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Category: Michael Fassbender

Michael Fassbender's naked girlfriends in sex drama 'Shame'

November 4, 2011 |  8:13 am


Finding an actress who can convey nuance without uttering a line of dialogue is hard. Finding that kind of talent in someone who's also willing to take off her clothes? That's almost impossible.

“I had so many passes I couldn't even tell you,” said Avy Kaufman, a casting director who faced precisely that challenge in casting the NC-17-rated “Shame,” Steve McQueen's New York-set drama about a taciturn sex addict named Brandon (Michael Fassbender) that hits theaters Dec 2. “I was unbelievably frustrated.”

Kaufman is a veteran of her craft, having cast complicated productions such as “The Sixth Sense” and “Brokeback Mountain.” But she had a unique assignment from McQueen, who wanted top-quality performers even for tiny parts like Brandon's fly-by-night sex partners. The idea was that those partners would propel the story forward with their silence, showing Brandon's state of mind, or even  suggesting the history of their relationship with a look or a gesture. The actresses, of course, also had to meet certain physical requirements.

For more of The Times' holiday movie sneaks please visit our sneaks landing page.

Perhaps the trickiest of those castings was for the character of “Hotel Lover,” a woman summoned by Brandon to a hotel in the middle of the afternoon. In the scene, “Hotel Lover” has sex with Brandon standing up, against a floor-to-ceiling window, and utters only a quick line of dialogue afterward (about her earrings).

Kaufman — who would put prospective actresses at ease by having young, Fassbender-ish men from her office read with them — located Amy Hargreaves, a stage and screen actress who has gone on to a recurring part on Showtime's “Homeland.” She and Fassbender prepared for their scene, well, the only way one might: by smoking a cigarette and downing a shot of tequila. “I'm so proud of what we did in the film,” Hargreaves said, then added with a laugh, “Though I'm glad it's getting an NC-17 — my parents will never see it.”

Another actress, Lucy Walters, appears in the opening and closing moments of “Shame” as a newlywed with whom Brandon eye-flirts on the subway. She doesn't get a word of dialogue but manages to communicate with her looks and her gestures the arc that Fassbender's character has taken over the course of the film.

“It's super-easy to have a charged scene with someone as relaxed or as sexy as Michael Fassbender,” said Walters, who was cast after receiving a message at 11 pm to head to a club "in a dodgy part of town" where "Shame" was already shooting. “But there’s a lot more going on there than just sex."

Kaufman said she feels that Walters' performance validates the unusual casting process. "How many times are there actors you don't have one line and you remember them. I can't think of another time that's happened."


Los Angeles Times holiday movie sneaks

Carey Mulligan: I wasn't uncomfortable being naked in "Shame"

Michael Fassbender exposes more than skin in "Shame"

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Michael Fassbender receiving an honor at the Venice Film Festival. Credit: Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images

'Shame, 'Tinker' lead British Independent Film Award nominations

October 31, 2011 |  7:11 am


Tomas Alfredson's adaptation of John le Carre's spy thriller "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," Steve McQueen's NC-17-rated "Shame" and Paddy Considine's drama "Tyrannosaur" lead the 14th British Independent Film Award nominations Monday morning with seven each.

Those three pictures were all nominated for Best British Independent Film, along with the Formula One documentary "Senna" and Lynne Ramsay's "We Need to Talk About Kevin."

The other nominations announced Monday:

Best director: Ben Wheatley for "Kill List," plus McQueen, Alfredson, Considine, and Ramsay.

Douglas Hickox Award for best directorial debut: Joe Cornish, "Attack the Block"; Ralph Fiennes, "Coriolanus"; John Michael McDonagh, "The Guard"; Richard Ayoade, "Submarine" and Considine.

Best actress: Rebecca Hall, "The Awakening"; Mia Wasikowska, "Jane Eyre"; MyAnna Buring, "Kill List"; Olivia Colman, "Tyrannosaur;" Tilda Swinton, "We Need to Talk About Kevin."

Best actor: Brendan Gleeson, "The Guard"; Neil Maskell, "Kill List"; Michael Fassbender, "Shame"; Gary Oldman, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"; Peter Mullan, "Tyrannosaur."

Best achievement in production: "Kill List," "Tyrannosaur," "Weekend," "Wild Bill," "You Instead."

