Alien: Covenant: Interview with Star Michael Fassbender

Ridley Scott’s new chapter of the Alien franchise, Alien Covenant, will be released by Fox May 19.

Challenge of Playing Two Roles

Michael Fassbender: It’s not that challenging. I obviously had the foundations of David in place, and I had an idea where he would go considering he hasn’t had any maintenance for ten years. And then Walter, because David is such an expressive theatrical sort of character, I wanted to make sure that Walter wasn’t. So he is very plain and bland and neutral, and that he doesn’t have any of these human characteristics in his programming. Therefore, he doesn’t have any of his own motives at play and he’s just there to serve and protect the crew and the ship.

Father, Who Created Me?

I believe we came from monkeys. So whoever created the monkey, created us. I don’t know. I consider myself spiritual, I do believe in a higher power and something that connects us all together, but I don’t know what it is. I believe that when we die, perhaps our energy goes somewhere else and sets itself in something else. But what I really like about the film is the prologue. Because we shot that scene and Ridley Scott was like I am not sure exactly the positioning of the scene, but it works out so well in the prologue because three quarters of the way through the movie, you are like oh, okay, that’s what the prologue was all about, and it’s really smart and it’s almost like a short film before the main film. The Oram character is very religious, and then you have the scientist who is not religious, and these two worlds meet in space.

Actor as Creator

MF: I think it’s a tricky. I always feel uncomfortable with that title or whatever you want to call it. I would see myself more as a tradesman. And I see the director as the artist. If it were a house, the director might be the architect and I might be the carpenter, I do the staircase. And sometimes I am happy with the staircase and other times I think I made a wobbly one. But I always put 100 percent into it and I am always appreciative of the experience. Through the years I got lucky to be in this position. I just enjoy the doing of it more than anything else.

Directors as Contractors:

MF: If they are good at what they do, my job is easier. And if they are not good at what they do, then it becomes hard and I have to do my own thing and the end product is always of compromised by that.

Which Roles Closest to You?

MF: I think there’s a part of me in all of these parts, cause it’s my only reference point other than stealing from other things that I have seen in life or other performances. There’s an element there of everything. It’s funny, for something like “Fish Tank” I didn’t put an accent on and I just kind of played myself there because I realized that for the most part, I can be sort of light and charming. But the actions of that character are pretty sort of severe, so I knew that would be a good effect to provoke the audience into how I feel about this guy? And I liked him and then he does an action like this. But in all the films, there’s an element of me there. But I would say that I am not like Brandonin “Shame” because that is a seriously unhappy person. I am not like Tom the Lighthouse Keeper cause that guy has an amazing stoicism and strength that I don’t have. I look at him as like a hero. And David is kind of bonkers, not to say that I am not. So there’s an element of me in all of them.

First Time Seeing Alien (1979)

I was around ten, and it was like when I saw Wonder Woman for the first time. I just didn’t speak a lot and was just sort of transfixed to the TV screen. I was terrified, but I didn’t want my parents to see that or they would send me to bed, when I was watching “Alien” for the first time. And it’s one of those films that I remember what it was like sitting in the room, I remember clearly that experience. Another one of those memories was “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

Future Alien Movies

MF: We spoke with Ridley a bit about it when we were shooting this in Sydney. I don’t know a great deal, I had a blast filming this. This was probably the most fun I have had on any film shooting anything on any continent and I think Ridley had a really good time as well. I loved working with him, I loved the character David, it’s a lot of fun playing David. It’s always a relaxing experience working on one of Ridley’s films, because he has got great confidence in making films and he’s got great passion, but also this sort of mischievousness, this curiosity, this youthfulness about him, the way he goes about shooting a film. And, that just permeates through the crew and you can just tell everybody is happy to be working on a Ridley Scott film. So I would love to do another one for sure.

Working with Steve McQueen and Ridley Scott

MF: I think McQueen’s “Shame” was pretty tough. If I were to pick a role in terms of challenge, because a lot of the times I don’t think this job is, you can really safely say it’s very challenging. But if there were two films that I found challenging it would be “Shame” and “Steve Jobs.”

Being 40

It feels good and bad. I feel good about who I am and I feel pretty good in my life and I feel lucky and happy. But I am getting older. My sister arranged a surprise birthday party for me, which wasn’t a surprise because she had to tell me, in order for me to be there. But it was cool, loads of friends, some of them I have known since I was five, and friends from high school.

