Michael Fassbender

Michael Fassbender

Fassbender at the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con International promoting X-Men: Apocalypse
Born (1977-04-02) 2 April 1977
Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, West Germany
Residence Hackney, London, England, UK
  • Irish
  • German
Alma mater Drama Centre London
Years active 2001–present
Home town Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland
Height 6 ft 0 in (183 cm)

Michael Fassbender (born 2 April 1977)[1] is an IrishGerman[2][3] actor of stage and screen whose career includes roles in both independent and blockbuster films.

His feature film debut was in the fantasy war epic 300 (2007) as a Spartan warrior; his earlier roles included various stage productions, as well as starring roles on television such as in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers (2001) and the Sky One fantasy drama Hex (2004–05). He first came to prominence for his role as IRA activist Bobby Sands in Hunger (2008), for which he won a British Independent Film Award. Subsequent roles include in the independent film Fish Tank (2009), as a Royal Marines lieutenant in Inglourious Basterds (2009), as Edward Rochester in the 2011 film adaptation of Jane Eyre, as Carl Jung in A Dangerous Method (2011), as a sentient android in Prometheus (2012), and in the musical comedy-drama Frank (2014) as an eccentric musician loosely inspired by Frank Sidebottom.

In 2011, Fassbender debuted as the Marvel Comics antihero Magneto in X-Men: First Class, and went on to share the role with Ian McKellen in X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), and reprise it again in X-Men: Apocalypse (2016). Also in 2011, Fassbender's performance as a sex addict in Shame, for which he received the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival and was nominated for Golden Globe and BAFTA Awards. In 2013, his role as slave owner Edwin Epps in the slavery epic 12 Years a Slave was similarly praised, earning him his first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. In 2013, Fassbender appeared in another Ridley Scott film, The Counselor. In 2015, he portrayed Steve Jobs in the Danny Boyle-directed biopic of the same name, and played Macbeth in Justin Kurzel's adaptation of William Shakespeare's play. For the former, he has received Academy Award, BAFTA, Golden Globe and SAG nominations. In 2015, he produced the western Slow West, in which he also starred.

Early life and education

Fassbender was born in Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, West Germany.[4] His mother, Adele, is from Larne, County Antrim, in Northern Ireland, and his father, Josef Fassbender, is German.[5] According to Fassbender "family lore", his mother is the great-grand-niece of Michael Collins, an Irish leader during the War of Independence.[4][6] When he was two years old, his parents moved to Killarney, County Kerry, in the Republic of Ireland, where they ran the West End House, a restaurant where his father worked as a chef.[4][5] Fassbender was raised Catholic, and served as an altar boy[7] at the church his family attended. He has an older sister, Catherine, who is a neuropsychologist.[8][9]

Fassbender and his sister spent summer holidays in Germany, and he speaks German fluently.[10] He attended Fossa National School,[11] and St. Brendan's College, both in Killarney, County Kerry.[12] He decided that he wanted to be an actor at age 17 when he was cast in a play by Donal Courtney. At 19, he moved to London to study at the Drama Centre London, a constituent school of Central Saint Martins. In 1999, he dropped out of the Drama Centre and toured with the Oxford Stage Company to perform the play Three Sisters.[8][13]


Early work

Fassbender at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival

Before Fassbender found work as an actor, he had a period of doing "auditions interspersed with bartending stints, [and] postal delivery".[14] His first screen role was that of Burton "Pat" Christenson in Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg's award-winning television miniseries Band of Brothers (2001).[15] He played the character of Azazeal in both series of Hex on Sky One and starred as the main character in the music video for the song "Blind Pilots," by the British band The Cooper Temple Clause. In the video, he plays the part of a man out with friends on a stag night who slowly transforms into a goat due to wearing a cowbell necklace.[15]

Fassbender played Jonathan Harker in a ten-part radio serialisation of Dracula produced by BBC Northern Ireland and broadcast in the Book at Bedtime series between 24 November and 5 December 2003. He was also seen in early 2004 in a Guinness television commercial, The Quarrel, playing a man who swims across the ocean from Ireland to apologise personally to his brother in New York;[16] this commercial won a gold medal at the 2005 FAB Awards.[17][18]

During the 2006 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Fassbender played Michael Collins in Allegiance, a play by Mary Kenny based on the meeting between Collins and Winston Churchill.[19] In addition, he produced, directed, and starred in a stage version of Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs,[15] along with his production company.

