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Michael is Kerry gold

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Michael is Kerry gold Empty Michael is Kerry gold

Post by Admin on Tue Jan 10, 2012 2:56 am

Michael is Kerry gold
By Evan Fanning
Sunday Jan 8 2012

MICHAEL Fassbender sits alone on a couch sipping mint tea with the look of a man for whom exhaustion is just a routine part of a normal day.

Outside, the last embers of the winter sun are disappearing behind the buildings of London, the city that has provided a home to the actor, as is the case with so many from Ireland, for most of his adult life.

Tiredness is part of the game when there's a movie to promote, especially when its star is getting so much recognition that he can almost single-handedly propel a small arthouse film with a difficult subject matter into the mainstream. And so Fassbender must stay on the hamster wheel of publicity.

When the big award ceremonies roll around over the next couple of months it seems inevitable the 34-year-old's name will be there, smack bang in the middle of the list of nominees alongside the Clooneys, DiCaprios, Pitts and the Oldmans.

Fassbender, the name that made life difficult for him at school in Fossa in the years following his family's decision to move from Heidelberg to Killarney when he was just two, could well become one of the most recognised and respected in the movie business. A Golden Globe nomination is already in the bag and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association has named him the best actor of 2011.

It's not bad for a man who, just a few years ago, was wondering if the acting game was really for him as he was sizing up a career in the catering industry, the only other thing he really knew, having spent his teenage years helping out in the family restaurant, the West End House in Killarney.

The knock-on effect from the collapse of the world's financial institutions had hit the film business. Fewer movies were being made, which meant less work for actors. But then the Turner Prize-winning artist Steve McQueen took a chance on Fassbender, inviting him to play hunger-striker Bobby Sands in Hunger.

In the whirlwind that followed, Fassbender seized the opportunities that came his way, bringing two years of near relentless work, some of which (Inglourious Basterds, X-Men: First Class, Jane Eyre) has already hit our screens, but perhaps the most impactful projects are yet to come.

Shame is certainly in that category. He has again teamed up with McQueen in an uncompromising and non-judgmental look at the nature of sex addiction. "It seems to be a topic that was bubbling around within the media but no one had taken it on in film form," Fassbender explains. "I know that with Steve he's going to be dealing with it uncompromisingly and he's going to be going straight to the core of it and the truth of it and he'll deal with it respectfully, so I knew I was in good hands."

As Brandon, a suave New Yorker occupying a soulless existence full of one-night stands, internet porn and prostitutes, Fassbender gives the kind of intense, brooding performance that will be familiar to those who saw him in Hunger. And once again it is a performance of extremes -- whereas as Sands he was required to lose three stones, the sheer volume and intensity of the sex scenes in Shame are exhausting even to watch.

"I don't want to be one of those actors who's sitting there saying 'this is such hard work' when obviously there's a lot of people out there doing proper hard graft, but the fact of the matter is that this was the fifth film of six films I did over a 20-month period and they were all back-to-back so I was jumping from one personality to the next. By the time I got to Shame, I was kind of tired.

"It was an intense experience. It was eight weeks -- three weeks of preparation and we filmed it in 25 days so you're living very closely with a character who doesn't like himself, essentially. So you're spending a lot of time with Brandon and the world he occupies and he's not getting any real gratification, nourishment or pleasure. He's someone who doesn't like himself very much so he sets about punishing himself and that can be kind of exhausting at times. It was definitely the toughest job so far."

His collaboration with McQueen is becoming defining. The director speaks effusively of Fassbender, while the actor is eternally grateful for the opportunity he was given.

"[Collaboration] is what you hope for, but it's never a given. When I started out I thought, hopefully, I can find a director and together we'll have an understanding of one another and a shorthand. I'm just so lucky that I found it with Steve and at a really crucial time for me as well. The recession was about to hit in 2008 and that means less jobs for less actors and certainly for unknowns, which I was when Steve gave me the opportunity to play Bobby Sands. So it happened right at the right time for me."

Despite his modesty, Fassbender was not quite an unknown. His face was recognisable from the Guinness ad in which a man swims across the Atlantic to apologise to his brother in a New York bar. A role in Band of Brothers put him on the brink of the big time but things didn't pan out as planned.

"I thought at that point, 'well, this is Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. This is as good as it's going to get. I'm on a roll now.' Obviously that wasn't the case. I was in the wilderness for a couple of years after that."

Was there ever a plan B?

