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Michael Fassbender: ¨I want to be well-prepared so I have the ability to have freedom¨

In this clip, actor Michael Fassbender (The Killer, X-Men: Apocalypse, Alien: Covenant) talks about wanting to “be well-prepared so I can have freedom”. This may seem surprising to some aspiring actors, who think that preparation gets in the way of freedom and spontaneity. But in fact it’s the opposite: to paraphrase the great scientist Louis Pasteur: ¨Fortune favors the prepared mind.¨ It is THROUGH preparation that we arrive at freedom. A teacher of mine at the Yale School of Drama would say: “Freedom lies on the other side of technique”, a related sentiment. Through doing the homework, as Fassbender says, we get oriented to the character’s situation and we are prepared to respond spontaneously and appropriately to the input we get from our fellow actors and the scene environment. As General Eisenhower said: “Plans are useless, but planning is essential.” The process of preparation raises possibilities which can then be explored fruitfully in rehearsal. As I discussed in a previous post, Jeremy Strong, of Succession fame, said of acting:

“Most of acting is about preparation, so that if you are armed with a visceral understanding of this character, you can get to set and essentially just play and be in the moment. And I’d say or do anything formed by that understanding.”

How to prepare is a huge part of what I teach in acting class. It’s a huge part of what technique is all about. Through technique, we learn to explore and frame the character’s situation in order to set us up to do the best possible work when we are in rehearsal and performance. It’s through preparation that we are truly able to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances.

Michael Fassbender: ¨I want to be well-prepared so I have the ability to have freedom¨2024-02-19T01:34:02-08:00

not everybody made the list this year, Michael Fassbender

You know, this list.

Mr. Fassbender has been getting raves for his performance in Shame. I saw it tonight fully expecting add him to my list. But, it turns out, his performance was…not great. There were certainly things to admire about it. He knows how to exploit his personal vulnerability to seduce people, and that’s not nothing. But there were a lot of holes. Consider the moment after (not a spoiler!) his boss gets off the video phone call with his son. This is a climactic moment in the film. Notice Fassbender’s physicality in this moment. It’s awkward and stiff, and not because the moment is awkward and stiff. He has no idea, as an actor, what to do with his body.

And that’s the thing about Fassbender: when he does act, it’s pretty much completely from the neck up. If he does become viscerally activated, it’s in a tight close-up when he knows no one is looking at his body, and he relaxes.

Consider the “big” moment near the end of the movie in the rain. He tries really hard, but that’s all we get. We are not there with him, experiencing what he is experiencing. We are on the outside looking in, because he isn’t really in it himself. He’s supposed to be convulsing, but he isn’t really convulsing, so it doesn’t work.

Also, he’s not that good at dialogue. There is a long scene in a restaurant, when he’s on a date, and his partner in that scene acts circles around him. She’s going on the list.

Mr. Fassbender deserves props for the difficult, painful situations he explores in the movie, and for the moments when he does pull it off. He’s talented. But he needs to read Uta Hagen’s chapter on Animation in A Challenge for the Actor. And fire his acting coach.

not everybody made the list this year, Michael Fassbender2018-02-26T21:49:30-08:00
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