Michael Fassbender was born on April 2, 1977 in Heidelberg, Germany to Irish parents Adele and Josef Fassbender. His family moved to Killarney, Ireland when he was two years old.
Fassbender comes from a background in the hospitality industry. His parents ran a restaurant called the West End House in Killarney where Fassbender worked as a teen. He once said “I’ve always sort of wanted to entertain and perform, and the West End House was a great place to do that. I was always trying my best to make the customers feel welcome.”
The future actor attended St. Brendan’s College, and discovered he had a passion for telling stories through performance. One of his teachers encouraged him to try acting, and he performed in several school productions.
What nationality is Michael Fassbender?
Michael Fassbender has dual German and Irish nationality. Though he was born in Germany to German father Josef Fassbender and Northern Irish mother Adele, the family moved to Killarney, Ireland when Michael was two years old. He considers himself Irish and holds both German and Irish passports.
Career Beginnings in TV and Film
After completing secondary school, Fassbender moved to London at age 19 to attend the Drama Centre London. He dropped out in 1999 and began booking roles in TV and film.
One of Fassbender’s first roles was in the award-winning miniseries Band of Brothers (2001) produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. Though the role was small, Band of Brothers launched Fassbender’s on-screen career.
Over the next few years, he played characters on British television shows like Murphy’s Law, Hearts and Bones, and Holby City. Movie roles soon followed in films like Allegiance, Wedding Belles, and Blood Creek.
In 2006, Fassbender played Stelios, a young Spartan warrior, in the blockbuster 300. The role put him on Hollywood’s radar and led to larger movie roles.
List of Michael Fassbender’s earliest acting roles in TV and film:
- Band of Brothers (2001)
- Murphy’s Law (2003)
- Hearts & Bones (2000-2001)
- Holby City (2005)
- Allegiance (2006)
- Wedding Belles (2007)
- Blood Creek (2006)
- 300 (2006)
Breakout Role in Hunger
The 2008 British-Irish film Hunger served as Fassbender’s breakout role. He plays Irish republican Bobby Sands who led the 1981 Irish hunger strike.
To prepare for the demanding role, Fassbender underwent drastic weight loss. He restricted himself to a 600-calorie-per-day diet and lost 42 lbs in 10 weeks.
The extreme weight fluctuation and emotional intensity took a massive toll both physically and mentally. Fassbender reportedly got into arguments with director Steve McQueen due to hunger and stress.
However, his performance received critical acclaim and established his dedication to transforming himself for roles through intense preparation. Hunger premiered at Cannes to a 10-minute standing ovation and brought him to the attention of new audiences worldwide.
How much weight did Michael Fassbender lose for his role as Bobby Sands in Hunger?
Michael Fassbender lost 42 lbs (over 19 kg) through a 10-week, 600-calorie-per-day diet in order to play Bobby Sands in Hunger. The drastic weight loss and starvation reflected the real conditions of Irish hunger strikers in Northern Ireland’s Maze Prison in 1981.
Mainstream Success in X-Men and 12 Years a Slave
After his intense performance in Hunger, Fassbender cemented himself as a serious actor taking on blockbuster action roles as well as independent films.
In 2011, he achieved true mainstream fame when he appeared as young Magneto alongside James McAvoy’s Professor X in the superhero blockbuster X-Men: First Class. His version of the mutant antihero was dark yet sympathetic, showcasing his ability to bring depth to even iconic comic characters. He would reprise the role to critical acclaim in later X-Men sequels.
|X-Men: First Class
|X-Men: Days of Future Past
Fassbender again transformed himself physically and emotionally for his next critically celebrated performance as Edwin Epps in 2013’s Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave.
His cruel slave owner antagonist brought audiences to tears in this visceral depiction of slavery’s brutality from director Steve McQueen. Fassbender’s supporting role brought him serious Oscar buzz and confirmed his position as one of Hollywood’s top dramatic actors.
What was Michael Fassbender’s first major franchise film role?
Michael Fassbender had his breakout blockbuster role playing young Magneto in the 2011 X-Men prequel X-Men: First Class opposite James McAvoy. This launched his appearances as Magneto in three X-Men films which brought him mainstream popularity with global audiences.
Award Recognition for Leading Roles
In 2015, Fassbender reunited with director Steve McQueen to star in the critically acclaimed Western drama Slow West. His performance as the aloof Silas earned him the Best Actor award at the 20th IFTA Film & Drama Awards.
