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Interview Watch: Michael Fassbender & Mia Wasikowska Talk Jane Eyre Gender Roles

by Sophia Savage
March 10, 2011 6:33 AM
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Thompson on Hollywood


Michael Fassbender, 32, is Irish-German, distractingly good looking, and with his role in as Jane Eyre's Mr. Rochester, his star is continuing to rise. We've been saying it for a while now, but he's only going to get bigger. So far Jane Eyre has earned a stellar 93% at Rotten Tomatoes. Rochester could have a similar effect on Fassbender's career as playing Mr. Darcy (in both Pride & Prejudice and Bridget Jones's Diary) did for Oscar-winner Colin Firth. (See clip and trailer below.)

- In Salon's interview with Fassbender, they call the film (which opens tomorrow) "a lean and invigorating reinvention of an oft-recounted classic, light on talk and heavy on landscape and atmosphere, that captures more of the cold, wild heart of Charlotte Brontë's novel than any version I can recall. Arguably, of course, both stars are too good-looking for their parts; Jane is supposed to be plain and Rochester forbidding and ugly. But Fassbender plays the tormented lord as a man being eaten away by a secret; if he isn't ugly, he's definitely in considerable pain." Here's an excerpt from the interview:

Salon: So you knew about Cary Fukunaga, right? Who is obviously quite young, but is suddenly hot stuff after "Sin Nombre." Had you seen it?
MF: I had, yeah. It was one of my favorite films of that year, and I was fascinated to see what he would do with Jane Eyre, this classic British stalwart piece. What I noticed about "Sin Nombre" is that real sensitivity to human beings and relationships, to how we deal with each other. Obviously that's massive in "Jane Eyre," it's so complex and so layered. I thought he was the man for it, anyway.

Have you read the novel? And did you like it?
Yeah. I mean, my mother and sister are big fans. It's that thing: Women seem to like that torture -- the love that they cannot have! You know what I mean? It's still happening now with "Twilight." The Brontë sisters live on in the "Twilight" franchise -- it's that same thing, the love that you'll never be able to have, even if they're madly in love. They can never be with each other! Why? Why? Why can't they just ...?

I don't want to go all theoretical on you, but one of the great things in this movie is the dynamic between you. There's almost this weird gender reversal, where what you like about her is that she's the tough one …
And I'm like an old frantic woman! [Laughter.] I'm like some neurotic woman running around my house, feeding the woman in the attic! Yeah, it's true, and that's what's great about it, especially for the time it was written. The idea that you have this woman who's taking on this guy, the master of the house. She strikes a chord there with men and women -- men like strong women, you know? That's why I think it still resonates today.

- Here is a taste of Movieline's interview with Fassbender's "Plain Jane," 21-year old Mia Wasikowska:

Movieline: Jane Eyre continues the streak; it’s an incredibly beautiful film. What piqued your interest about playing this literary heroine?
MW: I think that the story is so modern, in a way, in the sense that if you took away the costumes and the setting, at the core of it is a story that is very much a modern story. And it’s testament to the book — the book’s popularity has never wavered, it’s never died down. If anything it’s gotten stronger and continued and it keeps connecting with people. And that’s because at the core of it you have a young woman who’s trying to find a family and love and a connection, in a very dislocated world. I was completely struck by her character when I read the book.

Did you feel the age difference on set with Michael Fassbender? 
You know, not really. The thing is, I had so much fun with Michael. From the beginning I think there was a sigh of relief on everybody’s part that we got on so well, and from there half your job is done in the sense that we have a similar way of working, so we were able to counter the intensity of the material with a lot of fun and then channel that energy into the intensity of the scenes. And I think we just brought out the kid in each other, really. I felt like a 10-year-old hanging out with my buddy with Michael.

As a young person of the 21st century, how do you relate to Jane’s predicament and the specific period gender politics at hand?
There was such etiquette and such a system, a way that things happened. If something happened outside of that pattern, it was like, “Whoa!” It was scandalous. For me now, I feel like we still have that — a certain amount of the way things happen, the way things are done. But we have a lot more freedom, and that’s part of my admiration for Jane. She was an independent thinker, had such strength of character and thought, and in that time she was kind of radical. I feel like if she was in our time she’d be running Parliament or something, running the country.


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