Michael Fassbender’s talent has been trickling into our collective consciousness these past few years thanks to his roles as the Holocaust-avenging mutant Magneto in X-Men and the Byronic hero Rochester in Jane Eyre. But nothing truly says “making it” like a lady fainting during your movie. (To be fair, the film was Shame, which has an unholy number of scenes showcasing Full Frontal Fassbender.) Writer Molly Young catches up with the actor in New York.
Every Michael Fassbender fan freaks out in his or her own special way. Critics draw Daniel Day-Lewis comparisons, bloggers term themselves “Fassinators,” and women pass out in movie theaters when the actor comes on-screen. The fainting occurred at the Toronto International Film Festival, at the premiere of Shame, a movie in which he stars as a mournful sex addict. The film was acquired by Fox Searchlight and will see its release timed for optimal Oscar consideration in December. The unconscious woman was revived and taken to the hospital.
When he shows up for this interview on a sunny New York morning, it is not immediately clear what the fuss is about. He says hello, lights up a Camel, and dissolves sleepily into a deck chair on a terrace in Chelsea. To his left, the Hudson River; to his right, potted palms. He doesn’t look anything like he does on-screen, and this is not a roundabout way of implying that he is short. It’s a neutral fact. Instead of fusilli ringlets (Jane Eyre), Fassbender’s hair is close-cropped and gingery. Instead of a delicate complexion and boomerang jawline (Inglourious Basterds), his chin is blurred by whiskers and his forehead well lined. In real life, his eyes do not penetrate (X-Men: First Class), and his muscles cannot cast shadows (300). Even when geared up as Magneto, Fassbender is so handsome that it’s almost tacky. But in person, wearing a faded T-shirt, leather jacket, and boots with the sort of white cotton socks your dad might buy, he’s manageably beautiful—the kind of man whose face warrants a pause, not a faint. When Fassbender claims that people still don’t recognize him on the street—that his favorite activity is to “observe, blend in, and disappear amongst the crowd”—it’s possible to believe him, because he can evidently molt skins.