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.

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