The awards will be handed out in a ceremony on Dec. 4 in London.

See the complete list of nominees.  

 -- Susan King  

Photo: A scene from the movie "Tyrannosaur," with Peter Mullan. Credit: Strand Releasing


Carey Mulligan: I wasn't uncomfortable being naked in 'Shame'

October 25, 2011 |  3:15 pm

Carey Mulligan at the Hollywood Film Festival
Carey Mulligan has laid her emotions bare on screen numerous times. But in "Shame," the upcoming drama about a sex addict played by Michael Fassbender, she exposes far more of herself.

In the movie, Mulligan plays the sister of Fassbender's character -- a somewhat promiscuous young woman open with both her body and her feelings. The role required the actress to get fully naked for one scene in a shower -- something Mulligan said was surprisingly easy to do.

"I wasn't uncomfortable being naked. For other roles, it may be inappropriate, but for this, I felt like it was right for the part," the 26-year-old told 24 Frames on the red carpet Monday evening at the Hollywood Awards, where she was accepting a prize for her supporting role in the film. "It was a very small set and a very small crew, so it didn't feel like I was doing it in front of that many people. And Michael is so engaging when you act with him ... I felt like I was just in the room with him."

What caused more anxiety, she said, was having to sing a rendition of "New York, New York" in the Steve McQueen-directed film.

"That was actually probably more nerve-racking than the nudity. Yeah, that was scary. We did about 15 takes because [Steve] wanted it live," she said, adding that said she was so taken with the script that she "begged" McQueen for the job, despite not being an "obvious choice for the role."

Meanwhile, the movie will almost certainly receive an NC-17 rating when it is released stateside in December. The actress said she admired McQueen for not excising the film's riskier parts in an effort to make the movie more commercial.

"I think Steve was brave and made an uncompromising film and didn't want to change anything and won't change anything," she said. "He wanted to sort of hold up a mirror and show real people doing real things."


'Shame' director surprised by controversy

Michael Fassbender trailer has little 'Shame' [Video]

Michael Fassbender exposes more than skin in 'Shame'

— Amy Kaufman


Photo: Carey Mulligan poses on the red carpet at the Hollywood Awards. Photo: Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

'The Artist,' 'Shame' among AFI Fest highlights

October 18, 2011 | 11:00 am

The Artist is set to be a gala screening at AFI Fest
Angeleno movie lovers who weren't able to shell out the big bucks to fly to the Cannes or Toronto film festivals will get the chance to see some of the season's most buzzed-about movies at the upcoming AFI Fest.

A slew of films popular on this year's festival circuit will screen at the upcoming event, held Nov. 3-10 in Hollywood. Among the festival's centerpiece galas are the "The Artist," the silent black-and-white film which became a sensation at Cannes, and "Shame," the drama starring Michael Fassbender as a sex addict that was a hit at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Other red-carpet events include Roman Polanski's "Carnage," Luc Besson's "The Lady" and the Marilyn Monroe drama "My Week With Marilyn." Pedro Almodóvar, who is the festival's guest artistic director this year, will also screen his 1987 film "Law of Desire" starring Antonio Banderas.

AFI Fest will offer special screenings of a number of other well-regarded movies that have made the festival rounds. They include Lynne Ramsey's dark drama "We Need to Talk About Kevin," Lars von Trier's "Melancholia," Mexico's foreign-language Oscar submission "Miss Bala" and the Dardenne brothers' "The Kid With A Bike," which all premiered at Cannes. Also screening are Oren Moverman's "Rampart," the Duplass brothers' "Jeff, Who Lives at Home" and Jim Field Smith's "Butter," which all played in Toronto in September.

A limited number of free tickets to most of the screenings will become available beginning Oct. 27. But if you want to guarantee a seat at the most in-demand films, you can buy a special pass at AFI.com/AFIFEST.


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-- Amy Kaufman


Photo: Jean Dujardin, left, and Bérénice Bejo star in "The Artist." Credit: The Weinstein Co.

Michael Fassbender trailer has little 'Shame' [Video]

October 14, 2011 | 12:48 pm

Michael Fassbender

“Shame” has been a major standout on the fall festival circuit and is one of the most anticipated movies of this coming season. Steve McQueen’s auteur piece — Fox Searchlight releases it on Dec. 2 — stars Michael Fassbender as a sex addict who can’t emotionally connect with women; he tosses from the room a potential girlfriend without having sex with her, for instance, and instead calls a prostitute.