Being There

MF: I had to be in Ireland, so I had to be in the country. I could have been in another country. No, she was just saying look, I would like to throw a surprise birthday party for you, but I need you to be there.

Place to Live

MF: I don’t have a flat in Hackney anymore, so to be continued, I don’t know. I have kind of been homeless for the last two years. Comfortably homeless.

Tradesman Vs. Artist

MF: A tradesman can create something, build something. All of my screen characters are creations for sure. But I find tradesperson more tangible for me to get my head around it and the way that I approach my homework and prepare something before I get on set.  Tradesman just sort of sits better for me as a concept.

Playing Two Androids:

MF: David has got a lot of emotional content. He’s a little bit unpredictable and he could be doing something naughty one minute and then crying the next. And there was lots of interesting things that I really started to develop with the David in this one and there is a neediness in David, and he wants validation and he wants people to go wow, that’s such a good drawing that you did there. And he’s also got vanity that is tied into that and there is a pride there in him. He’s also somebody who is charming and wants to sort of help in a weird way. And Walter is like a blank canvas and there is no motivation of Walter’s that is personal to him. All his motivations are programmed in to help the crew. It’s a very blank sheet and I wanted that because David is so theatrical, and to have a counterbalance between the two.

Artificial Intelligence

Lots of things that are interesting and I think the AI scenario is inevitable. It’s happening already, so I think this is a reality that we will be living at some point and I don’t know if it will be in my lifetime or your lifetime. And I think in some ways, I think we sort of set about trying to bring about our own demise, whether it’s environmentally or through developing AI’s because surely if we develop AI’s to sort of assess and process information, they will just go, what is the one thing messing up this planet? It’s these guys! (laughter) So then we should just get rid of them. And I could see that as being a reality for sure, a very real possibility. Does it worry me? Not really because there’s not a lot we can do and it’s going to happen. Evolution, these things, people go well technology, is it good, is it bad? It’s happening, and it’s not going to stop. It’s going to evolve the way it’s going to evolve. In terms of the creation and the creators, yeah, I think again, like I said before, I consider myself kind of spiritual, but I don’t I suppose dwell on it too much. I kind of try and live I suppose a positive life and kind of be as positive as I can around me and hopefully that’s good enough to get into anywhere that is good afterwards. But I don’t know, try and appreciate life and see the sort of, if there is a heaven, to recognize it sort of here and now. And again, that’s an easy thing to say, but that’s kind of the way I look at it.

Visual Art of H.R. Giger

MF: I am pretty ignorant when it comes to Art. But obviously I am aware of the origins of the Alien figure. And that drawing of the Alien, when Ridley saw it the first time, he was like absolutely, this is it. And because of that, there’s another layer of sophistication to these films, because it’s a beautiful creature and it’s grotesque at the same time, and there is something very primal and very sexual about it as well. So it’s operating on many levels and it’s very provocative that image and that actual sort of, then of course the real life version of it, the one Ridley brought to life. That’s a large reason for why the series has sort of remained in people’s psyche and people go return see every time. Like they missed that xenomorph in “Prometheus” and a lot of people were crying out for it and Ridley at one point thought oh, this has been saturated, but no, people are drawn to it. Obviously Giger had a huge influence in that first franchise and living through to today.

Shooting in Sydney

MF: I loved it there, it’s such a great town and great people and just I enjoyed being by the beach, and I was near Tamarama, but I went to Cold Coral, Fresh Water, Manlee, Bandai. I did a little bit of walking but most of the time I was trying to surf.

Being Practical

MF: Not much, I am not very good at that. I mean, if I am moving around, I don’t stay in hotels that much. So for example, filming in Sydney, the priority for me is to find an apartment or a house as quickly as I can. And so I found a really nice place in Tamarama and that is the home then for four months. And that’s kind of the same wherever I go, you just make that place your home. I just put food in the fridge, (laughter) and that is kind of it really. I don’t have a lot of possessions that I carry around with me other than clothes. I do like to travel as light as possible. And I am terrible at DIY stuff. I am not very good. My dad is excellent, and I didn’t get that gene from him. But I can cook.

Can You Cook?

A place like Australia, it’s perfect for barbeques, so I barbeque. Most times, fish, meat, whatever, pasta if I want something quick, simple things. I wouldn’t go about making a curry or anything like that. (laughter) But I should start exploring more, that sort of cooking.

