Michael Fassbender On His ‘Macbeth’
Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard stand respectfully still as the Thane of Cawdor is anointed king. Three times the assembled bishops, priests noblemen and soldiers cry out: “Hail, Macbeth!” Fassbender refers to his screen wife as ‘Lady M’, and together, they make as powerful a screen couple as I’ve observed in many years.
As I sit with director Justin Kurzel and watch the scene he’s shooting at Ely Cathedral (standing in for Dunsinane Castle), the camera picks out Fassbender’s eyes, and they give a hint of Macbeth’s inner torment.
"He’s suffering from post traumatic stress disorder," Fassbender told me later. "It makes total sense, when you think about it. Justin set the seed of the idea in my head. This trauma is something we know about. In World War I they called it battle fatigue, and it was probably more horrific in Macbeth’s days, when they were killing with their bare hands, and driving a blade through bodies. He’s having these hallucinations, and he needs to return to the violence to find some sort of clarity, or peace."
Macbeth and his Lady M had also, the actor and director point out, lost a child. ”He’d been away fighting and when he returns, we see it’s a relationship that’s broken down. They lost a child, and there wasn’t time for them to grieve because he’s been away campaigning.” However, the couple do reconnect. “Lady M is desperate for that reconnection, and briefly they do. And, of course, the doorway has been opened to darkness and to violence,” Fassbender said.
After Duncan is murdered, Lady M hopes that this ‘fantastical deed, this terrible deed, this extraordinary deed of killing a king will be something that will bond them together’. But once the blood is spilled, it leads to more and more killings. ”He’s wary of doing it,” Fassbender said, “but Lady M bolsters him, and tells him to garner his strength.”
The actor, last seen playing a brutal plantation owner in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave, will be back on screen next month as Magneto in the next X-Men movie: Days Of Future Past. Interestingly, his X-Men co-star James McAvoy played Macbeth in the West End last year — and gave Fassbender some literature and advice on playing the Thane.
So, clearly, this is not just any old Macbeth. For starters, the key producers — See-Saw Films — were behind Oscar-winning The King’s Speech. Macbeth and King’s Speech producer Iain Canning noted that they also filmed King George VI’s coronation scenes at Ely, which in that case doubled for Westminster Abbey (though, on the day I visited, the light shining through the stained glass windows was more stunning than anything I’d ever noticed at Westminster).
Also, the hiring of Kurzel was crucial. He and his creative team travelled extensively around the Highlands to find locations that would be as authentic as possible. The Australian-born film-maker wanted a rugged-looking movie. The soldiers’ faces are painted the colours of their clans and designers created special weaves for kilts.
Kurzel and Canning were adamant about not moving the story to a modern setting. “The story of Macbeth is eternally pertinent,” Canning insisted. The Bard’s verse remains, too, though it has been edited. “There’s a vibrancy and intelligence to the script,” Fassbender observed.
He explained that the cast speak with Scottish accents — all apart from Lady M, the Oscar-winning French actress Ms Cotillard. “We felt it would be unreasonable for her to put on a Scottish accent. It would not be unreasonable to presume that her character spent time in the French court.”
I asked how he was approaching the psychology of Macbeth. How evil was he? “I always have a problem with that word,” Fassbender said sharply. “It never gives me any information, or helps me in any way. I like to find a character’s motivation. I don’t think Macbeth is evil. I think he’s damaged. When we meet him, he’s a man who’s as good as his circumstances will allow. He serves his king loyally and looks after his soldiers.”
And what about Edwin Epps, his character in 12 Years? Surely he was evil? “You put it down to insecurity, and fears — unless of course you’re dealing with a total sociopath. Evil is a cloudy word, and something that’s not going to inform me to play the character in any other way than pantomime.”
Audiences will be able to judge for themselves when StudioCanal releases Macbeth in the UK early in 2015.
Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard In Stills From Justin Kurzel’s ‘Macbeth’
That top one is one of my fave moments in ‘Shame’. When he does that with his mouth while looking at Marianne. ;-) And the bottom one… Remember that line? “Such a dick.”
Michael Fassbender Talks His Role In ‘DoFP’
Here are some excerpts from Michael’s interview with The Vent in which he discusses what Magneto has been up to over the last decade, getting caught in the middle of a BB gun shootout, working with Peter Dinklage and more.
Was it easy to slip back into the character of Erik Lehnsherr?
I’d say no because we’d departed from the Erik character in First Class, so now we’re sort of dealing more with the Magneto side of him. So when we pick up with him this time, he’s made that transition, and the difference from the first film is that now he’s without an army. When we meet him, he’s been in prison for many years so he’s a bit of a lone wolf in that regard.
How much did Bryan brief you on what he’d been up to in the 10 years we don’t see?
Well, essentially he’s been locked away! That’s where he’s been, in solitary confinement under the Pentagon. They have accused him of assassinating JFK, and so they’ve had him locked up ever since.
The first film was more Erik’s journey to becoming Magneto. This is more about Xavier. But how would you describe it?