But you wouldn’t exactly know the movie is about sex addiction from a new trailer. In fact, you wouldn’t know much about it at all.

There’s the vague insinuation that Fassbender’s character has looked at some Internet porn and a sense generally of a man tortured. But there's almost no actial sex in the trailer — and what little sex there is comes off as the far more functional variety.

Instead, the emphasis is on a family relationship between Fassbender’s character and Carey Mulligan’s chanteuse, an important piece of the film but hardly its sole focus. And it's all interspersed wth unrevealing shots (in more ways than one) of Fassbender's character jogging through the New York streets.

To be fair, it is a Herculean task to cut a spot for this movie, which is all but assured an NC-17 rating.

"Man who can only have sex that’s kinky and with prostitutes" doesn’t scream Saturday night date movie. And clearly marketers don't want to exclude postings on mainstream sites (like this one). Still, it's fun to think about the people who will see the movie only off this trailer. If some "Drive" filmgoers were in for a surprise...


"Shame" director surprised by controversy

Michael Fassbender says "shame" is a social critique

Michael Fassbender exposes more than skin in 'Shame'

— Steven Zeitchik


Michael Fassbender signs on to McQueen's 'Twelve Years a Slave'

October 11, 2011 | 12:52 pm

Michael fassbender

Michael Fassbender and Steve McQueen will be cementing their already strong actor-director partnership on McQueen’s next movie, “Twelve Years a Slave.”

Chiwetel Ejiofor (“Inside Man”) stars in the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who became enslaved, from a script by McQueen and John Ridley (“Red Tails”). Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment is producing the film, scheduled to start shooting in early 2012. The news of Fassbender's casting was first reported in Variety.

The details of Fassbender’s “Twelve Years a Slave” role are being kept under wraps, but if the actor’s prior collaborations with McQueen are any indication, he’ll play a character with complex morals.

Fassbender was Irish Republican hunger striker Bobby Sands in McQueen’s 2008 movie, “Hunger,” and stars as a sex addict in the buzzed-about festival title “Shame,” due in theaters in December.

Fassbender also starred in this year’s “X-Men: First Class” as a Nazi fighting mutant and was Mr. Rochester opposite Mia Wasikowska in "Jane Eyre" last spring. He plays a conflicted Carl Jung in David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method,” which opens in the U.S. Nov. 23.


'Shame,' Fassbender ride hot, kinky buzz out of Venice, Telluride 

Toronto 2011: Michael Fassbender says 'Shame' is a social critique 

'Prometheus': Michael Fassbender on Ridley Scott's 'breathtaking project

-- Rebecca Keegan


Toronto 2011: 'Shame' director surprised by controversy

September 13, 2011 |  4:42 pm

Even though this year's award season is just getting going, "Shame," starring Michael Fassbender, has already caused a stir. The movie's frank sexual content has prompted spirited debate among audiences, and the film  prompted at  least one woman to faint (at the Toronto Film Festival premiere, though apparently because of a moment of on-screen violence, not a sex scene).

But ask director Steve McQueen what he thinks of the fuss and he waves it away. "I didn't do this to be provocative," he said in a Toronto hotel room Tuesday. "They say Michael is naked. Half the people in the audience have what he has, and 99% percent of the audience has seen what he has. It's the most un-shocking thing you can think of. And yet someone picks up a gun and blows someone's head off and that's normal."

He added, "What I want to do in cinema is hold up a mirror to how people are."

In "Shame,"  Fassbender portrays Brandon, a good-looking but lonely man with a propensity for hard-core Internet porn, public sexual encounters with strangers and various forms of X-rated kinkiness. Since the film screened at Toronto, festival-goers have been debating just how sympathetic his character is, and what McQueen was hinting at in some of the more suggestive scenes. (Brendan's murky relationship with his sister, played by Carey Mulligan, is a particular point of debate.)

With what he calls the "prevalence" of sex in both the film and in the culture at large, McQueen said he believed "Shame" had a certain timeliness. "The movie is so now. But it still could have been anything -- it could have been gambling and it could have been an alcohol addiction."

For all its explicit content,  “Shame” is far from an exploitation piece. The BAFTA-winning McQueen is prone to long takes and longer silences, and puts meticulous effort into composing each shot, which is no doubt part of the reason audiences are discussing it as intensely as they are.

