At 40, Michael Fassbender is one happy, funny dude
LOS ANGELES—“It feels good and bad,” Michael Fassbender quipped about turning 40 last April. He said that with a full-on, teeth-baring smile, eyes sparkling—which should be seen firsthand by more people, if only so they can be carried away by this man’s unabashed glee.
In our latest encounter at the Ham Yard Hotel in London, Michael affirmed that he’s truly one of the most delightful actors to interview—brimming with humor, exuberance and candor.
The man clearly loves life, and he’s having the best time. Or he simply knows how to enjoy this fame thing—with grace and joy.
“I feel good about who I am,” added Michael, in a fashion ensemble by Brioni. “I feel lucky and happy. But I’m getting older (laughs). ”
Asked how he celebrated the big milestone last April 2, the Germany-born, Ireland-raised Michael replied, “I spent it at home with my family and friends in Ireland. My sister arranged a surprise birthday party for me, which wasn’t a surprise because she had to tell me, in order … [for me to be] there (laughs). But it was cool—loads of friends, some of them I’ve known since I was 5, and a lot of friends from high school.”
So mean of him to pry the information from his sister, he was teased. “I’m pretty mean,” he reacted with another chuckle. “The thing is, I could have been in another country, so I was like, ‘Why do I need to be there in Ireland (laughs)?’”
Requested to finish this sentence, “Michael Fassbender is…,” he answered with more guffaws, “I am going to say something really rude. A c*** (rhymes with runt).” Why would he say that? “I don’t know—it just came into my head,” he answered, breaking into yet another laugh.
Credit this extra cheerfulness to the fact that after many years of working nonstop, he’s finally taking a break. But then, we’ve interviewed the man via Skype while he’s in his hotel room in Sydney after a long, exhausting day of filming. Sipping Aussie beer, he was just as much fun to talk to.
“I haven’t done anything since … I finished filming last year,” he happily reported. “So, all of this is downtime—and I am loving it. ”
Promo duties for Ridley Scott’s “Alien: Covenant,” where he plays two androids (David and Walter), prompted this break from his extended time off.
Michael recalled the first time he saw the first “Alien” movie. “I was around 10.” With a naughty glint in his eyes, he added, “It was very much like when I saw ‘Wonder Woman’ for the first time. I didn’t speak a lot. I was transfixed to the television screen and some feeling was happening.”
His costars, Danny McBride and Billy Crudup, told me how tough it was to make Michael break from his android characters’ icy cold facial expression. Michael modestly denied it.
“I corpse (spoil a piece of acting by forgetting one’s lines or laughing uncontrollably) pretty easily,” he asserted. “I am not great at keeping a straight face. It depends on who’s trying to make me laugh.”
Given the messy state of humanity, would he rather be an android? “No, I enjoy feeling things,” he shot back with a laugh. “Don’t you?”
On having played an array of characters, including these androids, a lighthouse keeper, an assassin and a sex addict, and if he imbued these roles with a bit of himself, he said: “There’s a part of me in all those roles because it’s my only reference point, other than stealing from other things I’ve seen in life or other performances. But I would say that I’m not like any of those guys.
“But if there were two films that I found to be challenging, it would be ‘Shame’ and ‘Steve Jobs.’”
In one of our previous chats, Michael admitted that he hasn’t settled into a permanent home. Now that he’s been in a relationship with actress Alicia Vikander since 2014, has he finally found a house they can share?
“I don’t have a flat in Hackney anymore,” Michael said of the modest place he kept before and after he became a star. “I have kind of been homeless for the last two years.”
Growing up Irish and an altar boy in Fossa (his village in County Kerry, Ireland) served him well. “When I was 12 years old, at my assigned month, because there were four of us—and you had your month—I had the keys to the church (laughs). I used to open the church in the morning and then lock it at night.
“It was the Prince of Peace Church. And definitely, one of the first stories that stayed with me was the story of Jesus Christ. When I was 5 years old, that story made a big impression on me. I was like, whoa, this guy was obviously pretty special—and the philosophies of this man! But I did always find going to church kind of boring, to be honest.
“But when I became an altar boy, it was interesting for me because I had stuff to do and, in some ways, maybe there was my first idea of being onstage (laughs). I don’t go to Mass regularly anymore. I still go at Christmastime and, sometimes, if I am visiting certain places, I go to a church and light a candle for relatives or people who have passed away.”
On what lessons he learned about the Catholic Church, he suddenly broke out into a song by The O’Jays. In falsetto: “Money, money, money, money! ”
“Just kidding,” he clarified with a grin that bared again all his front teeth. “If you confess, you can do it all over again (laughs). I guess the good stuff, which is love thy neighbor. I suppose the 10 commandments are pretty good to go by if you were going to have a rulebook. ”
He should do a comedy. “I’d love to do a comedy, for sure. I just have to get the right script.”
Of course, he was the funny one in class. “I was a bit of a class clown in secondary school. That was a tool for me to fit in, much to the detriment of my education. ”
Looking ahead, what does he think about the buzz that he’s one of the top contenders to be the next James Bond? “I don’t think about the future too much,” he declared. Delivered with his infectious laugh, of course.
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