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✔Michael Fassbender “The Daniel Day Lewis of His Generation”? By Stephen Holt

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✔Michael Fassbender “The Daniel Day Lewis of His Generation”? By Stephen Holt Empty ✔Michael Fassbender “The Daniel Day Lewis of His Generation”? By Stephen Holt

Post by Admin on Thu Jan 14, 2010 2:36 am

January 13th, 2010
Stephen Holt Talks to Michael Fassbender

(Irish actor Michael Fassbender is surprised to find himself pretty much sitting on top of the film world right now. With a leading role as the doomed British officer in “Inglourious Basterds,” Quentin Tarantino’s epic WWII opus, he’s SAG-nominated as a member for “Best Ensemble” and “Basterds” is also right in the middle of the Oscar race. Fassbender also won world-wide acclaim and many awards last year for his other-wordly portrayal of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands in the powerful “Hunger.” And now he’s returning to center stage with another memorable, complex portrayal in the searing new British indie “Fish Tank,” which won the Jury Prize at Cannes. “Fish Tank” is filmmaker Andrea Arnold’s gritty look inside the bleak council flats of East London and the mind of a 15-year-old working class, Mia, who is seemingly trapped there. Fassbender scores another knock-out performance opposite Katie Jarvis, who had never acted before in her life!

I caught up with him on a wintry day at the hipper-than-thou Soho Grand Hotel in the closed Mezzanine Bar. We sat on a leather banquette, and I found Michael Fassbender as humble and down-to-earth as he was funny and charming, not to mention super-star sexy. And genuinely overwhelmed at the Irish good luck that seems to keep coming his way. With a wild Irish sense of humor and a twinkle in his eye, Michael Fassbender is poised to be one of the best film actors of his generation.)

SH: This is such an honor, such a thrill to meet you! I’m a huge fan! Your performance in “Hunger”! Oh my god! It was one of my top three films last year!

MF: Thank you.

SH: And this year, you’re in “Inglourious Basterds.” Which, did you know Quentin (Tarentino) just got nominated–?

MF: I heard today.

SH: – by the Directors Guild? Just a few minutes ago.

MF: Yeah, I heard that.

SH: – for Best Director.

MF: Which is fantastic.

SH: That means that film is in the big Oscar mix -
MF: Wow. Absolutely. It’s fantastic. It was just a dream come true for me, really, because I was such a fan of his from such a young age. I put on a play of “Reservoir Dogs” with my friends in Killarney. I directed it, and played Mr. Pink. So it was pretty special to be on the set working with him, a real honor.

SH: You had a terrific part( in “Inglorious Basterds,” as the red-headed British officer)- I’m a redhead. I’m Irish, too, so we redheads have to stick together.(laughs)

MF: Absolutely! We’re a dying breed, man!(laughs)

SH: I know. I know. And you’re certainly one of the great actors emerging today.

MF: Oh well…thank you.

SH: And your performance, also, in “Fish Tank,” oh my god! Now this is also terrific…I never read my production notes before I go in (to see the movie). I didn’t know that that young girl was not, like, just out of RADA. (laughs)

MF: Yeah, I know. I know. Katie Jarvis. They picked her up – She was found on a -

SH: On a subway platform?

MF: Yeah, on a railway platform, yelling across at her boyfriend.

SH: Or the tube? Or a train?

MF: It was the overland, actually. She was shouting across at her boyfriend. (They were having a fight.) And the casting director sort of called her over, and asked her, would she be interested in doing a film? And I think she was like “What?,” and thought they were joking.
And there is she, up on the screen, a phenomenal talent. I’ve been saying about her – she’s got this amazing ability to find the truth in all these scenes. There’s no affectation in her acting. There’s no vanity. She’s just straight down the line.

SH: Yeah, she’s amazing! And the process! You didn’t see a script before you signed on to do this movie?

MF: No.

SH: You’re one of the hottest actors in the whole world now. So you just said “I’ll do this”?