Of the many bold flourishes in his film, McQueen said the silences were of particular importance to him. "It tells so much more than some ridiculous conversation," he said. "People talk all the time and nobody says anything. You can say a lot more with silence."

-- Steven Zeitchik in Toronto


Photo: Carey Mulligan and Michael Fassbender in "Shame." Credit: Toronto Film Festival


Toronto 2011: Michael Fassbender says 'Shame' is a social critique

September 12, 2011 |  6:48 pm

If you think it's awkward watching a fictional character act out various twisted sexual fantasies for two hours, try spending weeks performing them in front of strangers.

That was the task faced by Michael Fassbender, the actor who plays the sex-addicted Brandon, in shooting "Shame," Steve McQueen's acclaimed and controversial new feature.

"It was pretty uncomfortable and sort of embarrassing to get naked or what-not in front of a crew of people," the Irish actor, who appears in full-frontal nudity, told reporters Monday afternoon at the Toronto Film Festival after the movie premiered for the public Sunday night. "But you have to get over it, really, and get on with it. I knew what I was getting into."

What the audience is getting into is a visceral portrayal of a 30-ish upper-middle-class New York man who has a propensity for hard-core Internet porn, public sexual encounters with strangers and various  forms of X-rated kinkiness. Brandon isn't capable in his sex life of an emotional relationship; the idea of human connection, let alone commitment, frightens him (in one scene so much so that he turns away from his partner, sends her home and immediately calls a prostitute).

Adding another layer to Brandon's story is the surprise appearance of his sister (Carey Mulligan, also showing up in one scene in full-frontal), a kind of drifter chanteuse with whom Brendan has a complicated relationship, emotionally and perhaps otherwise. Fassbender, who also stars in this fall's sexually themed psychoanalysis drama "A Dangerous Method" as Carl Jung, won an acting prize at the Venice Film Festival this weekend for "Shame."

Despite the overt sexuality, Fassbender said the movie is in many ways a critique of our hyper-sexed era. "Everywhere you go, sex is being sold to you in one way or another," he said, "whether you're buying a soda or a breakfast cereal."

McQueen, a former visual artist who made a splash at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival when he and Fassbender premiered their the gut-wrenching IRA drama "Hunger," said he too saw his new film in broader social terms. "This is about a person who has an addiction," McQueen said. "[But] the access to sexual content is quite prevalent; that's the starting point. In my day pornography was on the top shelf of a news agent, and now it's prevalent," (More from McQueen shortly.)

There are many questions about the commercial release of the film. Although it's bound to be a conversation piece and even a critical darling, questions over audience and marketing plans abound.

For one thing, will studio Fox Searchlight, the Rupert Murdoch-owned art-house division that bought the movie last week and will likely bring it out in December, release it as an NC-17 film or go unrated? There are advantages and drawbacks to both. (And no, there's no way to recut the movie so that it can earn an "R." The film would become a short.)

Fassbender said he hopes those challenges would turn into a selling point in their own right. "This film is being made contrary to a lot of the films out there," he said, "[It's] for an intelligent, brave audience that can participate instead of just eating popcorn and being entertained."


Shame, Fassbender ride hot kinky buzz out of Telluride

Toronto 2011: Shame finds U.S. buyer, to hit theaters in 2011

— Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Carey Mulligan and Michael Fassbender in "Shame." Credit: Toronto Film Festival.

Fassbender wins best actor award at Venice film festival

September 10, 2011 | 12:06 pm

Besides naming the Russian film "Faust" as the winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival on Saturday, the jury headed by director Darren Aronofsky ("Black Swan") handed out numerous other prizes. The Coppa Volpi for best actor went to Michael Fassbender, who plays a man obsessed with impersonal gratification in the film "Shame" by Steve McQueen of Britain.

Asia put in a strong showing. The Coppa Volpi for best actress was awarded to Deanie Yip in the film "Tao Jie" ("A Simple Life") by Hong Kong's Ann Hui. China's Cai Shangjun won the Silver Lion for best director for his film "Ren Shan Ren Hai" (People Mountain People Sea), which was a surprise late addition to the festival lineup. And the Marcello Mastroianni Award for best new young actor or actress went to Shota Sometani and Fumi Nikaido in the film "Himizu" by Japan's Sion Sono. 

