Dialogue: Michael Fassbender, on 'Prometheus,' His Ambiguous Character, and Which Film Might Inspire The Sequel

Dialogue: Michael Fassbender, on 'Prometheus,' His Ambiguous Character, and Which Film Might Inspire The Sequel

Jun 06, 2012


Androids have been an integral part of the Alien universe ever since Ash (Ian Holm) went berserk on the crew of the Nostromo. But few of the actors playing machines for an Alien film have achieved the level of mysterious tension achieved by the outstanding Michael Fassbender in Sir Ridley Scott’s latest, Prometheus. David is, on the surface, an android employed by string-puller Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce). But as the film plays out, the audience is never fully clear of David’s motivations, and it only adds to the texture of Scott’s unpredictable effort.
We were lucky enough to speak with Fassbender about David, Scott’s process, his approach to the character and his own personal beliefs when it comes to religion and philosophy.  
Be warned! Fassbender speaks openly about Prometheus, meaning there’s a lot of detail in this interview that you might not want to know until after you’ve see Prometheus. Please proceed with caution!
Movies.com: You’ve been doing a lot of press for the film. Are you hearing vague, or simply incorrect, interpretations of your character, David, and his motivations? 
Michael Fassbender: Yes, but I love it. Lots of people have brought loads of different ideas about David, but that’s what you want, I suppose, that people can paint their own picture after you’ve presented a character – whether they like it or not. I want them to see the inspiration, but I think that’s cool.
Movies.com: Do you mind speaking about his motivations, or would you prefer to keep them ambiguous?
MF: Well, I tried to do that with the character as a whole, turning him into one giant question mark. You don’t know from scene to scene if he’s being sincere or sarcastic, if there are human traits alive under the surface or not. He’s programmed, but has he started to develop his own motivations?
Movies.com: I thought there was at least one indication that David feels affection for Peter Weyland (Pearce), but I don’t know if I’m misreading that. 
MF: Perfect, yeah, I don’t know, either. [Laughs] 
Movies.com: That brings me to the next point. Obviously Ridley Scott has this mythology mapped out, and he’s showing us a sliver of it in Prometheus. How much of it was explained to you in terms of where this story could evolve next, and how much did you feel you needed to know to create David?
MF: You know, he talked an awful lot – and I tuned out for most of it [Laughs] … no, I’m just kidding – about the mythology and it painting one concept about who these Engineers are and what it’s all about. That was discussed quite a bit right at the beginning when I’d just received my script and I was in his office. But in terms of what happens next, and a direct link to this story, no, I don’t know. 
Movies.com: I’m curious, as an actor, how much of the philosophical and religious beliefs explored on screen in Prometheus do you feel like you need to subscribe to in order to pull your character off? Can the ideas being put forth by the movie be in direct contrast to what you believe as an individual?
MF: Yeah, I think so. I think it’s really different strokes for different folks. I do think there’s an element of really game-playing [to acting], a sense of make believe, or believing in it for the time that’s necessary to shoot, even if you don’t believe in it yourself. As an actor, you sort of extract yourself from that and spend time with the character. Most of the time, that can just be fun. It doesn’t have to tie into a belief-system within yourself. But I do think that you have to believe what you are doing as an actor. Otherwise it’s very difficult for you to convince other people. 
Movies.com: Prior to even taking on this project, had you given much thought as to who might have created us, or where we go when we die?
MF: Sure, I think all of us have some element of that going on, whether we choose to reflect on it or not. The records do seem to show that man was just sort of placed here. The first written recordings that we have all seem to relate to the stars, what’s up in the sky, and this sort of fascination with where we came from and where we’re going to go after we leave. There’s some other power that has been in control of us, and we’re sort of at the mercy of some other power. You know, this idea of there being a singular God has only come about in the last, I don’t know, several hundred years. Before that, it was believed that there were many gods ruling us. So it’s always been a topic of concern at time. [Laughs] And other times, you sort of relax about it all. But sure, I think that question is in all of us. 
Movies.com: I find that if I think about it too much, I just want to crawl up in a ball and hope all of that uncertainty goes away. 
MF: [Laughs] Exactly! And at the end of the day, what can you do about it? You don’t have much control over it all. 
Movies.com: Precisely. OK, I have to ask you some spoilery questions. There’s a crucial scene where David has to convey a line of dialogue to the Engineers. The movie hinges on it, and the response is not what he expected. What does David say to the Engineer to make him so angry?
MF: I don’t think it’s really … there’s nothing really offensive in there. I don’t … well, I know, because I know what the dialogue was. I did have a sort of transcript of it. We got a language expert in, and he taught me what he thought to be some sort of an ancient, Indo-European language. But I think it was just a fly. David was something in this guy’s way, and it was like swatting away a fly. He had just come out of cryo-stasis for however long he has been down, and there’s this thing in front of him. He just wants it to stop talking, I think. I think that that’s the concept, that we’re really just inconsequential, as an insect is to us. 
Movies.com: Ugh, that only makes me feel more insignificant. 
MF: [Laughs] Yeah, I know. Maybe it will make you feel kinder to the insects, then? Something good will come out of it.
Movies.com: Last one. I’ve watched a few of your interviews from the London press junket, where you are telling journalists that David poisons Dr. Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) because you’d like to see a romance between David and Dr. Shaw (Noomi Rapace) in the sequel. 
MF: [Laughs] That’s great! I love that. Yeah, I started that rumor single-handedly. Noomi was telling me this morning, “You know, everybody is asking me about this love affair.” [Laughs] 
Movies.com: Maybe you can get Ridley Scott going down a different path for the sequel? Maybe he’ll go for more of a Thelma and Louise vibe?
MF: Well, it’s funny you say that, because we had dinner, all of us, after the premiere, and Noomi was saying how I was floating this idea in interviews, and Ridley did scratch his head and had his eyebrow raised just a little bit. Maybe I have planted some kind of seed there. 
Be sure to click here for our exclusive interview with Prometheus director Ridley Scott, and our interview with Damon Lindelof.

Categories: Features, Interviews
blog comments powered by Disqus

Facebook on Movies.com

The Burning Question

Which one of these people is in the movie Justice League?

  • Orlando Bloom
  • Stephen Graham
  • Kevin McNally
  • Henry Cavill
Get Answer Get New Question

Henry Cavill