It’s essentially Charles’ journey to become Professor X. In this one, we find a very broken Charles Xavier who, for lack of a better way of putting it, has lost faith in himself. This is about how he finds that strength again and using the bridge between the past and the future that is provided by Wolverine, they set about preventing what’s happening in the future.
Hugh and others have said the First Class cast had a lot of fun between scenes. Were you trying to keep people in line?
I was in the thick of it! I remember one particular time where I felt like Ned Kelly. Josh Helman, James and Nick (Hoult) had pinned me into my trailer in a BB gun shootout. James was trying to come in through the skylight on the roof and Nick shot me through a crack in the door – it was an excellent shot, actually, he got me right in the neck and it took the wind out of me briefly. So it was a lot of fun. We did wear protective eye wear, it should be noted, so there was safety involved, but there was scarring to the face also, so eventually the BB guns were taken away. It was a purely professional environment! Healthy exercise.
One of the new elements is Peter Dinklage as the new villain. Did you enjoy working with him?
I gelled with Peter immediately. I remember the first day on set – he’s incredible, a genius. He’s just so funny and obviously an excellent actor, but we more just felt like we were on the same wavelength. I’m just bummed that I didn’t have more scenes with him. But watching him work was a pure joy.
One particular scene found you on a plane gimbal with James, Nick and Hugh. Was that particularly challenging?
Not really, because I was bolted in there! In terms of making it look like you’re naturally standing, yes, because you’re on a belt on a pole and you’re leaning forward. But the truly hard part was trying to find the relationship beat required because Charles and Erik haven’t seen each other in so many years and their feelings towards each other have been pent up for so long. So it was an important scene, given how emotionally invested Erik is in his friend and continues to be throughout the other films. To have that emotional resonance, it was an important one to get right.
Michael Fassbender As Erik Lehnsherr Reclaiming His Damn Property
Screen caps I made & edited from the ‘Magneto’s Helmet’ DoFP featurette
'MAGNETO'S HELMET' - NEW 'X-MEN: DOFP' FEATURETTE WITH MICHAEL FASSBENDER
Michael Fassbender & James McAvoy As Erik Lehnsherr & Charles Xavier
Screen caps I made & edited from the 'DoFP' final trailer
'X-Men: Days of Future Past' - The Official Final Trailer
Here’s The FULL 20 Min ‘DoFP’ Yahoo! Q&A With Fassbender, McAvoy & Jackman
Highlights of The ‘DoFP’ Yahoo! Q&A With Fassbender, McAvoy & Jackman
Michael Fassbender wants his own Magneto movie. Make it so, damn it!
Here’s A Brand New Poster For ‘Frank’ Starring Michael Fassbender’s Cute Belly Button
James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender & Hugh Jackman Star In ‘The Maiming of The Crew’
Edited screen caps from the ‘DoFP’ Yahoo! Q&A Outtake
'DoFP' Yahoo! Q&A Outtake: James McAvoy Maims Woman With Paper
That’s what it ended up looking like :)
Mystique, Magneto And Wolverine Cover EW’s Summer Movie Preview Issue
Pupils Starstruck As Michael Fassbender Pops In To His Old School
OMG… Adorbs. A new article with quotes from the students :)
His visit was unannounced and low key but Hollywood star Michael Fassbender was welcomed back with open arms at his old school.
The Oscar-nominated actor spent more than an hour at Fossa National School near Killarney, Co Kerry, where he chatted with the 240 pupils, and was in no hurry to leave despite his dad Josef’s growing anxiety.
His mum Adele had dinner, roast duck, waiting at home that was going to be ruined if her son didn’t get his skates on.
But what struck his young audience was how down to earth he was, happy to answer questions, pose for photographs and even sing a song.
"He was normal and you couldn’t tell he was rich and famous," said Sean Myers (11), a sixth-class pupil.
Just before lunch, the children’s teacher Ms Hallissey told them there was a special visitor and they all had to go to the hall to meet him.
"She told us to line up and when we heard it was Michael Fassbender we all got really excited and when he walked in we gave him a massive cheer," Anna Clifford (12) said.
Answering questions, the star revealed he did suffer from stage fright and that learning lines was difficult. To the delight of the pupils, the 37-year-old also revealed his favourite football team was Liverpool.
The only teacher who was absent on Monday was Michael’s former teacher Linda O’Donoghue, who joked one of the positives of getting older was that she could boast that she taught Michael Fassbender.
Although she was disappointed to have missed the unexpected visit, Ms O’Donoghue had been part of an invited ‘Late Late Show’ audience for a pre-recorded interview with the actor.
Principal Pat Clifford said the actor had arrived without any warning. “It was all spontaneous. I didn’t even know he was coming but it was better in a way because the kids weren’t prepared or rehearsed.
"What was very obvious was his charisma and the time he gave the children," Mr Clifford added.
And just before he left, the ‘Twelve Years a Slave’ star sang The Beatles’ ‘Hey Jude’, accompanied on piano by teacher Helen Moynihan.
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