November 30, 2011 / 10:14 AM / in 6 years

A Minute With: Michael Fassbender on sex and "Shame"

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - He may not be a household name, yet, but actor Michael Fassbender is fast becoming one of the hottest young names in the film business.

The handsome actor earned his big break when Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks hired him for their “Band of Brothers” World War Two television mini-series. He also appeared in such hits as “X-Men: First Class,” “300” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds.”

Fassbender, who was born in Germany and grew up in Ireland, is now starring in two very different films -- “Shame” and “A Dangerous Method.” In the former, he plays a sex addict whose life spins out of control. In the latter, he transforms into psychiatrist Carl Jung.

Fassbender spoke to Reuters about both films.

Q: There’s a lot of graphic sex in “Shame,” which will surely get the media, but it seems more about loneliness.

A: “Right. I think it’s about people trying to connect. Every character’s trying to connect in some way or another. My character, Brandon, has his ways of doing it, and Sissy (Brandon’s sister, played by Carey Mulligan) has her ways. And in today’s world where so much information is coming at us all the time, what are we supposed to do with it? How do we process it? It can be very confusing and create a lot of anxiety.”

Q: There’s full-frontal nudity from you, too. Did you worry that it might come off as art house porn?

A: (Laughs) “No, not at all, as I knew the sex wasn’t there for titillation or exploitation. It was there as a way for the audience to access this guy’s head. I saw all the sexual encounters as being very revealing about what’s actually going on inside Brandon.”

Q: How did you prepare for all the sex scenes?

A: “With a hot flannel (laughs). I didn’t want him to be in great shape. I wanted to keep that sense of an addict, so we never really see him eat, except Chinese while watching porn. He drinks Red Bull in the morning. Here’s someone who just eats as fuel. There’s not much pleasure there. A lot of the time I wanted to be repulsive in the sex scenes. I wanted to look ugly as opposed to looking good.”

Q: Brandon’s (his character in “Shame”) is a pretty miserable, tortured guy who’s obsessed with illicit sex. And then in “A Dangerous Method” you play a very respectable intellectual, Carl Jung. Did you relate to them both?

A: “Yes. In a sense you’re doing a bit of psychoanalysis as an actor. The only thing I can really reference is myself, so I always spend a lot of time with a script, reading and re-reading, to try and understand the characters. So there’s a bit of Brandon in me somewhere, and Jung -- I just have to find it. I think we’re all capable of all human behavior. It’s a bit like gardening for me. You root around and see what you can dig up. And then you add the joy of imagination. It’s all these different ingredients.”

Q: Is it different playing a historical figure like Jung?

A: “Yes, as you have all the information and research available. So I could draw from Jung’s biography. With Brandon, I had to write my own. So playing Jung was easier in that way, but the script (for ”A Dangerous Method“) was a real challenge. (Playwright) Christopher Hampton wrote a very articulate, eloquent script, very dialogue-heavy -- which you don’t get in films anymore.”

Q: And next you’re starring as an android in Ridley Scott’s new sci-fi film, “Prometheus.”

A: “Right, but it’s not a prequel to ‘Alien’ like they’re saying. It has threads relating to that, but it’s a whole different world. It’s a slow-burner of a thriller, and we all had a blast doing it. It was an absolute joy working with Ridley. I kept pinching myself on set. And it’s great because if critics say, ‘Fassbender is very wooden in it,’ it won’t matter as I‘m a robot.”

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Patricia Reaney

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