His roles are often dark, but the future is bright for Michael Fassbender. We chart the meteoric rise of an actor hotly tipped for an Oscar in 2014
This is Kerry man Michael Fassbender’s moment.
The Irish star’s fearless performance in 12 Years a Slave may have made him a red-hot favourite for an Oscar, but it’s just the latest in a career characterised by brave and memorable roles. These roles – hunger-striker, sex addict or slave master – can be dark. But right now, Fassbender is supernova-bright.
Don’t believe us? Just look at this: GQ magazine splashed the actor onto their November 2013 cover, and declared Fassbender to be “the leading man Hollywood has been waiting for”.
Director of Prometheus, Ridley Scott is in no doubt of his A-list quality either. “There is no one like Michael out there right now,” he has said. “And there hasn't been, for me, since Marlon Brando.”
Steve McQueen, meanwhile, who has directed Fassbender in Hunger, Shame and 12 Years a Slave told the New York Times: “Sometimes an actor can become a mirror and reflect the audience, allow them to identify and sympathize and relate to him… Michael is a true artist in acting.”
High-grade acting, roguish good looks, and a sexy Irish accent… what’s not to love?
From the Kingdom
Fassbender grew up in the town of Killarney, County Kerry, but it’s fair to say his surname was unusual among the O’Sheas and O’Sullivans of a typical Kerry classroom.
In fact, he was born in Heidelberg in 1977 to a County Antrim lady called Adele, and a German father.
His parents moved to Ireland when Fassbender was a young boy, and it was in Killarney that he grew up, went to school, spent time as an altar boy and worked shifts at West End House, the family restaurant.
By 17, he had decided to become an actor, and one of his earliest performances was in a production of Reservoir Dogs at a local pub.
Good call, we say. After studying drama in London, Fassbender went on to play roles in theatre, commercials (including a 2004 Guinness ad that saw him swim from the Cliffs of Moher to Manhattan) and small parts in 300 and Band of Brothers before his breakthrough role in Hunger (2008).
Irish roots run deep
Fassbender’s connection to Ireland remains strong despite the fact that he was born in Germany, and now lives in London. The actor has spoken of the influence Ireland’s rich artistic and literary heritage has had on him, telling Irish Central of how German actors had once asked him what writers Ireland had. “I answered, ‘Are you serious? James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, Brendan Behan – do you want me to go on?’”
As well as Ireland's literary history, it’s easy to imagine the budding actor being inspired by the jaw-dropping scenery that surrounded him in County Kerry since two years old. Killarney National Park cossets away every class of fantasy landscape for which Ireland is famous: from craggy mountains and glassy lakes to pretty-as-a-picture Muckross House (where Queen Victoria stayed in 1861). There’s the famous Ring of Kerry drive, and the rugged Dingle Peninsula, which juts out into the Atlantic and is studded with pristine beaches and ancient monuments.
It’s not all about the scenery, of course. Killarney, where Michael grew up, is one of the southwest’s most lively towns. West End House (where the actor worked as a teenager) still exists (albeit under new ownership), and Killarney is crammed with pubs, cafés and shops. There’s the super-pretty Miss Courtney’s Tea Rooms for cakes, Quinlans Seafood Bar for great fish and chips, and Aghadoe Heights Hotel for super-luxurious accommodation.
From hip eateries to horses and carts, it’s easy to see why a day (or night) out in Michael Fassbender’s hometown is one of the best in the west. And with simple access from Kerry airport, as well as good connecting roads from Dublin and Cork, it’s easy to get there, too.