We first met Michael Fassbender as the android David in Prometheus, and he’s returning to the role for Alien: Covenant along with playing new character Walter. We recently chatted with Fassebender about reprising David, introducing us to Walter, and lots more so read on for our full interview!
Alien: Covenant (review) premieres in theaters everywhere on May 19th.
Dread Central: How much more do we get to know David this time?
Michael Fassbender: You know, as much as we can do, for sure. I guess the thing is we haven’t seen him in ten years and he’s been without maintenance for ten years so yeah, let’s see what he’s all about.
DC: Is it interesting to come back to this character?
MF: For sure, I had a lot of fun with him in Prometheus, he’s a fun character so it was a joy to bring him back and to of course work with Ridley again on it, it was a really special treat. I loved it, we had a lot of fun, as we did on Prometheus.
DC: Does David have a different look from the other character you play?
MF: Yeah, there is a bit of a difference I guess but the makeup I think was the same. I kind of lost my head in the first one. I don’t know but maybe there’ll be some sort of closure, I don’t know.
DC: What’s the difference between the two robots?
MF: David has rhythm, Walter doesn’t.
DC: What is it audiences like about being scared and what’s this curiosity of unknown?
MF: Well, I think as human beings we’ve always been drawn to the stars and what’s out there, we see that from cave drawings, from hundreds or thousands of years ago, because it’s always been there. What exists up there? As human beings in terms of explorers we started off again to set out on ships and explore the planet that we live in, so the next phase of course is what’s up there? Now of course, with the reality that we’re killing this planet that we’re living on, that we might have to find somewhere else to go is another reality, so I think space has always been fascinating for us, and the idea of other civilizations, what exists out there?
DC: How did you find your footing with these characters?
MF: I guess every time you approach a character, I suppose, in a way because it’s an unknown entity until you start to work on it and then it’s still an unknown entity until you get on set and present it to everybody and sometimes it will remain unknown until you fucking wrap. I always think there’s, Steve McQueen used to say, filming is like walking around, hand in hand, sort of in a dark room, feeling your way around the furniture, trying not to bump into it, and that’s kind of a good analogy I guess.
DC: Do you live in this one?
MF: Well, I can’t tell you that, can I? Did you see the footage? I had this little shaving accident. So you know, there’s a bit of a challenge for both of the robots.
DC: What did they use as an eyeline for you?
MF: That could be a mixture between some sort of you know, not animatronics thing but kind of or, some dude dressed up in a massive sock. But I have to say on a Ridley film, you get absolutely spoiled. I mean, when I first came on the set of Prometheus that was the first thing that struck me, you’re on a spaceship, you’re walking around the deck of a spaceship and then again, when they arrive on the planet there’s huge massive heads, it’s all there to be interactive with, to touch, to engage in and that’s a real treat, especially nowadays with CGI. A lot of the times with genre films we’ll be in a warehouse with a green screen so Ridley I guess, he’s a very visual person obviously and he likes to create these worlds and it’s a real treat. The look of the alien is just you know, and I think when Ridley was introduced to his work through the writer of Alien I believe, he was like this is it, we don’t have to do anything, this is the alien because it’s beautiful but also something very brutal and intrusive and so then he created the idea of the base ships that they would fly so he’s there, it’s intrinsic in the actual alien itself, but the world too.
DC: Why does the word itself, “alien,” scare us?
MF: Well, I think history has taught us that we’re a bit weird when anything different comes into our parameters or our lives, we’re just fearful of different things and that fear can manifest itself in different forms which can be very dangerous but yeah, I think human beings just have this aversion or fear towards the unknown.
DC: What did you draw from for David and Walter?
MF: I guess originally with David there was some of David Bowie, the Man Who Fell to Earth, there was Greg Louganis, the Olympic high diver and then of course there were elements of Peter O’Toole, so it was kind of bringing him back to life again… there was something about Spock that I thought was kind of interesting, that he had such a logic sort of mind, I thought I could take something from that.
DC: Is one character much more robotic than the other?
MF: Yeah, I think the prototype, which David was, freaked people out a bit because of those human traits so they were like okay, you know, let’s just keep them as robots.
DC: Do you enjoy all the travel your job requires?
MF: I love traveling, I’m a mongrel, German, Irish, whatever, I’ve sort of travelled all over the place, I love that about my job and I really enjoy experiencing different cultures. I’m one of those people that enjoys not having borders because it’s just a pain in the ass going through immigration anyway. But I like that the world is small and to be able to come and go, easily move from country to country, is a great privilege…
DC: What would you say was your most recent cultural awakening?
MF: I guess nature is always the thing… I feel like I have a profound connection to the planet or something like that or physically, it will have an effect on me. Off the top of my head Peru, maybe. I didn’t actually go to Machu Picchu but I did a road trip of about five thousand kilometers from Lima down to Cusco and back again.
