The Curious Case Of Michael Fassbender

It is interesting how Michael Fassbender has enjoyed the best of both worlds: blockbuster stardom thanks to his involvement in the X-Men franchise as a young Magneto and artistic cred thanks to his 2 Oscar nominations for 12 Years A Slave and Steve Jobs. Yet it appears that Hollywood doesn’t seem to fully understand him.

While he may have the dashing good looks of a leading man, audiences have rejected the notion that Fassbender is the leading man he has been pushed as when you look at the domestic non-X-Men box office numbers of films where he is the main lead:

Assassin’s Creed ($54.6m against $125m budget)

The Light Between Oceans ($12.5m against $20m budget)

Steve Jobs ($17.8m against $30m budget)

The Counselor ($16m against $25m budget)

Even his smaller arthouse films like Frank ($645,186) and Slow West ($229,094) have done unfortunate business.

When you look at the trailers for Alien: Covenant and how he is barely acknowledged, it is likely because Fox is nervous that the film, and the franchise, might not be immune to his box office poison.

But hope is not lost for Fassy.

There are avenues in which Fassbender can start to turn things around. For instance, he can always make the move to television where other respected film thesps have gone recently. Right off his Oscar nomination for The Revenant, Tom Hardy went from that to Taboo on FX. As he enjoys blockbuster stardom thanks to his involvement as Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Tom Hiddleston still garnered positive buzz for the miniseries The Night Manager, winning a Golden Globe in the process. Even as his film trajectory goes up, his Slow West co-star Ben Mendelsohn still managed to collect an Emmy for Bloodline. So these days, it’s not an embarrassing move to go to the small screen.

Since Michael Fassbender has developed a penchant for playing villains and antiheroes, he can easily dabble into the horror genre which has become very potent at the box office. Also, because the genre is less reliant on star power and more on concept, whatever film he potentially stars in wouldn’t rest entirely on his shoulders. His X-Men co-star James McAvoy, who isn’t much of a marquee name, was at the center of Split where he was the villain and that film went on to make about $200 million worldwide.

But he could dabble into lighter fare as well. Fassbender himself said he met with Seth Rogen about collaborating on a comedy in a future and I say he should by all means do it. We all know he can play dark and serious very well. But we don’t want to see him be dark and edgy all the time, now do we?

Lastly, as his box office has proven, audiences seemingly prefer him in much smaller doses since his most financially successful films (aside from the X-Men films) are ones where he is a supporting/ensemble player:

12 Years A Slave ($56.7m domestically against $22m budget)

Prometheus ($403m worldwide against $120m budget)

Inglourious Basterds ($120.5m domestically against $70m budget)

Much like if he were to do a horror film, if Fassbender tackled more smaller, supporting roles, then he wouldn’t have to worry about the weight of opening a picture on his shoulders. There are those who allow themselves in that territory but still enjoy box office success like….Tom Hardy who goes on and off the radar doing small roles in big films (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, The Revenant) and big roles in small films. Maybe Fassy needs to give him a call.

In my opinion, he’s one of those cases of a “character actor trapped in a leading man’s body” much like Jake Gyllenhaal who has flirted with mainstream leading man status before making a home out of doing edgy character work (End Of Watch, Prisoners, Nightcrawler, Southpaw, etc..) where he really shines. Even if those films didn’t really light the box office on fire, they still weren’t flat out underperformers.

So as you can see, there are ways for Michael Fassbender to reshape his career and for him to be utilized the way he should be. As a big fan of his work, I do hope that he can get out of the slight rut that he is in.

What do you guys think? Are you a Michael Fassbender fan and do you agree with these suggestions on how he can turn things around? Please be sure to leave comments.