Life in the Fass lane
Michael Fassbender, a proud ginger - and former metal head - tells TARA BRADYhow he prepared for his role as a robot in Prometheus, being 'hot' - and that Oscar snub
‘YEAH, I’M DEFINITELY happy to fly the flag for gingers,” nods Michael Fassbender eagerly. “I’ll take that.” He is, it hardly needs to be said, quite far over on the auburn side of the spectrum. But we, the pigmentally challenged, will take him too.
“Yes. It’s quite dark. But I have a lot of ginger in my...” He pauses.
By now it has become so commonplace to discuss Fassbender’s undercarriage that we’re having a tough time sidestepping the area in conversation. (“It makes no sense,” he says later. “All the crazy things that people do in movies and it’s that that gets all the attention.”)
He’s right. You don’t have to do stand up to mine material from Fassbender’s award-winning turn in the coruscating sex-addict drama Shame. You don’t even have to be all that amusing.
“I have to say that I was truly impressed that you chose to play it big,” said Charlize Theron of her Prometheus co-star, with a nudge, wink and a f’nar f’nar, at the Ally For Equality Award during the Human Rights Campaign gala last March. “He can play naked golf,” sniggered George Clooney during a Golden Globes acceptance speech in January.
“I have a lot of ginger in my beard,” continues Fassbender, with a rather more PG-friendly sentiment. “Weirdly, it’s probably from my dad and the German side of the family more than anything else.”
So this much-muttered-about Cú Chulainn adaptation – a project Fassbender is developing with Public Enemies screenwriter Ronan Bennett – can be relied upon to feature an all-ginger, purest Ulster heritage cast?
“Oh yeah. They’re really going to let me do that.” He puts his head in his hands and peeks up with a grin: “I’d be crucified about clichés and stereotypes now, wouldn’t I?” We could stretch the casting boundaries and include the Gleeson clan? “Well, that is a good idea. They’re amazing. All of them. Really talented. I’ll happily work with them anytime.”
That’s just as well. Fassbender is one of many names attached to Brendan Gleeson’s keenly anticipated adaptation of At Swim-Two-Birds, a project that can go ahead as soon as the figurative and literal stars align – at least long enough for Fass, Colin Farrell, Gabriel Byrne, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Cillian Murphy to form the ultimate Hibernian movie supergroup. Fassbender is “good to go” whenever Gleeson, who’ll make his directorial debut with a streamlined version of the Flann O’Brien novel, shouts “action”.
For the moment, however, the Heidelberg-born, Kerry-raised actor has plenty to be getting on with, most pressingly, promotional duties for Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. Today, we meet in a Soho Hotel, not a million miles from Hackney, the suburb where he has lived for the past decade. “But I do love getting home,” he says. “Everybody there is really proud of me. And very supportive.”
The hotel is a regular haunt for movie stars and celebrities. And it’s familiarity as a glamorous interview setting only serves to offset Fassbenders’s Irish features. Sitting beside him, I keep expecting to see So-Cal tan where there is only a near-translucent paleness. He frequently looks at the floor and stares off intensely when most Hollywood types would maintain second-hand-car-salesperson eye contact. Despite the proud Munster pedigree, even by the standards of these mongrel islands, he has classic, long, Northern features.