He appeared in Angel (UK title: The Real Life of Angel Deverell), about the rise and fall of an eccentric young British writer (played by Romola Garai) in the early 20th century. Fassbender plays her love interest, an average painter named Esmé.[15] The drama—the first English-language effort by French director François Ozon and based on the novel by Elizabeth Taylor—premiered on 17 February 2007 at the Berlin International Film Festival and on 14 March 2007 in Paris. He then made a brief appearance in Dean Cavanagh and Irvine Welsh's Wedding Belles as Barney, speaking with a Scottish accent.

Mainstream success

In 2006, Fassbender played the role of Stelios, a young Spartan warrior, in 300, a fantasy action film directed by Zack Snyder. The film was a commercial success.[20] In preparation for his role as Provisional Irish Republican Army prisoner Bobby Sands in Steve McQueen's 2008 film Hunger, Fassbender underwent a crash diet that restricted him to 600 calories a day. He received the British Independent Film Award for his performance.[21] One year after his success at the Cannes Film Festival with Hunger, he appeared in two films. The first was Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, in which he played the British officer Lieutenant Archie Hicox. The other film was Fish Tank directed by Andrea Arnold. Both films were critically acclaimed and Fassbender's work in them also well received.

In 2010, Fassbender appeared as Burke in Jonah Hex, a Western film.[22] In an interview at San Diego Comic-Con International, a comic book convention, Fassbender commented of the role: "I kind of developed this character and really pushed it – I’ll see how far I pushed it ... I had this idea about the character, he’s kind of psychotic, he gets his kicks in perverted ways. I didn’t want to make it very obvious or like something you’ve seen before."[23] Hex received predominately negative reviews.[24] Responding to criticism of Jonah Hex in 2011, Fassbender commented: "Pretty awful, was it? I haven't seen it myself."[25] He portrayed Quintus Dias in Neil Marshall's bloody Roman war-thriller-drama film Centurion.[26] and was cast as 'Richard Wirth' in the Joel Schumacher film Blood Creek alongside Dominic Purcell. The story centres on a West Virginia man who comes to terms with his moral qualms and helps his brother wipe out a family that had been protecting a Nazi occultist and who had kept his brother captive for him to feed off for years. Fassbender played Edward Rochester in the 2011 film Jane Eyre, featuring Mia Wasikowska in the title role, with Cary Fukunaga directing.[27]

Fassbender portrayed Magneto in the superhero blockbuster X-Men: First Class, the prequel to X-Men. Set in 1962, it focuses on the friendship between Charles Xavier (played by James McAvoy) and Magneto and the origin of their groups, the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants. The film was released on 3 June 2011 to general acclaim and financial success and promoted Fassbender to being more of a popular movie star. In 2011, Fassbender starred in A Dangerous Method by director David Cronenberg, playing Swiss psychiatrist and psychologist Carl Jung. The film premiered at the 2011 Venice Film Festival.[28]

Fassbender at the premiere of 12 Years a Slave, 2013 Toronto International Film Festival

He also starred in Shame, as a man in his thirties struggling with his sexual addiction. Shame reunited him with director Steve McQueen and premiered at the 2011 Venice Film Festival, where Fassbender won a Volpi Cup Best Actor Award for his portrayal of Brandon.[29] Fassbender was a serious contender for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, but he was not nominated, and according to various sources his full-frontal nudity and depiction of sexual encounters inspired voters "to fantasize, and not actually vote."[30][31] Fassbender achieved critical acclaim for his portrayal in Shame and received nominations for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama and a BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Starring in the film raised Fassbender's profile leading to roles in larger films.

