To be cast as Macbeth is almost as great a rite of passage as playing the Dane in "Hamlet", especially when you consider that the talented likes of Ian McKellen, James McAvoy, Orson Welles and Ethan Hawke have all bloodied their hands as the troubled King. This time, William Shakespeare’s so-called “Scottish Play”, directed by Justin Kurzel, sees Michael Fassbender take on the tormented Macbeth, alongside a malevolent Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth. The Irish actor tells us about his role this new cinematic version of “Macbeth”, the pressure of playing Shakespeare and his talented screen partner.
Macbeth is an iconic character who’s been played time and time again. How did you approach playing him?
Like a modern man. He is no more than a soldier who suffers from a post-traumatic stress disorder after fighting for years, smashing skulls with stones, and seeing blood flowing everywhere. When he goes back home to his wife, he receives a staggering blow: he is confused, he thinks that the only way for him to survive is to keep killing people, and he goes insane.
Had you always wanted to do a Shakespeare film?
It wasn’t an obsession. In Ireland, where I grew up, Shakespeare was mostly an author that we had to study at school, nothing more. But when I was 19, I went to London to study dramatic art and I started to discover him in a different way, and understand what a genius he was. It’s such an honor to be a part of his company.
Is it stressful?
Of course, but that’s a part of the fun. The harder part is the language: finding the right tone and tempo required a huge amount of work. I wanted the audience to forget they were listening to Shakespeare, I wanted them to feel the modernity of his words.
You shot on location in Scotland. How was that?
It was hard. In Ireland, we are used to the rain and the wind, but that was quite extreme. We were always freezing, and wet. That being said, it also put us in this state of restlessness and nervousness that could serve the purpose and the characters.
How was it to work with Marion Cotillard?
She is just the best. I rarely get to work with actresses who are so committed. She can be everything at once: fragile and resilient. She is also able to bring simplicity into the most complex scenes. And she knows how to listen. She is the ideal partner.
And you worked with her again in the “Assassin’s Creed” movie, also directed by Justin Kurzel, as well.
I did but I can’t tell you anything about it. It’s top secret, but you definitely need to see it. It’s a film that will change your life!
You have no idea.