When the camera is on, Michael Fassbender is one of the most convincing and compelling actors working. In 12 Years a Slave, he’s terrifying as the morally depraved Edwin Epps, a plantation owner who abuses his slaves in every possible way. But when his work is done, his work is done. At least that’s what the 36-year-old Irishman has decided when it comes to the Oscar campaigns that will inevitably follow 12 Years’ release on Oct. 18. “I won’t put myself through that kind of situation again,” Fassbender tells GQ. “It’s just a grind. And I’m not a politician. I’m an actor.”
Last year, Fassbender played the game a little bit to promote his performance in Shame. He did the talk shows, laughed at the jokes about performing full-frontal… and then wasn’t invited to the big ball. He received a Golden Globe nomination, but Oscar passed.
This year, his chances for a nomination seem to be even stronger, especially in the Supporting Actor category where many prognosticators think he is the man to beat. But he’ll be in New Zealand working on a new film (Slow West) when 12 Years opens in the U.S., and then he’ll jump right into shooting Macbeth with Marion Cotillard. It will be interesting to see if skipping the glad-handing luncheons and the American talk-show circuit will hurt his chances, and he concedes that there could be some studio pressure to promote his and the film’s candidacy. But New Zealand’s remote locale – at least relative to Los Angeles – sounds like a blessing to hear him talk about it.
GQ: But people have a way of being like, ‘You need to be at this luncheon.’
Fassbender: That’s just not going to happen, because I’ll be in New Zealand. I’ll be on the other side of the world. You know, I get it. Everybody’s got to do their job. So you try and help and facilitate as best you can. …
Around Oscar season, the lines get pretty blurred between those two things.
Not if you’re not there!
Fassbender is hardly the first person to sniff at the dog-and-pony show that often surrounds Oscar. Just last year, Joaquin Phoenix called Oscar season “total, utter bullsh-t,” and Oscar responded by handing him another nomination for his work in The Master. Playing hard to get might actually be a sound strategy these days. (Just don’t call it a strategy!)