Michael Fassbender's first feature film role came in 2006 with Zack Snyder's sword-and-sandals epic '300.' In the five years that have followed he has established himself as one of the most in-demand actors of his generation, with a total of five feature projects in 2011 alone.
From the set of 'Prometheus,' Fassbender discusses his approach to playing an android, working with Ridley Scott and the weight of responsibility of stepping into such an epic feature.
WATCH: A special feature ad for 'David,' the robot
What can you reveal about the story of PROMETHEUS?
It's basically a voyage. It's a science mission, if you like. We're trying to figure out whether there was intervention in the history of planet Earth from beings not of this world. And there's this vessel, the Prometheus, which is going out to answer this lifelong question of why we are here, why were we made, and what our purpose is.
Do you find yourself thinking about those themes?
Those sort of things are definitely in the back of your head. You realise, perhaps, what the philosophy behind the story is. It doesn't really affect your playing of it very much, but you're aware of it so there are hints of it. It's a very important thing for my character, David, because he's engineered by humans and for him he's like, "Well, somebody engineered you too so you're programmed too." and they're like, "We're not programmed. We've got free will." He's like, "Oh, really?"
So David's an android?
Yea, I'm kind of the butler on board. The space butler.
Presumably, then, he's a little more comfortable with the idea of his creators, since he's aware of them from day one.
I think it sort of helps with the fact that nobody really gives him any time on the ship. He's kind of like the Billy-No-Mates. He tries to engage at times and there’s a bit of uneasiness, like you have in the other ALIEN films as well, towards the robots, that they're perhaps not to be trusted.
In his head, well they're just sort of engineered as well. It's his own sort of insecurity, that's his own defense against it, which again brings back the fact that he's experiencing these these human feelings. You think if you program something, after a while the programming bleeds and little sort of tributary things start to form themselves which then spark other personality traits, which is kind of interesting.
Does playing a robot change your approach at all?
It doesn't change your approach but you come up with the physicality by trying to understand how it would think. It's a logical sort of creature so everything is processed all the time and everything's retained all the time. Like the walk, I sort of took my walk from Greg Louganis. He was a high diver in, I think, the early 80s. I remember watching him when I was a boy. I always remember he used to walk this very particular way to the edge of the high board. So little things like that just might help. This guy is like a yoga dude. It's almost like he's in the neutral position all the time. It's not like how a human might stand with a certain attitude – his stance is neutral. But then, without trying to make it too stiff because I wanted to play it with a certain ambiguity about how human this dude is and how mechanical or robotic he is.
Ridley's androids are always a little extreme – how does he fit into the ensemble?
There's always politics within any group and that's why, I think, we have this eclectic ensemble. That's really down to Ridley, and Damon's really delivered on the script. It comes across in the tempo, the pace, the intelligence of the script - each person has got their own agenda on that ship. Each person is there because they have an objective that is separate from every other. Some people are there for the pay. Other people are there to get answers. Other people are there to hopefully attain some sort of secret. Others are there in somewhat of a spite journey. You've got all these collective relationships, individuals and motivations, and there's a lot of intrigue going on before the shit hits the fan.
WATCH:'Prometheus' interview with Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender
Do you feel the weight of responsibility that comes with taking a role in a Ridley Scott sci-fi film, when the last two so defined the genre?
It's much the same as dealing with X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, and it's the same really on any job that I try and tackle. You feel responsibility because people are hiring you and especially people of the caliber of Ridley Scott. You don't want to fail him. He's put his trust in casting you. And so I just do a lot of prep work and come up with as many ideas I can and then just bring stuff to the table. Then it's a trust thing. You just put yourself in his trust and then you can really have fun and experience things.
No, I mean, if you bring that kind of pressure on to set with you, you're in trouble. There's always an element of fear for sure. I think it's a healthy thing. I always have that. It keeps you on your toes and it doesn't allow you to get complacent, for me anyway. If I bring that pressure on set then it's only going to detract from my performance. I need to be relaxed and I need to be comfortable to try ideas out.
Have you been surprised by Ridley? Can you even have an expectation about what he might be like?
Well you can't. I mean that's the thing; my guess would have been as good as yours coming into it. The first thing you're thinking is, "Oh my god, don't mess up." Obviously you know he's a legend, and he's worked with some of the best actors in the business, and so you just think, "God, I hope I'm on point. I'm ready." And then you get on set and just realize that he's very relaxed. He loves his work. The energy that he comes on set with everyday, the enthusiasm, the love of doing his job - that was a really pleasant surprise. I have to say I got into a rhythm with him very quickly and we worked very fast and it's easy.
The sets are incredible – does that make the job easier?
I don't think I'm ever going to see anything as impressive as this. I remember walking on the ship one of the first days and I was like, "Jesus, this is it. I'm here." You know what I mean? It was like, no acting required. And I'm pressing all these buttons and it's like, wow, the art department have thought about this. The bridge is almost like the heartbeat of the ship, showing all the vital signs. Everything has been thought through. Absolutely, to have these things around you helps, without a doubt. It's like putting on the costume. If you do a period piece, being surrounded by the objects that they would have used at that time, all of that helps you get that extra layer on the character.
'Prometheus' is out in Australian cinemas on June 7.