In the Irish dramedy Frank, Michael Fassbender stars as an undiscovered musical genius whose deep eccentricities include wearing a giant paper mache head at all times. His accomplices in his quest to musical perfection include Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a passionate and sometimes violent Theremin player, and Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), a pencil pusher turned keyboard player desperate to become famous.
After premiering at Sundance earlier this year, Frank hit a slew of film festivals from SXSW to Istanbul, New Zealand to Jerusalem. Now at long last it’s coming to theaters in the U.S. and to celebrate, the film’s cast and director Lenny Abrahamson sat down with us to talk about what goes on in that big paper mache head of Frank and what makes Fassbender, Gleeson and Gyllenhaal tick. Here’s what we learned:
Michael Fassbender is an unrepentant goofball. Yes. He’s an insanely sexy man who has built a reputation playing steely and intimidating characters. But if his performance as the free-spirited Frank isn’t enough to convince you of this actor’s playful nature, you have to watch the video above in full. Paired with co-star Domhnall Gleeson, Michael Fassbender came to play, breaking into song, giggling and gently teasing his interview partner.
To prepare for Frank, Fassbender played chess, the game, not the musical. There was some confusion on this point, as you can see play out above. Gleeson told me he listened to Joe Duffy, and Fassbender interjected, “I played a lot of chess. I didn’t listen to anything; I was in a chess hole.” He clarified that he did listen to Iggy Pop, but not his music, his interviews. When I admitted I thought he’d meant the musical Chess, Fassbender broke into a short improvised song, before realizing there is a chess musical. Then we briefly sang “One Night in Bangkok” together. Like you do.
Fassbender and Gleeson karaoke together, disagree on how good they are at it. After our impromptu duet I joked that the three of us should go to karaoke, only to discover the pair had gone just recently. “We did the worst ‘Irish Rover’ that ever happened,” Gleeson recalled. “I thought it wasn’t bad!” Fassbender rejoined. “It was great,” Gleeson corrected himself, “I mean, we both connected to the–yeah.”
Domnhall Gleeson is officially excited about Star Wars. That is all he’ll say about it as his contract is insanely specific on this point. Regardless, he welcomed some advice from Prometheus star Fassbender on how to place himself in a sprawling outer space saga.