Michael Fassbender’s Highly Productive 2011: A Look Back

Michael Fassbender at the London Film Festival in October. (M Vaudrey/AP Images)

Thanksgiving may have come and gone, but here’s to being thankful this year for Michael Fassbender.

The German-Irish actor, who trained and lives in London, gets totally naked, and not just emotionally, this Friday (Dec. 2) in Shame. It’s a role for which the fast-rising star is being mentioned as a possible Oscar contender for Best Actor.

In the sexual drama, he plays a New Yorker so addicted to sex – whether it’s solo, on-line or with anonymous hookups – that finding soulless satisfaction takes precedence in his life over work, socializing and family relationships. When his younger sister (played by Brit actress Carey Mulligan) shows up and temporarily moves in with him, Fassbender’s character grows increasingly agitated as her presence puts a crimp on his relentless pursuit of pleasure.

The movie, directed by English artist-turned-filmmaker Steve McQueen (who guided Fassbender in his breakout role as an imprisoned IRA member in 2008’s Hunger), was slapped with an NC-17 rating for its nudity and sexual content.

Shame is the capper to a highly productive year for Fassbender. It is his fourth film to open in 2011. Back in March, he starred as a brooding Mr. Rochester in a well-reviewed remake of Jane Eyre. In June, he played a young Magneto in X-Men: First Class, an early 1960s-set prequel that the Fox studio is hoping served to reboot the comic book series about super-powered mutants. His co-star in the film was Scotsman James McAvoy.

Just last week, Fassbender got naked again, though not quite as audaciously or often as in Shame, in A Dangerous Method. The historical drama, directed by Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg (A History of Violence) features Fassbender as pioneering psychoanalyst Carl Jung. It explores Jung’s relationship with Sabina Spielrein (English actress Keira Knightley), a troubled patient with whom he becomes involved in a sado-masochistic affair, and with Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen), the trailblazing shrink who served as Jung’s mentor until the two men had an ideological split.

“At this point, Fassbender is not only the busiest actor around,” writes veteran film critic Emmanuel Levy, “but also the most versatile (alongside Ryan Gosling). Is there anything he cannot do? I bet he can also sing and dance, at least adequately, if not more.”

Up next for the talented actor? A sleek turn as a mysterious paid assassin in Haywire, a thriller directed by Steven Soderbergh set to open Jan. 20. In it, he gets to show off not just his acting chops, but his karate chops as well.

————————

Which is your favorite Fassbender performance this year?

————————