“From the start we start seeing the world through Solomon’s eyes. It’s almost like as an audience we become Solomon. Full credit to Chiwetel for doing that.
“So many times when we go to see a film now there’s the audience and then there’s what is happening on screen. There’s that comfortable divide. But with Steve pretty quickly the audience is transported into the world and they’re partaking in it and that’s a difficult thing to do.”
"12 Years a Slave" works because McQueen approaches the dynamite subject and the characters without judgment, Fassbender says.
“It’s not like the classic scenario between master and slave. It’s more complex than that. It’s about the complexity of that relationship and the complexity of slavery,” Fassbender says.
“We see Solomon go from a logging farm to a cotton farm to a sugarcane farm, so we see the economics of slavery of the time and how intrinsic slavery was to the economy of the south.
“It doesn’t just become a black and white scenario of the bad slave owner and the slaves, you know? We see Mistress Shaw (played by Alfre Woodward) lives like the lady of the house. We see how scenarios like that unfold. She’s a black woman (apparently colluding in the oppression of other black people).
“It doesn’t become a judgmental piece; it just becomes a thing where we are transported into that world. It becomes a more real world.”
Fassbender knew he was in good hands when McQueen approached his character, one of the most odious in the film, with sympathy for his point of view.
“It’s that kind of understanding that he has of the characters that makes for his dispassionate directing,” Fassbender says.
Fans of Fassbender’s unforgettable work on Ridley Scott’s "Prometheus" (I raise my hand here too) will be delighted to hear that there’s talk of a sequel with himself and Noomi Rapace reprising their roles. Since his character David was the most compelling in the film this is good news, but
Fassbender says he hasn’t heard final confirmation of the project yet.
“A lot of people are asking me about that recently. I’m not sure, no one has told me anything about it,” Fassbender offers.
“I would love to do the robot again. Hopefully Noomi (who plays Elizabeth Shaw in "Prometheus") stitches my head back on my body!”
One of the most anticipated films is the "X-Men: Days Of Future Past" follow up, with Fassbender reprising the role of Magneto. The film’s director Bryan Singer teased a picture of the Irish actor in a wide brimmed hat and shades (easily one of the coolest pictures of the year), but what is going on in that scene?
“You have to wait and see,” Fassbender laughs. “That was a collaborative thing with the wardrobe and the director. It was a little top of the hat to Ian McKellan because we’ve seen him wear it.
“We were trying to use what was available at the time (which is the 1970s) and keep him disguised, although the look would kind of draw attention to yourself so it’s kind of a double edged sword.”
Meanwhile, "12 Years a Slave" is about to open and it seems certain to become a cultural and cinematic milestone when it does, thanks to its explosive subject and unflinching treatment.
Perhaps for that reason Fassbender and McQueen have been discussing toning it down for their next collaboration, whenever that occurs.
“I think we’re trying to do something a little lighter next time. We have been talking about a musical. Wait and see,” he says again.