Michael Fassbender is no stranger to difficult roles. He played a slave owner in “12 Years a Slave,” a sex addict in “Shame” and the brooding Edward Rochester in a film adaptation of “Jane Eyre.” In his latest role, the actor steps into the head of a mentally ill musician. Literally.
In “Frank,” Fassbender spends the entire movie wearing a giant fake head, which some might consider a crime against beauty. He is the leader of an avant-garde band that spirals out of control with the addition of a newcomer, a young keyboardist played by Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson, who begins to document the recording of the band’s new album on social media. As his posts garner an online fan base, they are invited to perform at the South by Southwest festival, but the sudden fame alters the delicate synergy of the band, and, of course, Frank himself.
“When I read the script I thought, ‘Wow this is really subtle and funny and really touching, poignant,’” Fassbender said at the New York premiere Tuesday night. This time the actor was thankfully in full view. “What was difficult was singing and speaking, because you’re inside of this box that sort of reverberates,” he said. “In terms of the acting, it was quite liberating to hide behind a mask and it encourages some level of mischievousness. I wish I could do everything in the head to be honest.”
Costar Maggie Gyllenhaal lamented she never got to try on the headpiece.
“I never tried it on. It was, like, very thick with Michael after a certain point,” she said. “We would have had to know each other really well.” Besides the cast, the premiere predictably drew a number of musicians — Jack White, Marky Ramone, Kathleen Hanna and Guns N’ Roses drummer Frank Ferrer.
“The band that’s playing afterwards, that was really the thing that made us [come out]. I wanna see what they do onstage tonight. I hope it’s not at midnight because I already haven’t slept,” said Hanna, who came with fellow punk Kathi Wilcox.
The band in question was the band from the film, reunited for the occasion complete with Fassbender in character to perform a song from the movie’s closing scene. They were performing at the permanently grungy former strip club Westway for a crowd that included Peter Sarsgaard, Alia Shawkat, Zoë Kravitz, Tali Lennox and Maggie Betts. Unlike the closing scenes from the movie, the room was in full swing.