Continuing his hot streak, Fassbender starred as the title character in the 2015 film adaptation of the classic video game Assassin’s Creed. To reflect his character’s intense physicality, he underwent a grueling training regimen including weight lifting, boxing, stick fighting, free running, and stunt work. This established his dedication to crafting characters’ physicality to match their personalities.
List of awards and nominations Michael Fassbender has received:
- Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male (12 Years a Slave)
- Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor (12 Years a Slave)
- Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture (12 Years a Slave)
- Irish Film and Television Award (IFTA) for Best Actor (Slow West)
Recent Projects Show Range
Fassbender seems to actively seek out unique projects across genres that allow him to transform into wildly different characters.
In the critically divisive arthouse sci-fi film Alien: Covenant (2017), he plays an upgraded android named Walter and also portrays the original android David from 2012’s Prometheus. His dual role involved intricate replication of subtle physical and vocal nuances between the two robots.
In 2018, Fassbender starred as Harry Hole in the crime thriller The Snowman, based on Jo Nesbø’s bestselling novel. To reflect Harry’s alcoholism and grittiness, Fassbender resided in Oslo, Norway months before filming to absorb the atmosphere and culture. Though reviews were mixed, his performance was praised as a highlight.
And in the 2021 fantasy-drama The Green Knight, he plays the title character of Sir Gawain on a quest to confront the mythical Green Knight. The film debuted to rave reviews at Cannes for its surreal, dreamlike take on Arthurian legend.
What unique acting challenge did Michael Fassbender take on in Alien: Covenant?
In Alien: Covenant, Michael Fassbender played dual roles of the androids David and Walter. He replicated subtle physical and vocal characteristics between the two robots through meticulous preparation and acting precision. The performance showed his technical range even within non-human characters.
Fassbender prefers to keep his personal life private. However he was in public relationships with Zoë Kravitz and Nicole Beharie during the early 2010s while his fame was rising.
He started dating actress and producer Alicia Vikander after they met on the set of The Light Between Oceans (2016). The two married privately in Ibiza, Spain in October 2017. They currently reside mostly in Lisbon, Portugal.
In interviews, Fassbender expresses deep gratitude for his career and opportunities, remembering how he once struggled early on living in London and auditioning for roles. Though he takes on serious emotional roles, he tries not to bring characters home, leaning on his wife for everyday support.
Over his 25-year career, Michael Fassbender has continuously challenged himself by transforming into multilayered, intense characters across independent dramas, big-budget franchises, period pieces, and genre fare. He immerses himself fully into each role through rigorous physical preparation aided by his natural emotional depth and magnetism.
Rather than chasing mainstream fame, he prioritizes compelling scripts and visionary directors. This focus on his craft has led to highly acclaimed performances from Bobby Sands in Hunger to tortured android David in Alien: Covenant. His best work stays true to his anarchic sensibilities formed growing up working in his parents’ Irish pub.
As he enters the prime of his career in his mid-40s, Fassbender displays no signs of slowing down or playing it safe. Upcoming projects like Ridley Scott’s Napoleon biopic point to even more transformations and award-worthy roles ahead. With such bold acting choices and dedication to quality over box office, Michael Fassbender seems destined to leave behind a legacy as one of the early 21st century’s great chameleonic actors across stage and screen.
What is Michael Fassbender’s next upcoming role?
Michael Fassbender is slated to star as French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte in Ridley Scott’s upcoming historical drama. The project reunites Fassbender and Scott who previously collaborated on Prometheus and Alien: Covenant. Shooting begins late 2023 for a likely 2024/2025 release.
Why does Michael Fassbender take on such intense movie roles?
Rather than pursuing mainstream movie star status, Fassbender prioritizes compelling, multilayered characters in his script choices. He immerses himself fully in playing even grim roles by altering his appearance and undergoing difficult physical regiments in service of authentic performances.
What genres has Michael Fassbender acted in?
Michael Fassbender has shown incredible range across independent dramas, historical period pieces, blockbuster action franchises, genre thrillers, fantasy epics, and more. Some examples include Hunger, X-Men, 12 Years a Slave, Frank, Slow West, Assassin’s Creed, Alien: Covenant, and The Green Knight.
How does Michael Fassbender prepare for playing different characters?
Fassbender is known for dedicating months to intense physical preparation including weight loss, weight training, martial arts, and more to transform himself into his characters. He also works closely with dialects coaches and immerses himself in understanding characters’ backgrounds and mindsets before filming begins.