DC: Third time around, what did you learn about Ridley in this movie?
MF: You know, I think there’s so much there to the man but really it’s the joy that he experiences when he’s working, he’s happiest on a movie set. I would have to say on this one, of the three films we’ve done, he just seemed to really be having a good time. We’ve always had a good time filming together, I suppose the first thing that surprised me about Ridley was how much fun he is, that was the first thing that struck me on Prometheus and how mischievous he is. There’s a great childlike quality to him and what I mean by that is he finds the wonder in things still, he gets excited by that and that’s great to keep that enthusiasm and that childlike nature alive in oneself, I think that’s really important. The fact that he’s talking about shooting big films, small films, shooting these big films is really difficult, it’s like steering an ocean liner, they’re such big beasts and there’s so many moving parts but when we shoot with Ridley it’s like shooting an independent, it moves so fast and has that same intimate feeling you have on a smaller film. He shoots both actors at the same time, a lot of times he shoots with four or five cameras at the same time. I like that because you move fast and I like it when you have some speed and momentum going and also it’s nice when both actors are engaged in the same take, it’s like camera’s on you, camera’s on me and we’re in this moment together because of course a lot of the times they’ll film you and then turn around and film me and things can change in that time, maybe two, three hours later the camera turns around on me or you and things have changed in that time, so it’s nice to have the immediacy to capture the moment then, together. Of course, that’s difficult for a DP, that’s why Darius is so amazing because he can light the whole room and allow Ridley to shoot that way.
DC: What’s the wonderment appeal of working with Ridley?
MF: I think the job allows people to remain young, for good and bad, it allows you to sort of behave like a child somewhat because number one, it doesn’t require it but I think it helps to have that imaginative sort of playfulness and you just get to travel around, go to places, learn different things so yeah, the childlike quality, I would say I’ve retained that.
DC: Any cool childlike fun moments?
MF: I think it was more on Prometheus, walking around the ship, those scenes that I did at the beginning of the movie where I’m sort of looking after the ship alone, that was just one of those moments. That was the main impact for me because it was the first time working with Ridley, he was such a hero to me and I was not only working with him but working on the Alien franchise and walking around a spaceship. It’s not to say oh, it’s old hat to me no, but that first impression was a very strong one and you know, having done lots of films in between, coming back to Ridley there’s an easiness in working with him, it’s just a joy. Sometimes it can be quite taxing, there’s elements at play with people that you’re working with that are off sync maybe, or perhaps you don’t find that confidence at the top that you find with Ridley, he’s got that confidence and clarity and is a great collaborator so actually it’s a very easy experience. Those pinching moments, they happen a lot on his set and again, it’s a very rare thing to have them there around you like that and to be able to exist in them. I think any of the actors, we would have moments where we’d say wow, we’re on an Alien film with Ridley Scott, I’m sure that’s sort of a daily occurrence, I remember that first impression and how strong that was.
DC: What is your first memory of the sci-fi horror genre?
MF: I remember seeing Alien for the first time and it scared me, I remember thinking something else is happening. It’s funny when art or again nature, something, you know when you get affected physically by something, and it’s not an intellectual thing, it’s affected you physically, that’s a very strong feeling and I remember that from watching the Alien film. I also loved Star Wars as a kid, it was a big thing for me and I collected all the parts so yeah, that was part of my childhood for sure.
DC: Why do people keep coming back to the Alien franchise?
MF: I think it’s like we were saying earlier, people like to get a good fright, for whatever reasons, to get the adrenaline pumping and then the concept of other civilizations has always interested us. But I guess what’s pretty unique about the Alien franchise, and what’s disturbing about, is the fact that these aliens use us as hosts, so they grow inside of us and there’s something about that I think takes it to the next level.
DC: We saw a scene in a sandstorm that looks pretty intense…
MF: Yeah, they’re annoying because lots of shit gets in your eyes and stuff. It’s cool, it’s great and then of course there’s a lot of money involved so you have to make sure you’re doing your job, so there is that element, the professional side of it. There was a big rainfall as well, and the set got flooded for a few days.
DC: Any interest in doing smaller, independent movies after this?
MF: Yeah, just good stories. I don’t think I’m going to do anything for a while, I’m going to chill out a bit but nothing changes for me. I do a big film if I find that I’m drawn to it, it’s interesting or a small one as well.
Ridley Scott returns to the universe he created, with ALIEN: COVENANT, a new chapter in his groundbreaking ALIEN franchise. The crew of the colony ship Covenant, bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise but is actually a dark, dangerous world. When they uncover a threat beyond their imagination, they must attempt a harrowing escape.