With director Steven Soderbergh’s spy-action pic Haywire opening this weekend, I recently got to speak with most of the cast to talk about making the movie. Starring MMA fighter Gina Carano as a burned spy who takes revenge against her handlers, Haywire also stars Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Michael Angarano, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas, and Bill Paxton. I’ve seen Haywire twice now and it’s fantastic. On top of Carano’s star-making performance, the action scenes are some of the best I’ve seen in years. It’s absolutely something you should see in a theater.
During my exclusive phone interview with Michael Fassbender we talked about how he got involved in Haywire, how he prepared for the role, the amazing fight scenes, how the script changed along the way, and if he remembered any of his training in real life. In addition, we talked about whether or not he still has to audition, when he realized he’s won the actor’s lottery, what’s up with Twelve Year’s a Slave and the X-Men Sequel, and a lot more. Hit the jump to either read or listen to what he had to say.
As usual, I’m offering you two ways to get the interview: you can either click here for the audio, or the full transcript is below. Haywire opens this weekend at theaters everywhere.
Michael Fassbender: I am back in Ireland at the moment. I’ve come back home to see the family.
I would imagine that that is quite nice especially after this year.
Fassbender: Oh, yeah. It’s great. It’s great to get back. I try to whenever I can especially, like you said, the last couple of years I have been sort of busy working and I actually haven’t come back in a long time. So Christmas is always a good time to catch up with everyone really. So it’s to catch up but it’s to first and foremost see my parents really.
I definitely have questions about Haywire, but I always like to start an interview with a few fun ones. The first one today will be, at what point did you find out that you won the actor’s lottery?
Fassbender: At various points, you know? The first time I got accepted into drama school in London. That was a big deal. Then getting Band of Brothers was a big deal. 300 and then I would say definitely the change came with Hunger. That is when it changed for me being a jobbing actor to working very constantly and with really sort of people at the top of their game. So I would have to say that things really changed after that.
Was there a certain point where you got a certain script in the mail or you got offered a certain role where you sort of took a step back and realized “Wow. I have sort of made it to the next level.”?
Fassbender: It is not when you get the script. When you get in character in a Quentin Tarantino movie was pretty amazing considering that when I was 18 years old I did a stage version of Reservoir Dogs that I directed, acted in, and produced. I was 18 and to actually be on set with the man himself and being directed by him was a pretty good feeling to say the least. Then it is just all the time. Being in a Ridley Scott shoot and working with him and with Steve [Soderbergh] and having that experience with Steve. I spend a lot of the time pinching myself – that is for sure. Like you said, it is a lottery. It is a one percentile scenario that I am in. When I started off this would be the ultimate sort of achievement that I could have hoped for. It is pretty extraordinary.
Another one of my “fun questions”, when was the last time you had to read for a role or have you reached that point where you are being offered stuff?
Fassbender: I think it was when I was in New York about two months ago. I didn’t get the job either.
Fassbender: Yeah, interesting for you. It’s a problem for me.
Absolutely. Can you reveal what the project was?
Fassbender: I don’t think so. I don’t know. Maybe I can, but I am not going to. [laughs] Obviously somebody went in there and did a better job.
In the last 6 months have you had more questions from people asking you about an X-Men sequel or about working with Ridley Scott in Prometheus?
Fassbender: It’s kind of been balanced really. I suppose there is a lot of sort of curiosity if there is going to be another X-Men that is a follow-up to First Class. People have started to sort of die off with the Prometheus questions more because I think they have realized that they are not going to get anything out of me. Everything is sort of shrouded in secrecy there.
How did you get involved with Haywire?
Fassbender: Steven sent me the script and asked me if I wanted to play the part. It really is that simple.
A lot of directors will ask you to do certain things for a role or will suggest watching a movie. Did Soderbergh do anything to get ready for the role?
Fassbender: No, I don’t think so. Obviously I went one day into a 7-11 to fight Gina, who I worked on that fight sequence with. Obviously went down there to the gym in L.A. and then I met up with this other guy Aaron Cohen, who was an ex-antiterrorist in the division of the Israeli army. I think they are called the Duvdevan. What he used to do was kidnap people and free people who had been kidnapped. So he taught us how to do weapons maneuvering and how you would enter a building in a hostage situation. Then he did more sort of spook related stuff with me. Sort of where you would go into a restaurant and he would say, “Okay. In 60 seconds I want you to take a look around the restaurant and find the most optimal place to sit in the restaurant where you will have the clearest view of everybody coming in and out of the restaurant and you are not in a vulnerable position physically.” So your back is against the wall and stuff like that. Then I would start to give him a breakdown of the room. I would say, “Okay, the far left corner. Table 4 looks like a business meeting to me. There are two people sitting at the bar that are a man and a woman. It could be a first date.” Then you go through a process of guesstimation really around the room and you see if you can utilize the room and you see if there is a possible threat within the room. So that is the kind of prep I did.
