Michael Fassbender is having a career year for the ages. Earlier in 2011, he stole scenes from Mia Wasikowska in Jane Eyre (one of our top 10 of 2011 so far), and then he made us forget about Ian McKellen with his role as Magneto in X-Men: First Class. Now arrives a pair of powerful films that put Fassbender front and center: Shame and A Dangerous Method. Fassbender took a few moments out of his busy schedule to talk to Movie Fanatic about A Dangerous Method and working with his dream director in David Cronenberg. A Dangerous Mind follows Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and Carl Jung (Fassbender) as their tutor and teacher relationship hits a crossroads with the arrival of a mysterious woman (Keira Knightley).
Movie Fanatic: Were you looking to work with David and was working with him as you expected?
Michael Fassbender: I was a fan of his, for sure. I was very envious when they were filming Eastern Promises, as I live near where they were filming. I thought, “Oh God, wouldn’t it be great to be on a David Cronenberg set.” It was very exciting, the idea and the prospect of working with him. And yes, was different than what I expected because you see his films and they can be quite violent, yes [laughs]? They are dark. He’s kind of the opposite. He’s very sweet and loving, sort of energetic and very generous and very humorous. So having that humor is a nice device for that because it gives a nice relaxed and light feeling going into scenes that can be heavy and deep with heavy themes.
Movie Fanatic: Going all the way back to Fish Tank, and now with Shame and A Dangerous Method and even Jane Eyre, your characters walk a fine line with issues: social acceptance, psychological, moral acceptance. What is it about those roles that appeal to you?
Michael Fassbender: I think it’s conflict, first and foremost. I think what we do is a heightened reality. People say, “It’s not real.” Yeah, real can be really boring. We’re trying to ask questions and seek out drama, that’s the best way to have that is to have conflict -- conflict between characters or conflict within the character itself. I think it makes for more interesting viewing and it’s more provocative and makes us question things a bit more. That’s life. I’m not interested in things that are like here’s the villain, here’s the good guy. That’s boring for me. What happens if you draw the two together?
Movie Fanatic: Talk about the different dynamics you had separately with your co-stars Viggo and Keira and especially with Keira, considering the interesting places that you have to go with her.
Michael Fassbender: That’s the same with every piece. OK, guy comes into the room… who’s in the room? How does that person make me feel? How do I make them feel? Do they make me feel inadequate? Do I feel powerful? Whatever, there are various stages of that with both those characters. Who’s in control changes all the time. When she comes into the hospital, I’m definitely the guy who is in control. At the end of the film, she comes to visit me, she definitely has more power when Jung is about to go into this breakdown. Again, the thing with Freud, at the beginning, he’s like, “Oh my God. He’s my hero. I can’t believe I get to meet him. This is the most amazing thing.” Then, of course, that master-pupil sort of relationship turns. He’s like, “In order for me to really grow and really explore my philosophy of psycho analysis, I have to break away from him and grow as an individual. What’s really interesting about this, and what I think Christopher (Hampton, screenwriter) has done so well is you’ve got these heavyweights, Jung and Freud, and it’s like, “Whoa, OK, this is an amazing world to be entering into.” But, then he shows them as very human, with faults. And you go, “Wow, they did really petty and stupid things. These two guys have massive egos.” Anybody that went against Jung or Freud in their camps was swiftly discarded. You’ve got that to play with -- two egos. I always found it really funny. I found the script very funny. Viggo and I tried to find the comedy in it, as much as possible. That was fun. I’ve always been a massive fan of him. He’s an impressive human being.
Movie Fanatic: Continuing with the Viggo thought, you and he have an amazing spark. I was curious how you found him as an acting partner?
Michael Fassbender: First of all, I was nervous. I’m about to meet Viggo Mortensen. Then, very quickly we just got along. It was just like that. He’s very supportive and generous. Obviously, he’s very well prepared. Nobody knows when Viggo is going to arrive, that’s the thing [laughs]. It was like, “Viggo will be here one of these days.” They started filming with Keira and I first. He arrives, there’s nobody at the airport to meet him because nobody knows when he’s going to be there [laughs]. He gets a rental car and turns up on the set. And slowly his trailer starts to get all this character. It was the World Cup at the time, so he’s a massive football fan, so all these flags started going in his trailer. He had a picture of the Queen of Denmark up. I was watching him from my trailer, “What’s he doing today?” [Laughs] He’s a very interesting guy. He writes poetry. He takes photographs. He’s very artistically rich. I just tried to watch him and learn as much as I could.
Movie Fanatic: There are all sorts of rumors that you’re attached to great projects. One is the Robocop remake. Is Robocop something that you would like to do?
Michael Fassbender: I’m always open, I’ll take a look at the script and sit down with the director and have a conversation. It’s not like, “I’ve got to play Robocop before I retire.” [Laughs] I don’t have that about anything. I don’t desire to play the Dane one day or Hamlet. I don’t think like that. I wait to see what comes up. I’m always open to it if I react to the script.
Movie Fanatic: Would you dread wearing a metal suit?
Michael Fassbender: No. It would be kind of fun. It’ll be good to have a helmet I could hide behind [laughs]. That sounds kind of appealing.