s in front of you. It’s always a good thing to have some quarrels at the beginning, to know each other.

Michael Fassbender: He didn’t like me, that’s what he’s saying! (laughs)

SMQ: I’m not saying that! But when he came to the first audition, he was like ….

MF: Flippant.

SMQ: Very flippant. Even in the way he was sitting. And this bothered me. When he went away, I asked: “Who’s that guy?”. Gary Davy, the cast director, replied: “He’s very good, you should call him back tomorrow”. And so he came back. And he was a different person. A total change. I thought: “Okay, it’s fantastic, I think he’s the right one”. He was totally different. Probably it was because of my naiveté, because I knew nothing of that part of the job: actors came to auditions and they were judged. So it was a lesson for me too.

Empire: Michael, did you realize it didn’t go well?

MF: Truly speaking, I though: “What a nice meeting!” (laughs). No, I mean … In a moment like that you die to show something of yourself and I wanted to show I was good enough to have that job, I repeated it to me over and over. So I tried to protect myself, I think. And the movie’s subject, too (Bobby Sands’s hunger strike) struck me, my mom comes for Northern Ireland and I had seen so many movies about the Irish question. So I was probably a little cautious and this caution made me appear flippant. But I was very struck by Steve. His answers were peculiar and he looked like the perfect person to work with. I thought I could learn a lot from him.

Empire: Did you ever thought, playing in “Shame”: “What's my mom going to think of this movie?”

MF: Sure! (laughs) Truly speaking, I also wondered what my dad would think. I told them several times: “Look, it will be tough. I’ll go in very shocking places”. And they replied: “Do what you have to do and don’t worry”. Fortunately I have an excellent relationship with them, open and honest, so I had their support. But I was happy my mom wasn’t in Venice!

SMQ: (laughing) It was the first time for you too to see the movie, so you’d have to explain plenty of things!

MF: My mom would come to you saying: “What did you do to my son? Again! Why??”. (laughs)

SMQ: Unfortunately my father died six years ago. My mother has always been a rather open and liberal person … Well, I’ll test how much she is just tonight: the didn’t see “Shame” yet, either.

Empire: Is it true that “Shame” came out from a chat with Abi Morgan?

SMQ: More or less. There were some bonds for me. I didn’t want to use a weapon. I wanted it to be a love story.

MF: (laughs) “With this we kill and with this …..”.

SMQ: Which movie is this from?

MF: Full Metal Jacket.

SMQ: Oh yeah, of course! And yes, we started discussing internet and how it influenced everybody’s life. And obviously about pornography on internet, too, which is the most popular subject on the net. And if you think about it, almost any new visual technology was a prey of pornography and then set free by it. It’s an interesting subject. It was the same for cinema.

Empire: Even with the new players, as soon as porno was on Blu-ray, it was evident which format was going to win …

MF: So you know something about it! (laughs) Some people still watch porno on Blu-ray!

SMQ: How outdated!

Empire: Nobody ever talked seriously about sex addiction up to now ….

SMQ: I think people never considered it seriously. Like me when I first heard about it: I laughed! But in reality it’s a devastating problem. It can destroy your life.

Empire: “The Supreme Court says that pornography is ‘everything tied to sex and without artistic merits’”. It was like this at the beginning of the ‘90s, now it’s worse.

MF: Right. The fact is that obviously sex is something very instinctive, because it’s tied to survival and procreation, therefore there are people who exploit this instinctive need to make money and using it like an instrument.

Empire: People mistake experiences with intimacy.

SMQ: Mmmmm, I don’t know. Sometimes, people just want an experience. Usually, sex addicts don’t look for intimacy, but for control. It’s really painful. Brandon is a character you feel for, because he’s one of us. I understand his attempt to go on. And, on the other hand, there is his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan), which is Brandon’ opposite half, exploding instead of imploding.

MF: She’s very free about her emotions, okay? She literally through them on the first person she meets. Both characters try to connect with somebody, but in very different ways.

Empire: You spoke with sex addicts before shooting. What sort of problems does it cause in people suffering from it?

MF: Well, it’s something affecting every aspect of their lives. I think some types of behaviour become familiar, they affect their lives in different ways and become a routine that’s difficult to break. People find it difficult to open up. That’s why Brandon pays a prostitute: they make sex, then she goes away, taking her life with her and disappearing from his controlled world. I’m very grateful to a man who allowed me to understand this, because it’s a central point. The problem to let himself go emotionally with another person is vital in Brandon, who can’t create a relationship based on emotions.

SMQ: Another example of this came from a person who told us he had a beautiful wife, but that he would rather make sex with other women. For him it was better than sleeping with his own wife.

Empire: The movie reminds "Taxi Driver" a little, that talked about a very lonely man. When Paul Schrader wrote it, he drank a lot and he watched pornos. In the dvd comment he says: “Pornography, like alcohol, is sort of an anaesthetic and it knocks you out in some way”.

SMQ: Every form of addiction knocks you out. Thirty-five years passed from that movie and this one and they talk about New York in two very different ways: the New York where the 42th Street has been cleaned up and the New York where this hadn’t happened yet. But if you look beyond appearances, things are not very different. It’s an interesting comparison.

Empire: The New York setting was of primary importance for the movie? It’s because you never feel so lonely like when you’re surrounded by people?

SMQ: It’s also a question of architecture. When I’ve been here, for three months, at the 25th floor, there was a huge panoramic window. It made me feel small, lonely, watching people coming and going in the streets of such a huge city. You feel like you’re nothing.

Empire: Is it important for you to like the characters you write of or you played?

Fassbender: For me it’s important to understand them, above all. And not to judge them. I try to identify with them as much as I can and to find some contact points inside of me. If it doesn’t work, I use my imagination. But what’s important, for me, is to make them real and that they don’t come out from my personal judgement.

SMQ: I completely agree. I have to love them: they’re people like us.

Empire: It seems that confidence, in direction and acting, is a priority. But there are moments of doubt for sure ….

Fassbender: Even personal lack of confidence is important sometimes, because it allows you to understand that there are other possibilities. I can be stuck by my excessive self-confidence thinking: “Everything is okay and under control”. But if I think: “There are other possibilities here: did I study them all? Did I listen to people surrounding me?”. For me, a little bit of fear is positive.

SMQ: I adore fear! Really, I adore it. I welcome it, I dance with fear!

MF: “I dance with fear!” (burst out laughing). Yes. This will be your final statement: “I dance with fear” – Steve McQueen.

SMQ: Oh yeah! Allow me this dance, baby!

MF: “Dancing with fear”. This will be you autobiography’s title!

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