Fassbender: No, I have been walking around doing that for years thinking that I am a special agent. So it was finally great to have validation for doing it. [laughs]. To be honest with you, I actually asked to see Aaron. Aaron was working mainly really with Gina [Carano] and Channing [Tatum]. Then I was like, “Look, I want to meet this guy.” They were doing a lot more stuff in terms of weapons, entering building with weapons, how to enter a room, and all this sort of jazz. I was sort of just doing hand to hand combat with Gina, but I asked him to do it. What he was doing was that he was following Gina around and he had his team following her around L.A. and she had to keep an eye out on people following her. So I was convinced that he was following me for two or three days. I was ducking down alleys and trying to lose people and nobody was following me. I must’ve looked like some madman. So that was kind of interesting. But you do remember things when people tell you stuff like that when you enter a room. You look around and you go, “What will be the safest place to sit?” for sure. That is the great thing about the job. I feel very lucky that you get to work with people that are really highly skilled in whatever field that they are in and they have to teach you in a really condensed time period and it is something that you would usually respectfully have to go and do over years or whatever. They are trying to give you a crash course in whatever it may be in two or three weeks. So it is a pretty sort of position to be in and you try to soak up as much as you can.
Fassbender: Yeah. I have to say that so far so good. I don’t think…it is not an issue for me at the moment.
That will change. I’m sorry to tell you. The fight scenes during the whole movie feel very real and they are brutal and they are just extremely well done. Did you know going in that that is how the fights were going to be or did you learn that on set?
Fassbender: No. I was told things. I knew they were going to be good because I worked with the 8711 fight team. They are based in L.A. and I worked with them on 300. I knew how skilled they were, what a great team they were, and how serious they take it. So when I started going to training they knew me also and what my limits were and what not. They were happy with me to do the whole fight with Gina. Obviously Gina was going to do the whole fight and then it was just about making it real and it has to be desperate. It’s like “What happens when you have two people fighting?” and especially two people who are thinking about killing on another with their bare hands. But what happens when the other person is on to them and it becomes messy? You want it to be messy, frenetic, desperate, but at the same time as actors there has to be a control on them. It is like a dance and hopefully it will look really violent and messy but actually you working within safe parameters because you rehearsed it and you trust your partner. Gina is so in control of her physique and so experienced in fight scenarios obviously. So I had a really good teacher in a lot of respects and just somebody to work alongside. I felt for sure that I could trust her and I knew that she would look after me. So then you can really push it and really go for it.
Fassbender: We did. You always sort of…again, when you are working with great people like Steven Soderbergh, and this is the same for really all of the great directors that I have been lucky enough to work with, you have an idea and I do my preparation on it quite thoroughly and I come on set but I still don’t know where exactly I am going. I have ideas, but things should always be fluid. You should always be ready to follow an instinct. Something might reveal itself on the day and it definitely did. I remember we flipped a couple of scenes and we put dialogue into another scene because you are seeing it as it happens as well. You need to be quick on your feet and never sitting back comfortably. You always have to be looking on possibilities and that was definitely the case. Steven was cool. I would throw an idea and he would be like, “I like that.” He is confident enough and enjoys it and has enough fun in his work. He loves coming to work and so you have that possibility, which is great.
What is the status on Twelve Years a Slave?
Fassbender: I think we are going to be filming in early summer.
Fassbender: Yeah. Chiwetel [Ejifor], Brad [Pitt], and myself. I don’t know who else Steve [McQueen] has got at the moment. It’s us three anyway.
I’m going to be the generic online reporter and ask if there are any updates on the X-Men sequel and did you happen to see any of the Prometheus footage that premiered on Apple?
Fassbender: I don’t know about X-Men, but I am hoping so. I know they have been sort of talking. I’m trying to get together with James [McAvoy], the writer, [Producer] Simon [Kinberg], and hopefully Matthew [Vaughn]. I hope that Matthew is going to be down. I hope we are going again, but we just to have to wait and see. I don’t know but I know that if it’s happening I want to sit down at the grass roots and with James as well. We have some good ideas I think. I haven’t seen the trailer. I didn’t even know.
Apple released about a minute of it yesterday and I guess the full trailer hits either tonight or tomorrow.
You might have to actually start talking about it.
Fassbender: Uh-oh. Well, I will just make references to the trailer. It’s perfect.