This In-Demand Actor Had To Toil For 10 Years As A Barman To Realise His Dreams

Michael Fassbender stars in the new Scandi-crime noir film The Snowman but as the Oscar-nominated actor reveals, he didn’t always have his pick of the scripts…

RISING You’re enjoying massive success right now but you were 30 before you really broke through into feature films – do you find it hard to turn down a good project? MICHAEL FASSBENDER ‘I find it very hard. You can't predict what's coming down the road so if I have the chance to be part of an interesting story it's hard for me to say no. I love acting and from the age of 17 when I first got started in this business until I was 27 I couldn't find any work. So when a good project winds up in my lap my instinct is to take it. I have an enormous appetite for work and over a three year period I made 10 films without having much of a break in between. I can always take some time off later if I need to.’

I've decided not to ride waves that are higher than I am

RISING What do you do to reset in your downtime? MF ‘I love to travel. I love indulging in things like riding motorcycles and lately I'm trying to become better at surfing, which I enjoy although I've decided not to ride waves which are higher than I am. Otherwise I'm pretty lazy when I'm not on a set. I'm not very attentive to details and doing things like remembering to pay bills and looking after my house.’

RISING Actors say observing people is key to the craft and you spent years working as a bartender – was that a study in human behaviour? MF ‘It was a great way of studying people's characters. If you want to be good at bartending, you need to be able to listen and engage with people in a very real way. It's almost like being a priest because often you will have customers sit at the bar and use that time to tell you things that are very personal because they need to unwind and talk about their lives. I worked at a bar where these businessmen would come in and at first you would see their more formal sides, but after several drinks and a few hours have gone their true personalities began to emerge. You learn a lot about human psychology – you meet all types.’

RISING Can you still mix a good drink? MF ‘Haha! I'm a bit rusty but I think the basic skills are still in me!’

RISING You’re clearly dedicated to have stuck with your dreams after a decade of frustration – does your drive come from a competitive nature? MF ‘I like to push myself. I'm very passionate about acting and I think having a healthy sense of ambition keeps you moving forward in life. When I was 18, I directed a stage version of Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs which my friends worked on with me. We did it out of pure love and artistic inspiration. I still feel the same kind of spirit when it comes to my work today.’

Once the film is over it's really up to the public to analyse it and react to it

RISING You’ve said before that you get a bit bemused when asked about your work once it’s done? MF ‘I don't find that there's anything that special you can say about the work itself. When I start preparing for a role, I lock myself in my flat and read as much as I can and do whatever research I think might be necessary to help me in playing the character. I try to look for different things that are going to inspire me and add some layers to it. Afterwards, once the film is finished, what can you say about your work? It's not really for the artist or the actor to talk about the work – it's not going to change your reaction to the work. That's why I often find it difficult to answer certain questions because once the film is over it's really up to the public to analyse it and react to it.’

RISING Many actors refuse to sit down and watch their own films – do you? MF ‘I usually see each of my films twice. The first time is always the most difficult. You see everything from a very technical perspective and you're constantly noticing certain things about your performance, which you like and a lot of things you don't like and wish you could have redone. Then the second time I see it I'm able to relax more and I try to appreciate the film as a whole.’

Riding at high speed – your concentration is focused and the rest of the world disappears

RISING Apart from acting, your other great passion in life is speed – have you always been addicted to speed? MF ‘I loved driving as a young boy, where I would sit at the wheel of my father's car and I was allowed to drive a little bit behind the back of our house. As I got older, I noticed that I loved to go a lot faster than other people and I probably took a lot of risks I shouldn't have but when you're a teenager you don't worry about death. But I love the sense of relaxation that riding a motorcycle or driving a car at high speed gives me. Your entire concentration is focused and the rest of the world disappears.’

RISING Have you ever had any close calls? MF ‘A few times on a motorbike when I was doing around 220kph. I'm half Irish, half German; I apply my disciplined German side to my work and my Irish side is what draws me towards the crazier and riskier side of life.’

WHAT NEXT? Watch the trailer for the Fassbender-starring Scandi-noir chiller The Snowman, coming in October.