X-Men star on being a Hollywood bad boy and whether he could play Bond
After struggling to get noticed in his twenties, Michael Fassbender shot into the super league with a string of dark star cinematic turns. Cath Clarke finds out about his light side and why he doesn’t play normal guys.
Think ‘coolest actors alive’ and chances are Michael Fassbender will figure somewhere on the list. GQ UK magazine puts him on the cover in suits costing half a year’s salary. Daniel Radcliffe chooses parts by asking himself: ‘What would Michael Fassbender do?’ The half-German, half-Irish actor has consistently gone to dark, uncomfortable places during his career including outevil-ing everyone in ‘12 Years a Slave’ earlier this year.
And fans of the Fassbender twitch – that thing he does with the muscle in his jaw, indicating barely contained fury – won’t have long to wait for more. He’s back as Magneto in the new ‘X-Men’ later this month and has just finished shooting a film of ‘Macbeth’ with Marion Cotillard as Lady M.
You play all these dark characters, but you don’t seem like the brooding, tormented type. Does that surprise people when you meet them? ‘Yeah, I suppose it does. But comedians can be really dark personalities and they make you laugh. I think you can flip that the other way.’
How do you switch off if you’re playing a character like Edwin Epps in 12 Years a Slave? What do you do when Steve McQueen calls ‘cut’? ‘Run. No seriously, at a certain point I realised that I didn’t want to be bringing work home with me. As an actor you can get really self-obsessed. So I just sort of made a decision to leave it at work. I prepare well, work hard on the day and then I leave it all there. The only time I get upset is if I feel like I’ve done a day’s work and it’s gone badly because I wasn’t prepared enough.’
You’ve never played an average, normal family guy. Why not? ‘I want something to happen to this family guy. I suppose there have been a lot of heavy characters. I don’t know why. I would do more comedies for sure.’
You apparently like racing cars and you ride a motorbike. As a speed junkie, would you like to play James Bond? ‘Of course. Bond is always going to be appealing. Especially the age I am, growing up with it, the music. But you know I’m probably rubbish compared to proper adrenalin junkies. I like racing, but I’m not very good at it.’
You’re close to Steve McQueen. Did you want the Oscar win for him more than for yourself? ‘Of course not! But seriously, absolutely. It was great to see Steve up there taking the Oscar for Best Picture. He changed my life. I owe everything to Steve. He’s just a fantastic, brilliant artist and a dear friend.’
You have a bit of a reputation for being a Hollywood wild man. How did that start? ‘I don’t know. I suppose it makes for a more interesting read than Michael Fassbender, normal guy.’
Hang on. Keira Knightley once said that you could always be relied on to buy a bottle of bubbly when one is needed. What’s that about, then? ‘That’s just being civilised.’ X-Men: Days of Future Past is in cinemas across Dubai this week.
We rate some of Fassbender’s characters for immorality. Put these guys in a room and something really bad would happen.
Brandon ‘Shame’ He’s no one’s idea of a perfect date. But addicted, intense junkie Brandon is more empty-on the-inside than douchebag. Shame score: 2.5/5
Magneto ‘X-Men: First Class’ He is a megalomaniac mutant who wants to destroy humanity. But Kevin Bacon shot his mum. Shame score: 2.5/5
David ‘Prometheus’ David the butlering robot breaks a cardinal rule in the Jeeves handbook by spiking a drink with alien mucus. Creepy as you like. Shame score: 3.5/5
Connor ‘Fish Tank’ An early glimpse of Fass doing sleazebag with soul, as a man who seduces his girlfriend’s 15-year-old daughter. Shame score: 4/5
Edwin Epps ‘12 Years A Slave’ Man or monster? Sadistic slave master Epps is the baddest of them all. Shame score: 5/5