A special jury prize was give to "Terraferma" by Emanuele Crialese  of Italy, while the Osella for the best cinematography went to Robbie Ryan for the film "Wuthering Heights" by Andrea Arnold and the Osella for best screenplay went to Greece's Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou for the film "Alpis" (Alps).  

The handful of American films in competition, including George Clooney's "The Ides of March," "Dark Horse," "Texas Killing Fields" and "Killer Joe" were shut out.


Telluride: Michael Fassbender exposes more than skin in 'Shame'

'Shame,' Fassbender ride hot, kinky buzz out of Venice, Telluride

'Shame' finds U.S. buyer, will hit theaters in 2011

-- Julie Makinen

Photo: Carey Mulligan and Michael Fassbender in "Shame." Credit: Toronto International Film Festival.

'Shame,' Fassbender ride hot, kinky buzz out of Venice, Telluride

September 5, 2011 |  6:00 am

If there’s one film coming out of this weekend’s film festival screenings in Venice and Telluride, Colo., with white-hot award season buzz — not to mention racy details sure to stir box-office interest and problems — it must be “Shame,” British director Steve McQueen’s sophomore film, starring Michael Fassbender as Brandon, a sexually obsessed man in New York.

Just when general audiences will get a look at “Shame” remains to be decided — it’s one of the hottest acquisition titles heading into this week’s Toronto International Film Festival, assuming it doesn’t get snapped up before then. When it does hit U.S. theaters, it seems almost certain the MPAA will stick it with an NC-17 rating. (Brandon’s workplace computer and his Manhattan apartment are jammed with porn, and within the film's initial minutes Brandon — with a courageous performance by a full-frontal Fassbender — has slept with a hooker and masturbated in the shower. And then things get really kinky.)

Writing for the Hollywood Reporter, Todd McCarthy says it’s amazing that it has taken Fassbender — who starred this year in “Jane Eyre” and “X-Men: First Class” in addition to having the lead in another festival title, playing psychoanalyst Carl Jung in “A Dangerous Method” — this long to be fully recognized.

“He’s got it all: Looks, authority, physicality, command of the screen, great vocal articulation, a certain chameleon quality and the ability to suggest a great deal within while maintaining outward composure, just for starters,” McCarthy said in giving a hearty review of “Shame.” “Whether he becomes a real movie star is another matter, but when it comes to pure acting skill and potential, it’s possible that Daniel Day-Lewis now has a young challenger.”

Oliver Lyttelton of IndieWire notes that Fassbender couldn’t be any more different in “Shame” — where he plays opposite Carey Mulligan — than in he is in David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method,” which also explores sex and the psyche, albeit from a much more reserved, period viewpoint.

“While he was all stiff repression as Carl Jung, here he’s all id, constantly pursuing some itch that he can never quite scratch. Going by the idea of orgasm as ‘la petite mort,’ a brief taste of nothingness … [his character is] unable to link the idea of someone he genuinely likes to what he sees as the violence of sex, and the tension, the division is clear from Fassbender’s performance. But crucially, he’s deeply sad and deeply human, never shutting the audience out, which prevents the film from being as chilly as it could have been.”

Variety’s Justin Chang calls “Shame” a “mesmerizing companion piece” to McQueen’s 2008 debut, "Hunger," but says it’s “more approachable.” Like “Hunger,” it “fixes its gaze on the uses and abuses of the human body, as Michael Fassbender again strips himself down, in every way an actor can, for McQueen's rigorous but humane interrogation,” Chang says. He adds that “Confrontational subject matter and matter-of-fact explicitness will position the film at the higher end of the specialty market, but it's certain to arouse critical acclaim and smart-audience interest wherever it's shown.”

The Guardian’s Xan Brooks was equally enthusiastic: “This is fluid, rigorous, serious cinema; the best kind of adult movie. There are glimmers of American Gigolo to its pristine sheen and echoes of Midnight Cowboy.”


Hot films Up for grabs at the Toronto Film Festival

Telluride: Michael Fassbender exposes more than skin in 'Shame'

Venice Film Fest: Buzz (good and bad) for Keira Knightley in 'A Dangerous Method'

 — Julie Makinen

Photo: Carey Mulligan and Michael Fassbender share a rare smile in "Shame." Photo: See-Saw Films.








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