Irish actor Michael Fassbender‘s profile is about to skyrocket with the release of X-Men: First Class on Friday. Though he’s appeared in films like Inglourious Basterds, Jonah Hex, 300 and Jane Eyre previously, X-Men gives Fassbender a starring role in a summer tentpole of an already-established franchise.
Fassbender stars in First Class as Erik Lehnsherr, a stylish man living in London in the early 1960s and learning to use his super powers. The character hasn’t turned into Magneto yet but in the film, the young Erik, challenged to display his “magnetic” powers, sees his mother gunned down by a heinous Auschwitz camp doctor, and the event dictates all his actions from then on.
In addition to starring in First Class, Fassbender has lined up an solid lineup of future roles including Danny Boyle’s thriller Trances; and a starring role opposite Noomi Rapace in Prometheus, Fox’s sci-fi project that was once an Alien prequel.
Here are five things you should know about the actor, who shares the screen with James McAvoy, January Jones and Jennifer Lawrence in the Fox film.
1. Fassbender admits he initially felt silly putting on a superhero costume for First Class.
He told the Irish Voice: “You feel like a bit of an idiot. I mean, I put Magneto’s helmet on and I thought I’m a grown man, for God’s sake. Then you just realize you have to commit to it,” he says.
2. He looked to Sean Connery as inspiration for his toned down Irish accent as the future Magneto.
“I took the Irishness out of my accent and neutralized it,” he tells the Wall Street Journal. “[Director Matthew Vaughn] said the reason that Sean Connery was the best James Bond was that he had this weird sort of quirk to his accent and it wasn’t straight English. I think that’s why he wanted me to maintain an element of my own Irish accent,” he told the Irish Voice.
3. He is a descendant of Irish hero Michael Collins.
London’s Telegraph reports, “According to family lore [Fassbender’s mother] Adele is the great-great-niece of Michael Collins, the revolutionary who helped found modern Ireland. ‘We’re only going by my grandfather’s word, but – I believe it’ Fassbender says. (He played Collins in the play Allegiance at the Edinburgh Festival.)
4. He has worked as a bartender.
And fittingly, appeared in a 2004 Guinness commercial as a man who swims from Ireland to New York to apologize to his brother (below).
5. Fassbender lost 42 pounds to star as Irish Republican Army hunger striker Bobby Sands in the 2008 film Hunger.
Like Christian Bale in The Machinist and Jeremy Davies in Rescue Dawn, the actor went skeletal for a film role. Fassbender put himself on a 900-calorie a day diet for the movie and when that wasn’t enough to make him look like he was starving, he began skipping, practicing yoga and walking more than four miles a day.