Big Idea: Actor Michael Fassbender taken on Hollywood... But on his own Terms...
Photography Mel Bles
Hallway into our interview with the audaciously talented British actor Michael Fassbender, we admit to not actually having seen him in the acclaimed DDC costume drama The Devil's Whore. "It's about the Devil's whore!" he shouts wildly. "It's about this dirty fecking' bitch!" The 31-year-old actor slams his hand hard on the table between us and, for a moment, he looks deadly serious… then a huge cat-grin breaks across his face. "It's actually about the English Civil war," he explains conspiratorially, in a somewhat more reserved, yet still broad accent.
Fassbender is an actor with all the on-screen weight, gravitas and scope of Daniel-Day Lewis, but without the off-screen actorly pretension. Of Irish/German parentage and a direct descendant of Michael Collins, the star of last year's Hunger (Steve McQueen's uncompromising film about the last days of the IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands) is no stranger to political firecrackers either.
"The waters run deep in Northern Ireland," he says about his breakthrough role, for which he dropped his weight by a staggering 33 pounds over ten weeks. "I did a lot of preparation because really didn't want to mess up, or upset anyone. It's essentially a very human story, though, rather than a political one. I think that's what really shone through." The film is politically impartial, providing a searing investigator into one man's attack on his own body and the effect that on those around him, rather than a polemic on the Troubles. "Everyone has a responsibility in this life and that's what Hunger is about, everyone being responsible for each other," he continues. "I remember sitting with my dad at Cannes and saying, "Enjoy this, because this is as good as it gets – on every level." Fassbender checks himself, as if he feels he could be mistaken for sounding conceited. "I don't know," he smiles. "I'm just lucky to have that film in the bank." Hunger won the coveted Camera d'Or prize at Cannes and has provided a platform for Fassbender to take on Hollywood this year.
But will all the ensuing media attention go to the actor's head? "I can't stand celebrity culture," he says. "It's like the west it suffering from some kind of virus – we are all made to be so concerned about status. I'm a country boy and when I go back to Killarney, I really notice how much the pace of city life has affected me." But pace in something it looks like Fassbender is going to have to get even more acquainted with this year.
"There is so much happening, and I'm totally useless at organising anything even a plane ticket," he laughs, toking on an imaginary joint. "...is it a weekday, man?"
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