Michael Fassbender at the Golden Globes 2012
Michael Fassbender in Haywire with Gina Carano
Michael Fassbender in Haywire with Gina Carano
Michael Fassbender with Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan
Michael Fassbender with Carey Mulligan in Shame
Michael Fassbender is Hollywood hot property. With a string of critically-acclaimed movies including Shame, A Dangerous Method, X-Men: First Class and Inglourious Basterds and nominated for awards galore including a Golden Globe for Best Actor and BAFTA for Leading Man, Michael is the most exciting actor of the moment. He took time out of his mega busy (and glamorous) schedule to talk exclusively to InStyle...
WATCH Gina Carano and Michael Fassbender in Haywire as they battle it out in a hotel room
You’re a man in great demand at the moment. How do you decide which projects you accept?
Just what seems to be good... It’s that simple. Intelligently told stories. Interesting characters. And then the director.
What was it about Haywire that ticked your boxes?
Well, it’s Steven Soderbergh first and foremost. And there were a lot of blank spaces on the page for me to play around. So it just seemed like an interesting world and an interesting character.
Had you heard of Gina Carano [his co-star in Haywire] before?
No, I hadn’t. Steven told me on the phone and then I started to check out some of her fights on YouTube. And I thought, well, once again, Steven doesn’t really adhere to any set of rules. He’s always willing to try things if he has a gut instinct about somebody. He sees something and then runs with it. It’s really exciting and inspiring to be around that. So Gina was great. All my scenes are with her, bar one with Ewan McGregor.
What went through your mind when you first saw her fights on YouTube?
"This is gonna be fun!" You know, she’s really quite interesting Gina. I really liked her a lot. She’s brave as an actress as well. She was ballsy and open to adapting on the spot. Just really game. But she’s really sweet, that’s the thing. She’s lethal, but she’s really sweet and quite a shy person actually. So there’s a great paradox there, which I guess is really interesting for directors. She’s got a vulnerability but also a real steeliness.
Was your fight scene with her as brutal to shoot as it is to watch?
She can handle herself, that’s for sure. I mean, there were a few bruises by the end of the two days. It was two days we had to film and they were two full days. I’ve worked with the guys from 87/11 before, the stunt team. So I was comfortable with them, they knew me and knew my capabilities. So we were able to do the whole fight sequence ourselves.
So it was carefully planned out?
It was all about making the fights exciting to watch, with a certain style to them – but a realism to them, a messiness, that you really just grab whatever’s at hand, whatever you can use as a weapon. Then there’s the sell of it. It looks really violent, but the classic thing when you’re doing fight sequences, the person who’s getting thrown is doing the leading and the person who’s grabbing someone’s hair, they’re doing the following. So you just try and make it look frenetic and violent, when actually you’re just looking out for each other and making sure nobody gets hurt. Because you’ve got to do it over two days and you’ve got to keep repeating it, there’s no point getting all gung-ho and losing control. I don’t like do fight sequences with people who lose control. It’s not a comfortable place to be and that’s when people get hurt.
Did it help that Gina is a trained fighter?
The fact that Gina is a very physical person and she’s got great command over her body, it made her the perfect partner – because then you can really push things and know that she’s capable. That helped an awful lot. Then you can really make it look messy. And she was actually saying, "Drive me into the television. But really hard." I was like, "Gina, this is acting, yeah?"
Do you get accidentally caught by any of her punches?
Erm... There’s a breakaway vase that she smashes across my head. And I kind of made a bit of a balls there. The stunt guy was like, "Okay, when she picks up the vase, keep your head straight. Don’t look at it, because it’s coming right for your head." Of course, what did I do? I looked at it. I had a brain-fart or something, started looking at the vase. Next thing I know, the vase hit me in the face and everything just went like one of those cameras, you know? Pop! Whiiiiiiir! Everything went bright! Next thing I knew I was up and over the table. So that was funny.
After Inglourious Basterds and X-Men: First Class, this is the third time you’ve played a special agent of sorts. Is Haywire really another covert audition for Bond?
We’re sort of talked about it before, funnily enough, both in X-Men and Haywire. Both Matthew and Steven made references to James Bond. It was the look they were looking for: spies, espionage, this sort of thing. And I do think with Haywire, especially the scenes I’m in, there is something of an old-school 60s or 70s espionage film. I always felt that when we were doing it. But it certainly wasn’t something that I was seeking out. It just happened to be, that was the material and that was the job.
You appeared in five movies released around 2011. Are there strains to doing so many films?