"The only thing I ever really knew was catering. My parents had the restaurant down in Killarney. I worked in that from when I was 16. When I came to London I worked in bars for someone who is a really good friend of mine now. I thought 'sh*t, if this doesn't work what am I going to do? I didn't go to university so I don't have anything academic to fall back on. But I do know the world of catering so maybe there was something I could do there."

The son of a German father and Irish mother, in many ways the time spent in the family restaurant was an ideal training ground for an actor. "It's a fascinating world, I guess that's why people have made films about [it]. It's not only the public that's coming in that you're observing, it's the characters that you work with. Then there's the inner politics and the hierarchies within that system. There's a constant battle going on between front of house and the kitchen. There's a lot of colourful characters that end in the catering trade. So, for sure, it's a great place to observe and it's also a great place to keep social contact going. For an out-of-work actor it's a good place to be if you're not on set working. You're still interacting with people and observing what kind of person drinks what drink. It's an interesting insight.

"At times you're thinking, 'Jesus I'm sick of this sh*t'. People come into the bar and you instantly dislike them and they haven't done anything wrong. I wanted to be an actor and I wanted to get an opportunity to do that job. Doing a job that is a back-up is fine but after a while you're like, 'sh*t, just give me an opportunity'. It's ups and downs, like any other thing."

These days, there are mainly ups. Over the next few months he stars in David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method, Steven Soderbergh's Haywire and Ridley Scott's Prometheus. Throw into the mix a couple of the biggest awards going and by mid-2012 life could be unrecognisable. "We'll see," is his nonchalant reply when I put it to him that his world is about to change drastically. "I look different in the Ridley Scott film." He's clutching at straws now.

Soderbergh's thriller Haywire was shot in Dublin. Did this feel like returning "home"?

"People always say 'do you consider yourself German or Irish?' Well, obviously, I grew up in Ireland from two. That's where I formed my personality and that's where my friends are from. Still today, I have friends who I hang out with who I've known since I was four. But then I think maybe my work discipline comes from my German side.

"But we had a great time filming there. It made me very proud with the Irish connection and to see an Irish crew work so efficiently for someone of Soderbergh's status. He was very complimentary about the crew."

A Dangerous Method is already causing a stir, as Fassbender, who plays psychiatrist Carl Jung, gets involved in some serious spanking sessions with a patient, played by Keira Knightley.

"It's actually in my contract: 'Must get naked and have intense sex scenes.' I don't think they're that crazy. It's funny, when you deal with sex it becomes such a topic of conversation, but you can blow someone's head off in a film or decapitate someone in the most gruesome way and that seems to be more acceptable and more the norm. I've had sex, you've had sex, but have you shot somebody in the face? So why is that more normal than somebody spanking somebody in a sex scene? People do it."

I tell him that spanking Keira Knightley doesn't sound like much hardship for a day at work. He agrees, but it's perhaps not as enjoyable as it sounds. "It's awkward. I'm like 'Keira, I hope you don't mind.' It's a very structured environment, so it's not sexy. People are like 'yeah whatever' but it is kind of awkward. You want to make sure that they don't feel like you're taking the p**s."

Fame, too, is on the horizon and while he claims now that "people recognise me when I'm three steps beyond them" the coming months could bring prying eyes into all aspects of his life. "It's a reality and I couldn't be frustrated by it because you understand that it's just human nature for people to want to find out about people."

A relationship with his X-Men co-star Zoe Kravitz, daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet (they're some pretty good-looking genes) ended last year and ostensibly Fassbender is unattached, not that he would say if the situation was otherwise.

"I think it's best that I keep myself as private as possible because it makes my job easier for an audience because if they don't know me then they can invest in the character more whereas if they're like, 'that's him and he's seeing such and such at the moment'... I try and keep as low a profile as possible where it concerns that. Or when people ask about it, I say it's not really important. I don't want to get into that aspect of it. To keep things as simple as possible -- I think that's what I'm very much honing in on as much as I can. There are so many things that are out of my control that I can't do anything about, but the ones that I can I need to make sure that I'm doing the right thing."

And then there is the awards season, and what will be will be.

"To be honest with you, I'd be lying if I said the prospect of being number one among the company I'm in doesn't excite me. I will also say that I can't sit around going 'what is the possibility of an Oscar?' Then it's a little bit like Gollum and Precious. And the prospect of awards for the film is a big deal, especially for a film like this. It gives a validation to the subject matter which other people might be deterred from because they think it is something else. To be in the position that I'm in now is the highest that I could possibly hope to achieve."

'Shame' is in cinemas from Friday. 'Haywire' is released on January 20

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