Q&A

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - Michael Fass­ben­der:

“As an ac­tor you’ve got to have the courage to make a fool of your­self.”

You’re no­to­ri­ously pri­vate. With such in­ter­est in your per­sonal life, how do you nav­i­gate that? It’s just a choice – I want to keep my work and my pri­vate life sep­a­rate. It’s eas­ier for an au­di­ence mem­ber to sus­pend be­lief [with­out] knowl­edge of me – to take the jour­ney with the character that I’m pre­sent­ing.

You sub­sisted mainly on sar­dines, nuts and berries to get to 58kg in 10 weeks to play Ir­ish hunger striker Bobby Sands in 2008’s Hunger. Once film­ing wrapped, what was your first food gorge? Ja­panese food. I got re­ally cold in the restau­rant when I ate that meal.

I started to shiver. I guess my body wasn’t used to hav­ing to work like that to di­gest food. For the first two to three weeks [on the re­stricted diet], I couldn’t sleep be­cause your body’s go­ing, “Eat some­thing, for god’s sake!” Then it ad­justs and re­alises this is the way it’s go­ing to be. So rein­tro­duc­ing food is a shock to the sys­tem.

Can you still eat sar­dines? Yes! It was a rit­ual, the most spe­cial part of the day. It’d be about 7 o’clock when I had my tin of sar­dines and I didn’t want to be dis­turbed. I be­gan to ap­pre­ci­ate lit­tle things more.

You and Hunger di­rec­tor Steve McQueen worked to­gether again on 2011’s Shame, in which you went full frontal. To amp you up be­fore those scenes, he would yell, “We’re all go­ing to die one day!” Has that be­come a motto? Ab­so­lutely. That line still rings in my head a lot of the time. As an ac­tor, you’ve got to [have] the courage to make a fool of your­self and not be afraid of hav­ing egg on your face.

“As a for­mer bar­tender, I can still sling a cock­tail. A vodka mar­tini is my go-to”

You grew up in an Ir­ish town of just 12,000, which was worlds away from Hol­ly­wood. I had an ex­tremely lucky, very idyl­lic child­hood. I’ve got a very close re­la­tion­ship with my par­ents and my sis­ter, and lots of friends from those days. As I get older, I have a yearn­ing more and more to go back to the coun­try­side and that rhythm of life.

Your mum is Ir­ish but your fa­ther is Ger­man. Do you have per­son­al­ity traits you can at­tribute to each na­tion­al­ity? For such a small is­land, Ire­land has al­ways been very rich in sto­ry­telling, whether through po­etry or writ­ing or mu­sic. So I defi­nitely think that had an ef­fect on me. I guess the Ger­man side is a very strict way about pre­par­ing and my ap­proach to work.

In your early days of au­di­tion­ing, you worked in bar­tend­ing. Can you still sling a cock­tail? I sure can. A vodka mar­tini is my go-to. I did a lot of things – a bit of labour­ing, but I wasn’t very good at that [laughs]. Mar­ket re­search was prob­a­bly the worst job I had. Bar­tend­ing, I en­joyed the most.

Con­sid­er­ing you once played Steve Jobs, what’s your re­la­tion­ship with tech­nol­ogy like? I’ve al­ways been a lit­tle bit of a techno­phobe. I get im­pa­tient and I’m just not nat­u­rally at­tuned to it. But play­ing Steve Jobs? It re­ally just gave me ex­tra awe of him, his vi­sion and his tenac­ity. He was a ge­nius.

In the up­com­ing X-Men: Dark Phoenix we see your character Mag­neto torn be­tween good and evil. Is it more fun to play the vil­lain

or the hero? I try to un­der­stand him and his mo­ti­va­tions as op­posed to mak­ing judge­ments. I sort of ap­proach all char­ac­ters like that, whether they’re fan­tas­ti­cal or rooted in re­al­ity.

Given your his­tory of play­ing tor­mented char­ac­ters, is choos­ing the tough­est roles re­ally just in­ten­tional? I know. It’s time to do some com­edy. I’m in talks for Na­cho Li­bre 2 [laughs]. I love Jack Black. It’s strange. When I play char­ac­ters that have this sort of con­flict it raises a lot of ques­tions, and I guess I en­joy that. Is it ever hard to shake off? I’ve be­come pretty good at leav­ing the work on set. I’ve al­ways jumped from one job to the next, so it gets taken over by the next character. Maybe it’s all sort of stored some­where so when I’m in an old peo­ple’s home all these char­ac­ters will come out, and I’ll be that “weird guy” walk­ing around the hall­ways, you know?

Your wife Ali­cia Vikan­der played Lara Croft in last year’s ver­sion of Tomb Raider. So: Mag­neto ver­sus Croft. Who wins? Ooh, that’s a good one. Tricky. I know from train­ing with Ali­cia, she’s prob­a­bly got the edge on me. She’s pretty for­mi­da­ble in terms of her en­durance and in­ten­sity. And she’s an ex-bal­le­rina, so [she’s] got that ex­tra thresh­old of pain. But ob­vi­ously if there’s any metal in the area she’s a goner. I could sit there and eat burg­ers all day long – it wouldn’t make a dif­fer­ence… flick of the wrist and it’s all over!

X-Men: Dark Phoenix is in cine­mas from Thurs­day, June 6.

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