MF: Well, I don’t know about that.(laughs)

SH: I think you are. Well, in my book

MF: Oh, thanks, man. Well, you see, I’d seen “Red Road,” and it really impressed me. What impressed me about Andrea (Arnold, the Academy-award winning writer/ director) and obviously, she carries it through with “Fish Tank,” is the way that she portrays characters. There’s no judgment on her part, when she writes them, or when she delivers them on screen. They’re ambiguous. She doesn’t make it easy for an audience to go “OK. Here’s your hero” and “Here’s your villain.” Everybody’s got elements of both of those things. And they’re very ambiguous. And I think that’s what makes it interesting. Because that’s what we’re like in life, as human beings –

SH: Yes, it’s complex. It’s three dimensional.

MF: They can be hurtful towards one another. They can be damaging. And then they can also be very nourishing and very supportive. The two go hand-in-hand.

SH: Yes, your character, Connor starts off just being like The Guy – - who’s with The Mother, their tryst. (They’re having a torrid affair.) And then he, well, we don’t want to give the movie away. But he turns out to be all these other things. And it’s quite wonderful. Did you shoot this in sequence?

MF: Yes.

SH: And you didn’t know what was coming up? And you hadn’t seen the script?

MF: No, I hadn’t. No, what happened was I would get, like, on Friday, I would get what was happening the next week. I would get those scenes.

SH: Whoa!

MF: So I could work on it on the weekend and take it day by day from there on. And then, we just sort of went along and did it. But I had a pretty good idea of what has going to happen. From sort of the beginning really.

SH: Cuz we in the audience, don’t. So that’s why I’m not going to go into the second part of the movie. Because it’s such a surprise. That twist is terrific.

MF: Yeah. No. She’s a master at that. That’s why I wanted to keep him as just sort of an ordinary guy, like you said. Because these things are within all of us, the capability…

SH: What is his job?

MF: He works in like a — He’s a security guard.(Both laugh) His main weakness is he’s got a lack of responsibility and he doesn’t face his problems very well. He runs away from them, as opposed to trying to confront them. But I think he’s sort of a good natured guy.

SH: But we end up liking him immensely at the end of it. We’re pulled back and forth. Which is wonderful.

MF: Which I think was her plan.(laughs) That’s what she does so well.

SH: And your background in acting? Were you in Drama school and that sort of thing? Traditional training? Which I love by the way,by the way. I’m a Member of the Actor’s Studio.

MF: Oh wow.

SH: So that’s OK with me.(MF laughs)And you were trained, and she wasn’t? And I thought, “Well, she’s the new young British actress right out of Drama School.” But she was right off a train platform? And she’s so good! My god!

MF: I did go to London to train.

SH: Which school was it?

MF:I went to Drama Center. And we had an ex-Actor Studio guy from the ‘50s, actually, Rueben Adiv, actually, god rest his soul. He’s not with us anymore. So that’s what I was really into when I was young. I really wanted to follow that way of acting.

SH: Now, “Hunger.” Oh my god! Your performance! That script was written, right? That was a known quantity? You knew what you were going to have to do in that?

MF: Oh yeah, yeah. We did a lot of work on that. It was so intricate. There was so much going on in it.

SH: It’s one of the great screen performances I think I’ll ever see.

MF: Wow! Thank you so much! And I had a good man, Liam Cunningham, sitting opposite me.

SH: In that long scene in the prison, sitting opposite the priest? (Where Bobby Sands talks about his philosophy behind the Hunger Strike with the Prison Chaplin, who’s come to try to talk him out of starving himself to death.) Oh my god! That was just a tour-de-force…

MF: Thank you.

SH:..Of Method Acting. Because that’s the kind of thing that I love. Where you’re seated and it’s just the actors, and that’s IT. And the camera doesn’t move, and they just ACT!

MF: Yeah, it’s something that scares you, which is a good thing, I think.

SH: How much weight did you lose for that part?

MF: I got down to 128 or 126 pounds.

SH: Oh my god!

MF: But I did it over a ten week period. But that was easy. The hardest part was getting that middle part, the long conversation with the priest, getting that right. The weight loss was just a matter of not eating.

