Temp­ta­tion and guilt are com­mon themes in Michael Fass­ben­der’s lat­est body of work, writes Jake Coyle

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page -

Feed­ing off sex and guilt.

IT may be three years since he played the hunger- strik­ing Ir­ish na­tional Bobby Sands, but it’s still a re­lief to see Michael Fass­ben­der eat.

So strong is the mem­ory of Fass­ben­der’s per­for­mance in Hunger, for which he lost more than 22kg, that the sight of him wolf­ing down a plate of ba­con and eggs dur­ing a re­cent in­ter­view seems like break­ing char­ac­ter.

But the 34- year- old ac­tor has been hav­ing his fill lately. He stars in two of this sea­son’s most no­table re­leases: as the sex­ad­dicted Bran­don in Shame, by Steve Mcqueen ( who di­rected him in Hunger), and in David Cro­nen­berg’s A Dan­ger­ous

Method as psy­chol­o­gist Carl Jung. That caps a year in which he also starred as Mag­neto in the block­buster X- Men: First Class and as Ed­ward Rochester in

Jane Eyre. He re­cently shot Ri­d­ley Scott’s sci- fi thriller Prometheus, which is planned for re­lease next year. Fore­most, per­haps, is his per­for­mance in

Shame, which won him best ac­tor at the Venice Film Fes­ti­val. It’s a shat­ter­ing per­for­mance of a self- abu­sive New York bach­e­lor who avoids in­ti­macy with the com­pul­sive pur­suit of car­nal­ity.

‘‘ I re­ally wanted to keep him as close to me as pos­si­ble,’’ Fass­ben­der says of the char­ac­ter. ‘‘ I didn’t want to hide be­hind any masks. When I read the script, I was like, ’ A lot of this is rel­e­vant. I recog­nise cer­tain things in here’. And so I wanted to make him just an or­di­nary guy on the street.’’ The part cu­ri­ously dove­tails with

A Dan­ger­ous Method. Cro­nen­berg’s film fo­cuses on the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Jung and his men­tor, Sig­mund Freud ( Viggo Mortensen), whose prism for un­der­stand­ing the mind was more sex­ual than Jung’s broader per­spec­tive. In the movie, Jung, like Bran­don, is racked by sex­ual temp­ta­tion and guilt.

‘‘ They’re linked,’’ Fass­ben­der says of Bran­don and Jung. ‘‘ They prob­a­bly could have helped each other out a lit­tle bit.’’

That the body should play such a cen­tral role in both char­ac­ters isn’t a co­in­ci­dence for Fass­ben­der, who takes pains to find the phys­i­cal­ity in a part.

‘‘ Some­times I can ex­press much more of an in­ten­tion with my body and body lan­guage than a page of di­a­logue,’’ he says.

‘‘ You just think: What sort of an­i­mal is this guy? How does he move? Is he light on his feet or is there a lot of weight? What are the clothes that you wear?’’ – Fass­ben­der pauses and then laughs – ‘‘ or lack of?’’

When the artist- turned- film­maker Mcqueen first met Fass­ben­der, he thought he was ‘‘ a bit cocky’’. But on their sec­ond meet­ing, the two hit it off and have made a close part­ner­ship since.

Fass­ben­der will again work with Mcqueen on his third film, 12 Years a Slave, about a New Yorker who was cap­tured in 1841 and en­slaved in Louisiana.

Asked to ex­plain their col­lab­o­ra­tion, Mcqueen replies, ‘‘ It’s love, I sup­pose. I don’t mean it in a corny way, but in a real way. You don’t know why, you’re just happy it ex­ists and you want it to con­tinue. He is a great ac­tor mainly be­cause of his vul­ner­a­bil­ity. There’s a fem­i­nin­ity to him which ac­tu­ally can trans­late in a way that we, the au­di­ence, can iden­tify with him.’’

Fass­ben­der was born in Ger­many but raised in Kil­lar­ney in County Kerry, Ire­land. His par­ents ran a res­tau­rant, but Fass­ben­der found act­ing af­ter at­tend­ing lo­cal ‘‘ com­edy- drama’’ classes.

He formed his own theatre com­pany and put on a pro­duc­tion of Quentin Tarantino’s

Reser­voir Dogs ( he played Mr Pink). He later worked with Tarantino, play­ing a Bri­tish lieu­tenant in In­glou­ri­ous Bas­terds.

Fass­ben­der thought he had ar­rived in Hol­ly­wood when he landed a small role in Steven Spiel­berg and Tom Hanks’ Band of

Broth­ers. He moved to Los An­ge­les but felt ‘‘ over­whelmed’’ and went back to London to ‘‘ re­assess the sit­u­a­tion’’.

The 2006 ac­tion hit 300 was the pass­port he needed for Hol­ly­wood.

‘‘ I went back there and found a new agent and had a bet­ter sort of idea how I wanted to ap­proach it, what I wanted to get from it,’’ he says.

Af­ter that, it was Hunger that re­ally pro­pelled Fass­ben­der. And these days Hol­ly­wood’s ap­petite for him seems in­sa­tiable.

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