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X-Men: First Class - Michael Fassbender interview

X-Men: First Class

Interview by Rob Carnevale

MICHAEL Fassbender talks about playing Erik (Magneto) in Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class and how he referred more to the comic books for inspiration rather than Sir Ian McKellen’s later performances.

He also talks about the rumours linking him to the James Bond franchise and how he’s coping with fame.

Q. These characters were established in the comic books but also on-screen by Sir Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. So, where did you look to inform your portrayal of them?
Michael Fassbender: I think when I found out I’d got the job I thought about studying Ian McKellen and getting my hands on anything I could where he was a young man on screen… you know, just studying his physicality and voice and what not. But then I sat down with Matthew [Vaughn] and we discussed it and he decided that that wasn’t the way that he wanted to go, so at that point I ditched that idea totally and then just sort of used the comic book material and source material that was available. I was spoilt really because there is so much there.

Q. How difficult is it to portray a lot of emotion while trying to bend metal with your hands?
Michael Fassbender: Well, I’d been trying to work out how I could physically represent constipation through my hands? [Laughs] But seriously, I didn’t really know what to do. I mean, there was an element of me obviously that feels like a bit of an idiot as a grown man trying to sort of bend metal things with my hands. I wasn’t even sure whether I should have physicalized it with my hands. But the safety net really was that Erik at this point in his life was not really sure how to harness these powers and so it is a little bit haphazard and random.

Of course, it’s only through meeting Charles that he really sort of unleashes his full potential. I was really happy when I watched the film because I’d seen some of what Bill had done with the young Erik, which was amazing, but I hadn’t seen him do any of the metal stuff, and I was really happy to see in the film that I was sort of echoing what he had started on. So, I think it worked OK.

Q. There’s dualling ideologies in this film – one that works for Charles and one that works for Erik – so who’s right?
Michael Fassbender: That’s your call. For me, that’s what interests me as an actor and also as an audience member. When I go the cinema, unfortunately nowadays, especially with the big commercial films, the audience is spoon-fed through the entire experience and they don’t have to do any work. But I believe that if you go and see a film you should have to sort of invest something yourself and you have to do a little bit of the work as an audience member, so when you leave the cinema you should be having those conversations either with yourself – if you’re crazy like me- or with friends afterwards. It’s like: “Well, should I be backing Erik or Magneto when he did this because it was really bad?” But there should be an ambiguity. The grey area is what’s interesting. I don’t like: “OK, here’s your villain, here’s your hero…” That makes it just too comfortable and easy for an audience.

Q. Is part of the appeal of appearing in a movie like X-Men also the complexity of the emotions and the big themes that come with the stories – perhaps more so than other comic book movies?
Michael Fassbender: I think that idea of alienation, for whatever reason, is still very prevalent within our society and a lot of people deal with it – most people deal with it at some point in their life unless they’re sort of the golden child. I think that’s something that we all need to address. I think the fact that us as a race still continues to be very tribal and we haven’t really moved away from that over hundreds and hundreds of years of experience… that’s quite interesting.

Q. How did you feel about such an important historical event such as the Cuban missile crisis being appropriated for this movie?
Michael Fassbender: Well, I wasn’t around during that period of time but my parents were and I think there was something very interesting going on in the world at that time where everybody was unsure and there was a real sense of anxiety. People were building bunkers outside their houses and were stocking up on three years’ worth of canned goods. Nobody really knows the intrigue or how close we actually got to nuclear war at that point – what happened behind the scenes? What was going on? So, I think there’s a mystery around that that’s definitely there to be exploited.

Q. There are some lovely Bond and ‘60s references in the movie, which Matthew has referred to as being intentional. Are you aware of being a frontrunner for the next 007 when Daniel Craig steps down? And how would you feel about taking it on?
Michael Fassbender: Well, it’s very flattering of course and Matthew had sort of mentioned in some of the earlier meetings that it did evoke a lot of memories for him of those earlier Bond films. But for me in terms of approaching the character of Erik I didn’t really go along that route. I mean, they dressed me up in clothes and bespoke suits that sort of harked back to those early Bond films. But I really just sort of approached it through the material that was available from the comic books. And in terms of what I might expect or be hoping for in the future… I never try and plan anything, I never expect anything. I think Daniel [Craig] is doing a fantastic job, so let’s just deal with this film at the moment and see how that turns out.

Q. How was it possible to act opposite January Jones’s cleavage?
Michael Fassbender: [Laughs] Well, to be honest, you try not to make her feel uncomfortable. It’s a difficult scenario for her. She’s dressed there in skimpy clothes and obviously there’s a plethora of fans out there that get all excited at the prospect of it. So, you’re there working with her as a professional, so it wouldn’t do well if you brought that giddiness into the room [laughs].

Q. As a private person, do you worry about how being in X-Men might increase your fame?
Michael Fassbender: What can you do? Hopefully, it’s not going to change anything with regard to my everyday life. I don’t think it has to. I was lucky enough to work with Viggo Mortensen last year in the summer and we walked all around Vienna. I mean, he was part of one of the biggest franchises in the world. So, I can’t really answer it until I’m confronted with it but so far it hasn’t been a problem, that’s for sure.

Read our review of X-Men: First Class

Read our interview with Kevin Bacon