If you know a lot about Michael Fassbender, you’re probably obsessed with him. If you know only a little about Michael Fassbender, it’s probably one thing in particular—that he’s well, ahem, represented in certain, ahem, places. What is it like simultaneously living with the mantle of being the next great actor of your generation and being reduced to a caricature of a single sex organ. GQ correspondent Chris Heath finds out in our cover story this month about the Irish actor and star of the upcoming Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s sort-of-prequel to Alien. Below, an excerpt. Click here for the full story. And here for more scorching photos of Fassbender from Mario Testino.
In the middle of the room is a mini Ping-Pong table, borrowed from his British agent, who lives nearby. “Now that it’s here,” says Fassbender, “it’s not going. This table has been the best contribution for fun I’ve had in a long time. This table has seen some action…” He pauses, laughs. “That sounds wrong.”
But has it? I say, gently pushing.
“Just the paddles,” he deflects, and of course he then realizes that this sounds wrong, too, in exactly the same way.
No matter. Just an inconsequential bit of innuendo. Except that right now, and ever since the release of Shame, I’m not sure that in the life of Michael Fassbender there is such a thing as an inconsequential bit of innuendo. For every person who actually saw the movie, and Fassbender’s monumental, unflinching portrayal of a man lost in the abyss of his unappeasable sexual appetite, there are dozens more who only know it as the movie in which he shows absolutely everything. And so, for the past few months Fassbender has been cast adrift in a shoreless ocean of innuendo. It has been relentless. He has been required to smile through endless hilarious penis-joke interviews. (Here’s a representative example, from the prime-time British boys-and-cars TV show Top Gear: “You had to do, let’s be honest, a full-frontal nude scene—was it hard?” Next, the pithy follow-up remark: “I mean, this was an impressive sausage….”) He has been required to grin appreciatively at playful public mockery from his peers. (Most notably, George Clooney’s speech at this year’s Golden Globes: “Michael, honestly, you can play golf…with your hands behind your back.”) And he has been required—this really happened—to identify a series of screen shots of famous penises in the movies. (Twice. Both times on MTV. The second time while standing on an awards-show red carpet.)
All of this he has done with apparent good humor, at least if you don’t try to read too much into his body language or the way his eyes shift or the flickering edges of his smile. Next to all that, what’s a gentle double entendre about sex on a very small Ping-Pong table? Go with it.
“Paddles,” he repeats. “And balls.”
And he grins, exactly as you would grin if you found this funny, though it’s easy to understand why he also says, “So it starts.”