With Michael Fassbender starring in what seems like eight or nine new releases each week, we thought it might be time to offer an early career retrospective on the 35-year-old Irishman. In the half-decade since he first broke into film, the Fass has emerged as one of the most consistent performers in both indie art-house fare and big-budget franchise flicks, earning a Golden Globe nomination, commendations from George Clooney on the size of his equipment, and the universally recognised nickname ‘Fassmember’ for his troubles. Not bad. Not bad at all.
As Stelios in Zack Snyder‘s 300, Fassy got the opportunity to run around half-nude in slow motion (a Snyder tradition!), and slice up a bunch of assailants. His is perhaps the only truly sad death, which is impressive, because approximately eight billion people die in this thing.
Fassbender stepped into the rather large shoes of Ian McKellen in X-Men: First Class, playing tormented Holocaust survivor and mutant Erik Lensherr (later Magneto). He brings the gravitas and understated humour that the rest of this average comic-book flick doesn’t quite supply. Still, his involvement in the inevitable sequel will draw us back to the cinema.
Few actors get the honour of a) working with the great David Cronenberg, b) playing famed psychologist Carl Jung, c) entering into a theoretical mind-brawl with Viggo Mortensen (as Sigmund Freud), and d) engaging in some sadomasochistic sauciness with Keira Knightley. Michael Fassbender is now one of those actors.
6. Fish Tank
Though we regard him as one of the screen’s finest ladykillers, he amps up the creep factor in Andrea Arnold‘s Fish Tank. Boyfriend to the mother of destructive, rebellious, 15-year-old Mia (Katie Jarvis), at first he seems like the perfect surrogate father. Then, his true nature is revealed. Prepare to fall out of love…
5. Jane Eyre
…And then fall back in love with Fassbender after watching him as the churlish but undeniably charming Mr. Rochester in Cary Fukunaga‘s excellent adaptation of Jane Eyre. Opposite Australia’s own Mia Wasikowska (in the title role), the duo set sparks flying, and that beautiful, tragic finale still packs a punch, even for those familiar with it from the original book or the countless interpretations that have come in between.
We didn’t exactly love the ending of Prometheus, or the state in which Fassy’s android winds up. Still, Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel is at its best when merely following the Peter O’Toole-admiring David around the eponymous spaceship in the opening moments. Also, this teaser!
In Steve McQueen‘s Shame, Fassbender famously unveiled his manhood and, if you were to believe internet chatter at the time of the picture’s release, ushered in a new era of both cinema and existence. Jokes aside, his acclaimed turn as the sex-addicted Brandon, desperately trying to maintain control despite a reunion with his disturbed sister (Carey Mulligan) and a new no-nonsense girlfriend (Nicole Beharie), is one of the most haunting and spectacular of recent years. No Oscar nomination? Now that’s the real shame.
How could I resist? Fassbender gets to play the world’s slickest film critic in Quentin Tarantino‘s masterpiece, Inglorious Basterds. David Niven-esque Lieutenant Archie Hicox puts his knowledge of German cinema to good use while posing as a Nazi officer, ultimately undone by a casual – but specifically British – hand gesture. His scene is the best in a movie absolutely jammed full of great scenes.
Fassbender’s first collaboration with his Shame director was the Cannes Camera d’Or winning Hunger. As IRA activist Bobby Sands, he shed kilos to play the hunger striking inmate of the infamous Maze Prison. Though his bodily transformation is jaw-dropping, the most impressive sequence is the now-notorious 17-minute single take that bridges the feature’s two halves, in which a priest (Liam Cunningham) tries to talk Sands out of his deadly mission. A gruelling physical and emotional slog for any viewer, but a rich and rewarding experience nonetheless. All doubts of Fassbender’s acting prowess will be allayed by the end of Hunger.