The Incredible Year of Michael Fassbender

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In this week’s Holiday Movie Preview special in TIME, I profiled Michael Fassbender, who’s had an incredible year — playing Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre, Magneto in X-Men: First Class, Carl Jung in David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method (out next week) and a sex addict in December’s Shame, which is generating Oscar buzz for the 34-year-old actor. (He also caused a bit of a tizzy among the womenfolk of TIME’s New York offices when he came by for a photo shoot last month.)

As I discovered when I interviewed him and a few of his colleagues, including Cronenberg and his Jane Eyre costar Mia Wasikowska, he’s as open and light-hearted as his characters are brooding and cerebral; subscribers can read the full profile here or find it at newsstands, but below are a few outtakes.

On his first role and his brief heavy-metal career at age 17:

“I played one of the ugly sisters in a pantomime called Fairy Tales 123,” which Fassbender describes as a mash-up of classics including Cinderella and Red Riding Hood. “I had long hair then, because I was a heavy metal fan, so that helped with the part. I used the hair! I really wanted to be a guitarist — I wanted to be a lead guitarist. But I wasn’t good enough. And it’s always hard to find a drummer, especially in small towns. Or a bass player.” (Fassbender, who was born in Heidelberg, Germany, grew up in the small Irish town of Killarney.) “So it was just me and this other guy Mike — the two Mikes — and we tried to put on a gig one time in this pub at lunchtime, playing Metallica. It didn’t go off too well. They kept turning the volume down, so it was like Unplugged, but with electric guitars. That was the one and only gig I ever played.” 

On playing Brandon, the sex addict in Shame:

“We’re all being bombarded 24/7 with information about what sort of clothes we should be wearing, what objects we need to obtain to bring us happiness, who we should be going out with, where we should go to eat or have fun. And obviously sex is sold to us like soda or breakfast cereal. And that causes a lot of anxiety and confusion, and it can express itself in an unhealthy relationship with food, gambling, drink, drugs, or in this case, sex. For Brandon, it’s not totally that — there are other things going on, things that have happened in his past — but that anxiety is present. He needs a very controllable environment. For him, having sex with a prostitute is much ‘cleaner’ than a relationship — that’s not quite the right word, but he can compartmentalize it. He pays her, they have sex, she leaves. She takes all her baggage out the door, and he can stay in his contained flat, and it’s just so. There’s an OCD element to it, even though it expresses itself in this reckless behavior. It’s intimacy that takes him out of his comfort zone.”

On auditioning for Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds:

“Did you know that when you audition for him he reads all the other characters? It’s quite surreal. I was sitting there going, This is nuts. He’s also this mad encyclopedia of film knowledge. One of the crew was Italian, and they were talking about some soap opera on Italian television, and he was like” — pitch-perfect impersonation of Tarantino’s nasal speed-talking — ‘Oh, yeah, I know the one, that was episode three, and this and that happened.’ He’s a total fanboy with a crazy photographic memory.”

Bonus outtake: Mia Wasikowska on Fassbender’s biggest fans on the set of Jane Eyre

“Michael had a very strong effect on the horses in the movie. We were shooting the scene when Rochester and Jane meet for the very first time on the road, and this one horse — every time Michael got on him, he just got this major erection. It had to be like” — Wasikowska sighs and puts on an exasperated voice — “‘Oh, OK, get off the horse, put someone else on the horse, run the horse around the block, start all over again.’ That happened like four times.”

LIST: The All-TIME 100 Movies

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