During the awards season, Michael Fassbender grew out his ginger beard, which was a bold choice for an actor going through his first Oscar campaign. As it turned out, it didn’t matter because Fassy barely campaigned, and he grew his beard to play Macbeth in the latest film adaptation. Originally, the film was supposed to star Natalie Portman as Lady Macbeth, but Natalie thankfully dropped out. But then Marion Cotillard stepped into the role and I’m not really sure if that was better.
Anyway, they released the first two production stills and Michael did an interview with the Daily Mail about Macbeth. First, the stills: I like the one of Michael and Marion. Honestly. I think it’s got an interesting look and it makes me want to see the film. Reading this interview makes me want to see the film too – Michael manages to talk respectfully and authoritatively about Shakespeare’s Scottish play without it becoming twee and Hiddleston-esque.
Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard stand respectfully still as the Thane of Cawdor is anointed king. Three times the assembled bishops, priests noblemen and soldiers cry out: ‘Hail, Macbeth!’ Fassbender refers to his screen wife as ‘Lady M’, and together, they make as powerful a screen couple as I’ve observed in many years. As I sit with director Justin Kurzel and watch the scene he’s shooting at Ely Cathedral (standing in for Dunsinane Castle), the camera picks out Fassbender’s eyes, and they give a hint of Macbeth’s inner torment.
‘He’s suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder,’ Fassbender told me later. ‘It makes total sense, when you think about it. Justin set the seed of the idea in my head. This trauma is something we know about. In World War I they called it battle fatigue, and it was probably more horrific in Macbeth’s days, when they were killing with their bare hands, and driving a blade through bodies. He’s having these hallucinations, and he needs to return to the violence to find some sort of clarity, or peace.’
Macbeth and his Lady M had also, the actor and director point out, lost a child.
‘He’d been away fighting and when he returns, we see it’s a relationship that’s broken down. They lost a child, and there wasn’t time for them to grieve because he’s been away campaigning.’ However, the couple do reconnect. ‘Lady M is desperate for that reconnection, and briefly they do. And, of course, the doorway has been opened to darkness and to violence,’ Fassbender said.
After Duncan is murdered, Lady M hopes that this ‘fantastical deed, this terrible deed, this extraordinary deed of killing a king will be something that will bond them together’.
But once the blood is spilled, it leads to more and more killings. ‘He’s wary of doing it,’ Fassbender said, ‘but Lady M bolsters him, and tells him to garner his strength.’
The Bard’s verse remains, too, though it has been edited. ‘There’s a vibrancy and intelligence to the script,’ Fassbender observed. He explained that the cast speak with Scottish accents — all apart from Lady M, the Oscar-winning French actress Ms Cotillard. ‘We felt it would be unreasonable for her to put on a Scottish accent. It would not be unreasonable to presume that her character spent time in the French court.’
I asked how he was approaching the psychology of Macbeth. How evil was he? ‘I always have a problem with that word,’ Fassbender said sharply. ‘It never gives me any information, or helps me in any way. I like to find a character’s motivation. I don’t think Macbeth is evil. I think he’s damaged. When we meet him, he’s a man who’s as good as his circumstances will allow. He serves his king loyally and looks after his soldiers.’
And what about Edwin Epps, his character in 12 Years? Surely he was evil? ‘You put it down to insecurity, and fears — unless of course you’re dealing with a total sociopath. Evil is a cloudy word, and something that’s not going to inform me to play the character in any other way than pantomime.’
[From The Daily Mail]
The Mail’s Baz Bamigboye also reports that Michael consulted his friend James McAvoy about playing Macbeth, because McAvoy had done Macbeth on stage in the West End last year (and McAvoy had a ginger beard too). Apparently, McAvoy gave Fassy some Macbeth literature and help.
As for Michael’s interpretation of “Lady M” and Macbeth’s motivations… it’s interesting. I mean, obviously, Lady Macbeth is one of the most fascinating female characters in the history of the English language, and I think it’s an interesting take on the play to basically boil it all down to “they’re trying to reconnect and strengthen their marriage through murdering a bunch of people.” And the post-traumatic stress thing is good too. Hopefully there won’t be too much “war” stuff in the movie though.
Photos courtesy of ‘Macbeth’/Daily Mail and WENN.
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Michael Fassbender thinks Macbeth has PTSD: ‘I don’t think Macbeth is evil’