SH: And all the violence? And the nudity?

MF: (laughs) You just have to get on with it.(laughs) I ask to be nude in everything I do.(both laugh)I put a clause in ( my contract.) (more laughter)

SH: I was watching “300” last night, which I hadn’t seen. Oh my god! That film! Well, you had clothes on it that one!

MF: Just about! (more laughter)

SH: I thought, “This is a cartoon! This isn’t people really wearing these costumes?” But those really were the real costumes.

MF:(laughs) Well, I was talking to Zach Snyder, the director(of “300”) a little while ago, and he told me one interviewer asked him “Isn’t this film homophobic?” And he said “Homo-PHOBIC? It’s Homo-EROTIC!!” (laughs)

SH: And there’s the joke – Question: “On a Gay scale of 1 to Ten, how gay is ‘300’?” Answer: 300!(Both laugh)

MF: Absolutely! Absolutely!

SH: You’ll be going to the SAGs this year, because you’re nominated as part of the “Inglourious Basterds” ensemble and you may be going to the Oscars this year. You might even be presenting, young man.

MF: I don’t know about that.

SH: Because “Inglourious Basterds” is going to be nominated for Best Picture, now that Quentin has been nominated by the Director’s Guild. That’s how it works. You’ll be out there, because they need you! (MF laughs) Harvey Weinstein will have you out there on the Red Carpet talking to every single person in the whole world!

MF: (laughs) Oh yeah, we’ll see, y’know. I don’t know.

SH: It’s your dream –

MF: It would be nice.

SH: Going to be at the Oscars?

MF: Yeah, well, it’s pretty crazy. Y’know, I’ve sort of watched it from a young age, and then to, you know, be amongst it, would be great.

SH: I think you’re just as fine an actor as Daniel Day Lewis is. You’re sort of like the younger version. For your generation. The Next Generation.

MF: Whoa…thank you, man. That’s a massive compliment. That’s very sweet. Obviously, for me, Daniel Day Lewis is in a league of his own. I think that he’s amazing. And he’s always been a benchmark of excellence. So that’s a massive compliment, absolutely massive. Thank you.

SH: You’re welcome. And you’re so polite. And you know something? You knew a friend of mine who just died, recently, Michael Dwyer.

MF:(choking up) Oh god! I know! Oh, how terrible! I know! He went to the same school as me! And I missed his funeral!

SH: In Tralee?

MF: In Killarney. He went to the St. Brendan’s College.

SH: I have a TV show here in NY and I also cover film festivals, and he was a regular on my program, everytime he was in Toronto.

MF: And want a beautiful man he was!

SH: He was incredible! We talked about you at one point.

MF: Oh really?

SH: He knew all your family. He said, your father is from Germany. And your mother is Irish.

MF: We sat together in Cannes. I met him in Cannes for “Hunger,” and I said, “Well, come and join us.” And then we all had a meal together. My parents were there with me.

SH: I’m gonna give Michael a moment here.

MF: Yes, let’s do that.

SH: He was a huge figure in the Irish cinema world.

MF: He was massive! Massive!

SH: And not very well know here in America, unfortunately, except for my program.

MF: And speaking of Daniel Day Lewis, he gave a lovely tribute at the funeral in Dublin just this week. I’m so sad I missed the funeral.

SH: Oh wow…me too.

MF: He definitely should get the recognition that he deserves because he was such a beautiful man. It has to be said.

SH: And he was gay, and had red hair. We looked like twins, when we first met. Twiddledum and Twiddledee.

MF:(laughing) Yeah, you do!

SH: It so sad that’s he’s gone so young and all.

MF: Yes, it’s really horrible.

SH: Because he was one of the great film critics who LOVED film.

MF: Exactly! He loved film! And he was never nasty either. I grew up reading him, and I thought he had a real passion for film. A real love of it. And it always came across.(gesturing towards the ceiling & looking up) So God bless him.

SH: Yes, god bless Michael… And he’s up there somewhere, laughing his head off that we two redheads are finally talking here like this.

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