With A Dangerous Method hitting theaters on November 23rd and the NC-17 rated Shame opening on December 2nd, Michael Fassbender is busy promoting both films and his truly excellent performances in each. In A Dangerous Method, he plays Carl Jung, a doctor seduced by the challenge of an impossible case who tries the Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) method of treatment known as psychoanalysis on a patient (Keira Knightley) who has been diagnosed with hysteria. In Shame, he plays Brandon, a handsome and successful New Yorker who is consumed with his sexual obsession, on an inevitable path towards self-destruction. Although very different films, both explore themes of sex and sexuality, and what is culturally accepted behavior in the bedroom.
During our exclusive chat, Michael Fassbender talked about how lucky he feels to be working with the people he’s working with, that he spends a lot of his preparation time for a role just reading and absorbing the script over and over again, and how both Steve McQueen and David Cronenberg are great leaders that love what they do. He also talked about what he’d like to see in a possible sequel for X-Men: First Class, and then played it coy when it came to his next collaboration with McQueen – Twelve Years a Slave, co-starring Brad Pitt and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Watch the video or read the transcript after the jump:
- What it’s like to be so in-demand right now
- How he prepared for each film, and what his typical research process is
- What it was like to work with both Steve McQueen (for Shame) and David Cronenberg (for A Dangerous Method), and how they’re alike
- What he’s looking forward to, with a possible sequel for X-Men: First Class
MICHAEL FASSBENDER: I’ve been dancing for years, I’ve just been looking for a partner. No, I feel very lucky that I’m getting to work with the people that I’m fortunate enough to work with, really. For me, that’s the pinnacle, and the greatest that I could have hoped to achieve, when I started off doing this. It’s amazing.
We’re talking to you for Shame and A Dangerous Method, which are obviously vastly different films, but both anchored by really strong performances from you. How did you prepare for each film, and what’s the typical research process that you do for your roles?
FASSBENDER: Some actors might just do one thing, and another actor does another thing. Shirley Temple was doing her thing as a kid, without needing probably to do any research. I do an awful lot of preparation with the script, really. What I do is repeat the script, over and over and over again. Through that, it’s almost like it seeps into my enamel. I’m reading all the characters, as well as my own. That is where the bulk of my preparation goes into. And then, if you’re dealing with a character that actually exists, there’s an awful lot of information there. So, you can put together, from the information, motivations, insecurities, reactions. Where does that seed get born, if you like? When I say that, it’s like, “Was the character, for example, sporty at school? Were they academic? Did they have a lot of friends? Were they more of a loner? What did their parents do? How did that influence them?” What I do is put that together. That’s what the difference is, really. You have an awful lot of information with one, and then with the other, you’re working with what’s in the script. Logically, you write a biography for this character with the information in this 100 pages, or whatever it is.
Both Shame and A Dangerous Method are directed by strong filmmakers who have a clear vision, but completely different styles. What was it like to work with both Steve McQueen and David Cronenberg? How are they alike and how are they different?
FASSBENDER: I can tell you how they’re the same. They both love what they do. They’re both great leaders. To be a director, it’s just watching directors at work and realizing that you’ve got so many departments to keep an eye on, at all times. It’s almost like you’re a conductor or a ringmaster. You’ve got the art department, you’ve got the actors, you’ve got the camera department, you’ve got make-up and hair, and props. You’ve got your finger in all these pies, and you’re making sure that everything cooks at the right temperature. Both of them are excellent at doing that.
They’re great leaders, and they’re very precise, and they’re very collaborative. That makes for a lot of fun to work with. Both of them, as well, have got a great sense of humor and there’s a lightness on set, which is helpful. Especially if you’re dealing with heavy topic matter, sometimes it’s good to have a lightness going into it because it allows you to be open to possibilities, rather than getting rigidly stuck into a certain mind-set. People are strange. When you break up, sometimes you end up laughing with one another, as opposed to crying. Things in life are unusual, and to find those things, it’s best to be relaxed.
FASSBENDER: I have no idea. I’m looking forward to working with all those people again. We had a lot of fun. It was a great cast and a great crew. Hopefully, I’ll get in at ground level and start putting some ideas together myself, with James [McAvoy] and, hopefully, Matthew [Vaughn], and we can see what happens next. I’m really interested to see what happens to Charles, in the next one, and see how he becomes Professor X ‘cause we got to see Erik turn into Magneto, in the first one. It will be interesting to see who shaves Charles’ head. When he’s drunk one night, the mutants will go in there and shave his head and shave off his eyebrows. Maybe.
You’re going to be teaming up with Steve McQueen again on Twelve Years A Slave. What can you tell people about the project, and when do you start filming?
FASSBENDER: I don’t know anything about that. I don’t know what’s happening with that.