An actor’s IMDb page can sometimes hide surprising information in plain sight. Take actor Michael Fassbender’s. It’s not until you see his impressive list of credits laid out that you realize that he almost exclusively appears period pieces. In the last couple years, Fassbender’s played: a Roman centurion, a Spartan, a World War II British soldier, a hunger striking Irishman in 1981, and a Western outlaw. Later this year he’ll be seen as two of the most provocative minds of the twentieth century: Carl Jung, in David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method” and Magneto in Matthew Vaughn’s “X-Men: First Class.” And now you can see him as Mr. Rochester in the new adaptation of “Jane Eyre.”
Having realized just how much Fassbender seems to prefer playing the past to the present onscreen, I put the question of why to the actor during our recent video interview. And he provided the sort of response I expected, about picking projects less for their time period than for the quality of the script and the daring of their directors. That said, i have my own theory: Fassbender, with chiseled features and simple, unfussy handsomeness, represents our modern ideal of what masculinity used to be, before it was screwed up by dorks like me. Put it this way: At age 33, Fassbender and I could have gone to the same high school at the same time, if only he was raised in New Jersey (and I’m sure he’s really upset about, too). We’re almost the same age. But I — and most of my generation — still look like boys. Fassbender looks like a man.
Here’s our interview on manliness, movies, and making a new version of “Jane Eyre.”