Michael Fassbender: big world small world

Last night I ventured out to see XMEN: FIRST CLASS. It’s a big, big world. Its cast? Many arrived by way of much smaller worlds. As I watched, it struck me: What artist gets to participate in such completely different modes of making other than the film actor, who, if lucky and smart, goes from Hollywood to Indiewood or vice versa? A musician may be the closest – from orchestra to a more edgy or experimental gig? But an orchestra ain’t Hollywood. A new media artist who moonlights at Microsoft or Google? Nope, not art. Maybe XMEN isn’t art either – but the actor brings the same set of tools to the table when approaching something like XMEN or a teeny tiny film, in order to make his or her… art. Two of the XMEN stars are recent graduates of indie hits. Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique) starred in the Sundance film WINTER’S BONE, wherein she brought nuance and grace to her role as Dee. Michael Fassbender has the bigger role in this big world, though, as the tortured Magnito. Fassbender recently starred as a duplicitous and ethically-challenged player-bloke in Andrea Arnold’s coming of age story FISH TANK, and he brought a great sense of  humanity to his Rochester in Cary Fukunaga’s excellent JANE EYRE. He’s also listed on imdb as one of the stars of Jim Jarmusch’s next film. How must it be to coexist in these worlds?

Are actors like Fassbender phoning in the big ones? According to this Daily Beast article, the good ones bring the same game to both worlds. It shows. Fassbender describes an XMEN scene in which bringing deep emotion – tears – to the table was not scripted: “That was a personal choice,” Fassbender told the Beast via skype. “Everything I put my name to and take part in, I want to be good. That’s not saying it will always happen. But I want to make bold choices. That scene was very important to me.”

Filmmakers too, when successful and have options, can live in both worlds. But the tools that actually impact artistic choices are fundamentally different when the budget changes. Lenses, dollies, production design, extras – some tools have price tags. (The most important ones – ideas – do not. But sometimes you need both.) The actor’s tools from world to world are exactly the same. How must it be to live in both worlds? I can’t think of another type of artist who can. You?

Here’s Fassbender in the FISH TANK and XMEN trailers: