Michael Fassbender: when Ireland meets Germany
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Michael Fassbender was teased by his classmates of Fossa National School in Killarney, in the South of Ireland, for his unusual last name. Calling him "Slowbender" was one of their favorite choices when picking on him. But for a kid who thought he could fly and dreamed of becoming Superman, it was easy to take the bullying in stride. It never bothered him; his childhood was very happy. His physicality and imagination took center stage, and he preferred to play in the fields and parks, climbing trees rather than reading books – unlike his more academic-minded older sister, Catherine, who went on to become a neuropsychologist.
Fassbender was born on April 2nd, 1977, in Heidelberg, Germany. His mother, Adele, was Irish and his father, Josef, a recognized German chef in the city. But when Michael was two, a homesick Adele persuaded Josef of the advantages of raising their kids in the countryside, assuring him he wouldn’t have any trouble finding a good job if they went to Ireland, so they moved there.
The amalgamation of the Irish and German blood in Michael Fassbender produced an explosive combination – translated not only in his handsome chiseled-yet-rugged looks, and the famous grin, which captivates audiences all over the world, but also in a duality of his nature. He feels comfortable both as a wild party animal and as a meticulous and hardworking actor, who rereads his scripts hundreds of times, before and during the shooting of a movie to get all the possible nuances of the plot and to get under the skin of the character he is playing. His preparations also involve writing a whole biography for his characters, including information on where they went to school and what they like to eat for breakfast, to get to know them better. Such perfectionism and dedication astonish most of his colleagues and reminds us of the method of Steve Jobs – the part for which he was nominated for Best Leading Actor in the upcoming Academy Awards (for more on the movie, please read my review: https://www.bookwitty.com/text/569cdd51acd0d0737f82f630).
Michael never completed drama college, missing out on the opportunities to properly participate in auditions at the end of the course. He decided to go his own way, and, so, he spent the next 10 years struggling to survive in expensive London, working as a bartender, while constantly auditioning and playing all kinds of small roles in commercials, independent movies, music clips and TV series, before he got the break that changed his life, portraying Bobby Sands, the IRA revolutionary who goes on a hunger strike for the right to be treated as a political prisoner. The movie Hunger (2008), for which Fassbender lost 33 pounds to play the part (living on a rigorous diet of berries, nuts, and sardines), was a huge success, catapulting the actor to instant fame and world recognition. It was his first collaboration with innovative director Steve McQueen, to whom he became forever indebted (see official trailer below):
Since then, among many other less important parts, he has played a sex predator, in the internationally acclaimed Fish Tank, directed by Angela Arnold (2009); a bilingual British Officer in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009); a borderline bi-polar Mr. Rochester in the remake of the classic novel Jane Eyre (2011), considered one of the best versions of the story; a sex-addict in the controversial movie Shame (2011, in his second collaboration with director McQueen), whose frontal nudity scenes affirmed his fearlessness and willingness to push the envelope, but were the object of endless jokes from family and friends. He also had the chance to work with unconventional Canadian director David Cronenberg, playing a troubled Carl Jung (A Dangerous Method, 2011).
His third collaboration with McQueen was the movie 12 Years a Slave (2013), for which he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. By this time, however, Fassbender was already known worldwide and a deserving member of Hollywood’s A-list of actors, together with the likes of George Clooney and Brad Pitt.
Although he likes challenges, Fassbender does not flinch from playing more mainstream characters – as long as he does it his own way (meaning: he will make that character a lot more rounded, complex and interesting than whoever played it before). He accepted the role of Magneto, in the blockbuster franchise X-Men, but Magneto would never be the same after Fassbender molded him to his taste – including the addition of a peculiar Irish accent! And rumor has it he is being considered to replace Daniel Craig as the most famous British Agent in history, James Bond.
Despite all his fame and wealth, and when he is not traveling all over the world shooting or promoting his movies, Fassbender can be found living quietly on the east side of London, where he claims to lead a regular life, walking the streets, taking the tube and talking to fans.