STRIFE ON THE ROAD
Michael Fassbender breaks the bonds of family in a British gangster tale with a difference
IN A BUCOLIC corner of Hertfordshire, Empire is watching Michael Fassbender and a young lad named Georgie Smith balancing in a towering tree. The pair are shooting a climactic moment in Trespass Against Us, a gritty yarn about a family from the travelling community, and the tension is palpable. In the film, their two characters will leap from this lofty perch. The actors are reprieved, though, to the clear relief of one of them.
“Georgie thought we would have to jump out of that tree for real,” grins Fassbender once the two have been safely collected by a cherry picker. “But he was prepared to do it. He’s a tough kid.”
The film, from debutant director Adam Smith, casts Fassbender as Irish traveller Chad Cutler and Smith as his child, Tyson. This scene offers a handy metaphor for a father-and-son fable in which Chad bids to escape the shackles of family to provide a more stable upbringing for his kids.
The problem for Chad is his father, Colby (Brendan Gleeson), who wants his son to remain within the itinerant traveller tradition.
“We’re dealing with very difficult dilemmas for this family,” says Fassbender, “but it never feels like preaching. It’s an honest and visceral story.”
Its inspiration came from the notorious Johnson gang. A real-life traveller clan, they terrorised the Cotswolds countryside for 20 years, stealing more than £80 million in fine art and antiques from English country houses. Smith and his screenwriter Alastair Siddons took them as the starting point for a tale of prejudice and pride among the traveller community, as well as the conflicts they face with those who live a settled life.
“One of the issues is whether we’re stereotyping travellers,” stresses Gleeson when he joins Empire on set. “I’ve known travelling people, and they can do without negative stereotyping.”
But the Cutler family are outsiders, even within their community. “They are too much trouble — nobody wants them,” adds Gleeson. “It’s almost as if Colby has declared war on everyone else.” Everyone else had better watch out.
Clockwise from above:
Michael Fassbender is conflicted family man Chad Cutler; Lyndsey Marshal as Kelly, Chad’s wife, with Tony Way’s Norm; Brendan Gleeson is patriarch Colby, standing in his son’s way; 11-year-old Georgie Smith as young tearaway Tyson.