The Verge: Michael Fassbender
Audiences who caught Inglourious Basterds this weekend must surely be curious about the velvet-voiced British actor who steals the film's midsection from Brad Pitt. Turns out he's not a Brit at all -- he's Irish actor Michael Fassbender, and Hollywood's got big plans for him. After first gaining notice for his harrowing work in last year's Hunger (which he lost 40 pounds for), Fassbender's gone on to land meaty parts in Jonah Hex and Joel Schumacher's Town Creek, and he was shortlisted for superhero stardom as one of the contenders for the title role in The Green Lantern.
Movieline talked to the 32-year-old up-and-comer about purple dildos, his superhero competition, and the Basterds role he really wanted.
Let's talk about that voice! That British accent you use as Lt. Archie Hicox is so much fun to listen to -- even in the very tense bar basement scene, as soon as you ask to switch from German back to the Queen's English, I could feel this wave of pure pleasure go through the audience.
I really just tried to enjoy all the textures of it. When I started out, Quentin said, "I see this as sort of a young George Sanders character," so I sort of got as much material out of him as possible. It was a very particular way of talking that they had back then in the thirties and forties, this thing of really enjoying each word and bringing color and texture to it. I supposed that's something we've kind of lost, that language was seen as a weapon, if you like. I just tried to indulge in that as much as possible without pissing people off in England. I have a place in London, and I was thinking, "Oh shit, how are they gonna respond?" But apparently it went down really well there.
Did you know that Quentin was looking for that George Sanders-type delivery when you went in for the role?
I didn't really know what way to pitch Hicox because I was really gunning for Landa, actually. [The role was eventually filled by actor Christoph Waltz.] I was working on Fish Tank at the time and I would come home after work and really pour a lot of hours into Landa. There was French to learn, the German section, speaking the German accent in English...I didn't really get to do a great deal of work on Hicox. They had told me, "Look at Hicox as well," and I was sort of in denial, I suppose -- like, "No, no, no." So then I arrived, and Quentin was like, "OK, let's take a look at Hicox" and I was like, "Shit!" [Laughs] I was like, "What about Landa?" and he was like, "I cast my Landa on Tuesday." I went, "Really? Are you sure?" But then, I'm not about to tell Quentin Tarantino how to cast his movies, so I said, "OK, let's read Hicox."
What else did you want to incorporate into your performance?
It was the way these movie stars in the thirties and forties carried themselves physically -- this very proud presence. I really wanted to take all of that on board and use it to play Hicox, because I saw this certain vanity in him, this very sort of dry delivery. It's very British, this "Give it a go, old chap?" sensibility when the cards are stacked against you. There's something very endearing and admirable and comical about it, so I really wanted to try to encapsulate all those things.
Why do you think Quentin made your character a film critic?
I don't know. It's such an interesting twist to put on the character. I think the inspiration came from a George Sanders film where he's a film critic, and he goes in undercover as a spy for the Brtitish to gather information in the propaganda field in Germany. Dammit, what's that film called? Ah, he'll kill me, too, for not knowing this. Can we call up his hotel room? [The film in question: 1943's Appointment in Berlin.]
Did you have any run-ins with Quentin's purple dildo of shame?
Oh my God, yeah, I forgot about that. Big Gerry, I think is what he used to call it. Basically, if you fall asleep on set, you get your picture taken with this big fat purple dildo. It's huge, too! I was kind of worried, because I'm actually one of those people who will nap in between takes. I can take ten minutes anywhere -- I could lie on the floor right here, in front of you. But they never caught me, thank God. I think the deal was that it was three strikes and you're out. The people he caught twice, they were kind of walking on eggshells. [Laughs]
I know you went to Comic-Con this year for Jonah Hex. Was that your first time at the Con?
Yeah, I missed out on it, unfortunately, when we did 300. It was great to go down there. These are proper die-hard fans, and they're there in such number. It's their festival; we're just visiting. It's quite humbling!
But what is it like to fly down to San Diego to sit in on this big panel, and yet you're ignored because all the questions are from geeks who want to talk to Megan Fox?
Yeah, I kind of felt for her! That must get sort of tiring, how she gets that relentlessly.
Still, that's a quality problem for her to have.
Yeah, not bad, is it? And they deserve their answers, really! They're paying our wages, whatever the questions might be. Thankfully, they liked the trailer. I can't imagine what 6,800 fans who didn't like the trailer might be like. Would they have the same enthusiasm in their booing?
I've heard you had a lot to do with conceiving your villain in Jonah Hex.
I kind of got my ideas from makeup and wardrobe, to be honest. I had sort of a basic idea where I was going with the character, but it actually really changed massively when I arrived in New Orleans and met up with Michael Wilkinson, who did the costumes on 300 as well. And then Christien Tinsley was doing makeup, and he basically put these tattoos on that start at my chin and go all the way down my torso and up my forearms. So I had that look, and I thought, "Whoa, that's kind of cool and interesting," because it was Polynesian and suggests that the guy was a sailor, perhaps. On top of that, Michael had this three-piece suit, this suit that was kind of dandyish in its time but had been broken down and was kind of rough and ready now, and when I went through hats and put on this bowler hat, I thought, "I've got it. It's sort of Clockwork Orange, or 1970s Riddler."
What's your accent in that?
It's like a thick Kerry accent, though it's not totally thick, because then I might need subtitles. [Laughs] It's hopefully an understandable sort of Kerry accent.
Had there ever been an accent that was really difficult for you to learn?
I think all of them can be pretty difficult, do you know what I mean? An American accent comes, I suppose, the most easily in terms of [being] Irish -- the sounds and the word formations are pretty much the same. An English accent is actually pretty tricky: The r's are silent, the vowels are different, sounds are forming in the front of the mouth as opposed to the back. I kind of do it like music as opposed to phonetically; there is a phonetic approach to learning an accent, but I think I was asleep during those classes in drama school.
You were a semi-finalist for the superhero role of Green Lantern. Did you get to put on the suit?
I didn't get as far as the suit, unfortunately.
But at least you got to try on another accent.
I kind of did a neutral American accent for that, I suppose. It's just sort of taking away my Irish vowel sounds. [Speaks in a low voice] So it's like, uh, I'm speaking to you like this. I think Ryan Reynolds got cast, didn't he?
Yup, they just announced it a few weeks ago.
Bastard. [Laughs] ♦