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Michael Fassbender on Inglourious Basterds

Published August 20, 2009 in Movie Interviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of TWC
Michael Fassbender brushed up on his German for Inglourious Basterds. He plays a British lieutenant going undercover as a German officer for a mission. When he runs into an actual Nazi major, he gets caught in a full German dialogue, Tarantino style.

Inglourious Basterds Hunts Michael Fassbender


“It’s kind of interesting because although he doesn’t speak those languages, I would hear one of the French actors would be doing a scene or whatever and do it in French,” Fassbender said. “He goes, ‘Hang on a second. What did you change though?’ The guy did paraphrase something and he was like, ‘Yeah, I did actually change.’ He’s like, ‘Okay, don’t do that.’ It’s amazing how rhythm and the music of text is so important to Quentin. Even in English, there’s a rhythm and there’s a flow to the text that he writes. That’s as much important to him as the visual from what I can understand, which is really I think a sign of a real master. All the interesting directors that I’ve worked with do that. I’ve seen them sit with their eyes closed sometimes just listening to the can.”

The tense conversation runs for more than the length of a film reel, about 20 minutes. “We did a lot of long takes, as much as a mag can take. I think regular film is like 13 minutes or something. I think we did seven, eight, 10 minute takes, a lot of those. We did definitely in the scenes I did, in terms of the Mike Myers scene and the tavern scene, lots of long takes which is great because you really get to play the scene and find the texture to the piece. It adds a sort of excitement in the air I think.”

Inglourious Basterds Inglourious Basterds


The plan is to make the audience feel antsy as Lt. Hicox tries to maintain his cover with an authentic Gestapo agent. “I think that’s the thing that’s great about Quentin. He’s always thinking about an audience. I always think that he’s first and foremost a filmgoer, so he always, I think, imagines sitting in the middle of a theater with popcorn. So for sure, you’re not really sort of judging yourself that much because that’s the director’s chore but you’re always aware of your audience to a degree for sure. That’s what we were trying to get, that effect of stretching an elastic band to that breaking point. It’s uncomfortable and it’s edgy. How long can you sustain it? I guess that’s what he’s a real master at.”

Staying in the German tavern set for two weeks to shoot the scene had its tensions too. “It was hot. It was great. We had a lot of fun doing that, really good bunch of actors and a fantastic crew. Quentin coming in every day with the enthusiasm that he brings to the set, it’s infectious. We’d have music playing in between takes on set and there was just a real sort of creative nonego atmosphere. And although we did it hundreds of times, we always managed to keep it sort of fresh and look for new sort of twists or nuances within the piece. I just really enjoyed watching all the other actors do their thing in that room. It was a lot of fun.”

Inglourious Basterds opens to theaters on August 21st.

For the posters, trailer, photos and more movie info, go to the Inglourious Basterds Movie Page.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of TWC
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