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INTERVIEW: Michael Fassbender & Steve McQueen The New Dynamic Actor/Director Duo

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SHAME director Steve McQueen and star Michael Fassbender plan on working together on a third collaboration. What makes these relationships work on screen and on-set?  They let us in on the secret to the actor/director chemistry.

Like Denzel /Tony Scott, David Fincher/Brad Pitt, and Scorsese/DeNiro, Michael Fassbender and Steve McQueen are forming their own director and actor duo. The British director says his relationship with Michael Fassbender is much like an Abott and Costello movie. British director Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender garnered acclaim for their first collaboration in 2008's Hunger, the director's first feature. Fassbender's starring role in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, also propelled the Brit's star power.  Fassbender starred in the hugely successful X-Men: First Class last summer and will be seen in 2012 in Prometheus, the highly-anticipated and secretive Alien prequel directed by Ridley Scott. Going into award season, the German-born actor returns to independent cinema with two films as a sex addict in the NC-17 drama SHAME, directed by the Hunger director and the famous psychoanalyst Carl Jung in the David Cronenberg film,  A Dangerous Method.

During a recent sit-down with the SHAME star and director, they explained what makes their collaboration special.  McQueen compared their relationship to Abbott and Costello but Fassbender had a more difficult time finding the right terms for their partnership. 

"It's a chemistry that I'm very, very grateful for. I feel so blessed. For sure I was always looking for a collaborator. I could see in Steve's face the passion and wanting to get it right, and I wanted to get it right too. We just formed a language very quickly."

He added that their first film together cemented the partnership.  They both experienced a lot together for the first time. According to Michael, when they started shooting SHAME it felt natural to Fassbender, as if they had just walked off the set of Hunger.

When it came to prepping for his part in SHAME, Fassbender spent a lot of time getting to know the character by rereading the script "about 300 times." Playing a sex addict was a very physically and emotionally revealing role. Although Michael says he likes to keep things simple, he couldn't help but think what the full frontal nudity in the film would do to his career.

"I say to myself, 'I'm not a politician.' My job is to facilitate characters. I'm a storyteller."
SHAME director Steve McQueen and Cary Mulligan

McQueen also conveys an atmosphere where everyone is able to know each other. He insist that it all starts from the bottom up involving every crew member.

"Great actors like Michael are like thoroughbred race horses, they come into a room and sense if anything is wrong. So you create an environment which is safe so people can take risk".

Steve McQueen's task in SHAME was to create a film that reflected the present. How people no longer have to socialize. How you could just spend all day doing whatever you do.

"It's not just about the sex addiction in general. It's about being in a world where we don't even have self will. I wanted to show us being fragile and take the ostrich head out of the sand and take a look at ourselves".

Michael has seen the film once and found it to be a bit overwhelming.

"I think I watched the third act with one eye open. I took so much onboard but to be honest I need to watch it again."

McQueen credits his performance to his vulnerability.  He believes most actors never take that risk because they'll feel open and vulnerable in the end.

On his career high, Fassbender says he is "trying to enjoy it, but it does make me scared to think about what's next."  He doesn't spend his time thinking about past projects, but focuses on the future. And his future looks very bright with him straddling the independent and commercial world of movie-making successfully.

Michael Fassbender and Steve McQueen reteam next year for Twelve Years a Slave with Brad Pitt.

SHAME is in theaters December 2, 2011.

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