Yeah, you know, that’s why I’m not doing anything right now. I finished up on Prometheus end of July and I haven’t done anything since because I figured it was time for me to take a rest and reflect before I decide what I’m going to do next. It just so happened that the opportunities were too good to turn down. But I have pulled on the reins now a little bit. I’m going to stop now and at the moment I’ve got nothing planned for next year apart from working with Steve again in May.
Do you find it difficult to shake off some of your tougher roles at the end of day?
At times it is. But that’s part of it. I do, I exorcise that side of the work. It’s important for me to be able to leave work at work. For various reasons. Number one, you’re just not going to be great company if you’re meeting other people... "Oh, here goes Mike again, talking about his characters." You know? Nobody wants to hear that. The thing is, what you do on the day, you do on the day. And if you haven’t left it on the floor at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how much you’re going to mull on it later that night, it’s done. You’ve got to concentrate on the next day.
Was it like that with Shame?
I mean, I was living pretty closely with Brandon [his character], I reckon, for a five-week shoot and a three-week prep going into it. I was with him day and night. When I wasn’t shooting, I was at home working on the script. But it’s only eight weeks. It’s two months of the year. It’s just that for that period of time, you give yourself up to it.
How does it compare working with Soderbergh and Steve McQueen?
They’re very different people. The thing I can tell you that’s similar about them is that they both work very fast. Soderbergh moves very fast, he shoots himself, he lights himself. There’s a speed to his work, which I enjoy. On Haywire, we moved at a fast pace. And definitely Steve as well. We shot Shame in 25 days. They’re both very collaborative, very open to suggestion. They both have a confidence in themselves that then permeates the crew. They both have a good sense of humour. And they’re not afraid of mistakes, because within the mistakes you find some of the most interesting moments. So there was a tremendous focus, of course, but there’s a freedom within the boundaries. You’re free to stretch and take it where you want to go. That’s very liberating and it gives you a lot of confidence.
Has anyone ever given you a great piece of advice that’s really stuck with you?
I think Donnie Wahlberg told me, ‘Remember the three Ps.’ It was actually quite cool. We were doing Band Of Brothers and I had a small scene and he came up to me afterwards and said, “Well done in that scene. That scene could’ve ended up on the cutting room floor and you handled it well.” He said, “Just remember the three Ps. Patience, perseverance, practice.” I think that’s right. It’d be terrible if the piece of advice that was given to me I can’t even remember! But yeah, that was a nice bit of encouragement. I wouldn’t be in this position now if people hadn’t helped me. You need help, you know what I mean? You need somebody to give you a break or a piece of advice.
Do you feel like you’ve learned a lot in the last few years?
Along the way, you learn certain things, like you learn to look after your money! In terms of putting it away and not spending it. I remember back in those days, when I was in Band Of Brothers, there was a lot of spending going on. Because tomorrow you’re going to get another job. But you never know what’s around the corner tomorrow. Keep an eye on your finances.
Are there certain actors who inspire you?
Yeah, for me, it’s always been the usual suspects. Of course, Brando at the top and De Niro, Pacino, Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Robert Mitchum, Montgomery Clift. You know, Daniel Day-Lewis, Sean Penn, Paddy Considine... There’s many really.
Was there a film that really impacted on you when you were younger?
I remember Mean Streets really affected me really strongly. And also Taxi Driver. And The Godfather, most definitely.
What do you think you might have been if not an actor?
Journalist I thought actually at one point. That probably would have been the direction I would have gone into. I was kind of interested in war journalism, you know. I was 17 when I realised that I wanted to do acting and that was what I was going go for as a career. But around that time I was thinking journalism, hoping to get enough points to get into college in Dublin.
What can you tell us about your newest movie Prometheus?
It’s the must-see film of 2012! I play the humanoid android. The first thing that struck me was a good script. Really intelligent script. A real thriller. Real anticipation. The first alien had that. The atmosphere was thick. You knew that something was going to happen. Which is very rare that you can read that in a script. And also, Ridley Scott is the master. He’s amazing. Really something else to watch him work. His attention to detail. And also his mischievousness, his playfulness. And again, no idea is stupid for him. He’ll let you bring it to the floor and have a go at it. I really, really enjoyed working with him. And of course the cast.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE
Shame is released by Momentum Pictures nationwide on 13 January 2012
Haywire is released by Momentum Pictures and Paramount nationwide on 18 January 2012
A Dangerous Method is released by Lionsgate UK on 10 February 2012