In 2012, he appeared as an MI6 agent in Haywire, an action-thriller directed by Steven Soderbergh,[22] and in Ridley Scott's science fiction film Prometheus. Reviews praised both the film's visual aesthetic design and the acting, most notably Fassbender's performance as the android David. Fassbender played the title role in Ridley Scott's The Counselor, a 2013 film based on the Cormac McCarthy script.[32][33] In 2013, he starred in 12 Years a Slave, his third collaboration with Steve McQueen. Fassbender's portrayal of Edwin Epps earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Fassbender reprised the role of Magneto in X-Men: Days of Future Past (released 23 May 2014), the sequel to X-Men: First Class.[34] Fassbender stars in the title role in Frank (released late summer 2014),[35] a comedy loosely inspired by Frank Sidebottom, a comic persona created by English comedian Chris Sievey.

Fassbender co-starred in Slow West, a western starring Kodi Smit-McPhee and Ben Mendelsohn, in 2015. He played Silas, an enigmatic traveller.[36]

Fassbender played late Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs in the Danny Boyle-directed film Steve Jobs, which began filming in January 2015, in San Francisco, U.S., and premiered in September of that year. The film is an adaptation of Walter Isaacson's book Steve Jobs.[37] The screenplay was written by Aaron Sorkin. Fassbender became attached after Christian Bale dropped out of the project.[38] His performance saw him nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor.[39]

Fassbender took on the Shakespearean role of Macbeth in a film directed by Justin Kurzel, where he teamed up with Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth and David Thewlis as King Duncan.[40] Filming for the production began in January 2014 and the film premiered at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.[41] Fasbender once again played Magneto in the 2016 film X-Men: Apocalypse.[42]

Fassbender has filmed Trespass Against Us, with fellow Irishman Brendan Gleeson.[43] He will also star in The Light Between Oceans, based on the novel written by M. L. Stedman and directed by Derek Cianfrance, which began filming in New Zealand in late September 2014, for a 2 September 2016 release.[44][45]

Future projects

Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard and Justin Kurzel at the Cannes premiere of Macbeth in 2015.

In November 2013, Fassbender announced a sequel to Prometheus, titled Alien: Covenant, in which he will reprise his role as the android David.[46] Principal photography for the film began in April 2016.[47] He will co-produce and star in the film adaptation of Assassin's Creed along with Marion Cotillard which is set for release on 21 December 2016.[48][49]

In 2015, Fassbender was announced in The Snowman, an adaptation of a Jo Nesbø book directed by Tomas Alfredson and co-starring Rebecca Ferguson and Charlotte Gainsbourg. Filming began in January 2016 and the film will hit theaters in 2017.[50]

Together with screenwriter Ronan Bennett, Fassbender has formed a production company, Finn McCool Films. Fassbender and Bennett are currently developing a film about the Irish mythological hero Cú Chulainn.[51]

Personal life

Shifting between European and North American films, Fassbender resides in Hackney, London, where he has lived since 1996.[52][53][54] Fassbender still lives in the same flat in Hackney, east London, that he has owned since his late 20s, when he was struggling actor.[55] He speaks German, though he stated before filming Inglourious Basterds that he had needed to brush up a bit on his spoken German because "it was a bit rusty."[56][57] He has also expressed interest in performing in a German language film or theatre production.[58] He is a lapsed Catholic.[12][59]


From 2006 to 2008, Fassbender was in a relationship with Japanese Australian singer Maiko Spencer,[60][61] they lived together in a London flat.[62] From 2008 to 2009, he dated American model Leasi Andrews.[63] In 2011, Fassbender was in a brief relationship with actress Zoë Kravitz, whom he met on the set of X-Men: First Class.[64] Fassbender confirmed he was seeing Nicole Beharie, his co-star in Shame in 2012,[65] though by early 2013 the couple confirmed they had split.[66] In May 2013, he had a brief relationship with British Olympian Louise Hazel.[67] In September 2013, Fassbender started dating actress and model Mădălina Diana Ghenea, but they split in early 2014.[68] Since December 2014, he has been dating Swedish actress Alicia Vikander. They met on the set of The Light Between Oceans.[69]


Selected filmography

Awards and nominations


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