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People In Film | Michael Fassbender

Michael Fassbender | A Classic Character

In Cary Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre, Michael Fassbender brings a new twist to the character of Edward Rochester, a figure who remains as enigmatic and unforgettable as he was in 1847 when Charlotte Brontë’s novel was first published. Indeed Fassbender joins a long line of celebrated actors, including Orson Welles and George C. Scott, who’ve put on Rochester’s riding boots in earlier adaptations. As the master of Thornfield, and Jane’s employer, Rochester is a brusque, brooding, but ultimately good man. In her Elle Magazine profile of Fassbender, Karen Durbin includes the actor’s take on this literary titan: “A Byronic character burnt by experience, arrogant but also eloquent and introspective. He's world-weary and jaded, sensual, self-destructive; yet there's a good sense of humor in there, and at the end of the day a good heart. He sees the freshness and beauty in Jane when everybody else looks past her."

Michael Fassbender | In Between Worlds

While Michael Fassbender was born in Heidelberg, Germany, he never lost his Irish connection. His father, Josef Fassbender, was German, but his mother Adele hailed from Larne, County Antrim, a town located on the Northwest coast of Northern Ireland. (Supposedly his mother was the great-great-niece of the Irish independence leader Michael Collins). When he was just two, Fassbender and his family resettled to the Irish town of Killarney, where they ran the West End House restaurant. During his youth, Fassbender had no natural inclination to become an actor. He jokes, "I thought maybe a lawyer would be interesting…but I'm a slow reader so that volume of reading wasn't a good idea." But at 17, he began a few acting workshops, and quickly discovered he had a natural talent. In the next year, he helped put together a theatrical staging of Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. At 19, he moved to London to study at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama, and before he’d actually graduated, he found an agent and was touring in Chekhov's Three Sisters with the Oxford Stage Company. Like many young actors, Fassbender worked for years before he received his first big break, playing Sgt. Burton 'Pat' Christenson in the Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg produced HBO miniseries, Band of Brothers. But, in hindsight, Fassbender remembers thinking at the time, “This is it, now, here we go! Hollywood is next!”…But there were so many of us running around in green.”

Michael Fassbender | From Devil to Rebel

For the next few years, Fassbender found himself in a range of roles, from the soldier who captures the real-life bear who would be the model for Winnie the Pooh to the notorious Guy Fawkes in the BBC history miniseries Gunpowder, Treason & Plot. But his role as the seductive fallen angel Azazeal in the BBC demonic melodrama Hex got him national attention, as well as defined his unique ability to play both evil and enticing at the same time. In 2007, Fassbender appeared in several movies––playing Stelios, one of the super-buff Spartan soldiers in Zack Snyder’s 300 and starring as the artistic cad Esme in Francois Ozon’s Angel. He also landed the role that would catapult him to world fame, that of Bobby Sands in Steve McQueen’s Hunger.  For the role, Fassbender was required to lose over 35 pounds, but that was nothing compared to the need to bring emotional honesty to a figure who remains a explosive figure in the British and Irish political memory. The film would go on to win the Camera d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and Fassbender won global critical acclaim, with The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw describing his difficult performance as “ferociously convincing.” Indeed he won Best Actor that year from the London Critics Circle Film Awards, British Independent Film Awards, and Independent Film & Television Alliance, among others.

Michael Fassbender | Leading Man

If Hunger brought him international critical attention, then his turn as Lt. Archie Hicox, the British agent who goes undercover to pose as a Nazi officer in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds made him a movie star. As Fassbender told The Times of London, “I was really gunning for the Landa part, to be honest,” the utterly charming and evil Nazi who ended up being played by Christoph Waltz.  But as Hicox, Fassbender brought his full charm to bear, even as he refused to make his character a comic-book hero. The same year, Fassbender showed up in Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank, a knotty coming of age tale about a teen girl growing up in the London projects. Fassbender plays the mom’s new beau, a character that Fassbender effortlessly clothes in enough charisma that one never sees what is really going on with him. Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers remarks, “The electrifying Fassbender, so good in Hunger and Inglourious Basterds, nails every nuance in a complex role.”

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