Harry Hole IN The Snowman in Oslo

MF: I loved Oslo, Norway is a really special place as well. I loved my time there. I skied for the first time, I learned how to ski in Norway, which was amusing for anybody that was watching. (laughter) But yeah, I love skiing now, it’s definitely something that I want to keep up. And I loved that coldness, that crisp cold. Cause it’s a dry cold and I found it really invigorating. Loved the food, people are super chill and relaxed, and Tomas Alfredson very talented, and we had a good time shooting it. We shot it in January, after “Assassin’s” at the beginning of February.

Playing Blank Character?

MF: I corpse pretty easily. I am not great at keeping a straight face. It depends on who is trying to make me laugh. They were not very funny. I mean, Danny McBride is a master of comedy. It’s not too difficult. I find that when I am trying to make other people laugh, I end up laughing, cause they sort of bounce it back at me. Oscar did that when he was playing in “Apocalypse.” He is very good at keeping deadpan Oscar is.

Living with Fame?

MF: Fame is the tricky part for sure. Just I guess I kind of like being a private person. I like doing my thing and fame is the tricky part and that is the payoff I suppose, whatever it is. And that side I don’t know, does that ever get easier or whatever, but I think you just sort of have to make your peace with that kind of thing. But that’s the tricky side. Fuck, I don’t know what advice to give. I’m looking for advice.

Playing Harry and Scandinavian Novels

I haven’t started reading other Scandinavian writers, but I have read 8 of the books. I like the character because it’s just a really original character. He’s, I find him kind of funny and there is something sad about him and I like the fact that he gets injured a lot, so he always comes out the worst of out of somebody in a tussle sort of scenario. He is brilliant and a brilliant mind, but very sort of all over the place in terms of maintaining a personal life. He’s just a really well structured character and with a lot of depth and like I say, I can see him very clearly. He seems like a real person to me. A lot of the action hero type guy who goes out there and always beats the shit out of everyone, and he’s not like that. There’s a clumsiness to him as well as a brilliance, but there is this sort of relentlessness to him and he will sort of come through in the en

Character as Alcoholic and Ugly

That’s right. The casting is very accurate. I don’t know if he is described as ugly really. They say that he is, but he does alright in terms of with other females that he comes across in the book. But yeah, I think there’s a ruggedness to him and again, the antihero thing, and he is not supposed to this very attractive guy. I think there is a reason why it sold so many books, because they are really well written stories and again, people like these sort of horror stories and thriller stories and the kind of killers that are written as well. And not only is it Harry who is a sort of fascinating character; all the serial killers are well thought out and all of the surrounding characters are around Harry like Katrine Bratt and Rakel and Oleg and there is a real complexity to these relationships and the world that he exists in.

Spiritual and Religious

MF: I was an altar boy and then I was actually head altar boy. It was pretty nuts, I had when I was 12 years old, and at my month, because there was four of us, and you had your month, and basically I had the keys to the Church. It was crazy! I used to open the Church in the morning and then I used to lock it at night. And I remember that I slept in one time and there was these visiting priests from America that were doing a service. And it was The Prince of Peace Church, that was the name of the Church I worked and it’s still there, and Danny O’Brien came running across the field and he was another altar boy that was going to be working in that service with me that morning, and he knocked on the door and he was like Michael, the priests are waiting, and I was like oh Jesus! And so I ended up running across the field and got to the Church, and all the congregation were waiting there. And these two American priests, I could see they were like, this is Ireland. So yes, definitely one of the first stories that affected me and stayed with me was the story of Jesus Christ. I remember when I was about five years old, that story made a big impression on me and I was like whoa, this guy was obviously pretty special and just sort of the philosophies of this man. But I did always find going to Church kind of boring to be honest. So when I became an altar boy, it was interesting for me because I had stuff to do and in some ways maybe there was the first sort of idea of being on stage. But I don’t go to Mass regularly anymore, I still go at Christmas time, and sometimes I will go, if I am visiting certain places, I will go to a Church and I will light a candle for relatives passed or people that have passed away. And I definitely do believe that the people who have passed away that have been in my life are still around me, and I will pray to those people at times.

Influence of Catholic Upbringing

MF sings, ‘Money, money, money, money!’ Just kidding. If you confess you can do it all over again. I guess the good stuff, which is love thy neighbor and I suppose the ten commandments are pretty good to go by if you were going to have a rulebook.

Time to Breathe

I am doing it right now. I haven’t done anything since, well whatever I finishing filming last year. So all of this is downtime. And I may never come back. I should have done it ages ago. And I would love to do a comedy.I guess I just have to get the right script and be approached with these sort of things. Maybe people don’t see me in that light.