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A Michael Fassbender movie in which you don’t see the actor’s handsome face until the very end? In which the actor wears an oversized mask (kind of like a mascot head) and sings throughout the movie? Welcome of the world of Frank.
One of the most original movies you’re likely
to see at this year’s Sundance premiered Friday night, although without its two stars, Fassbender and Domhnall Gleeson, the son of actor Brendan Gleeson, who were off shooting films in other parts of the world.
The movie tells of a young man (Gleeson) who joins an incredibly odd band fronted by Frank, a gifted man who wears a giant mask and is surrounded by a group of musical oddballs. The movie balances comedy and drama, takes unexpected turns and may divide audiences into passionate lovers or haters, judging from early reactions.
Even the actors admitted they initially didn’t know what to make of it. Maggie Gyllenhaal — who plays a very aggressive bandmember with a special connection to Frank — was on stage with the rest of the cast and filmmakers after the movie’s premiere. The actress said she turned down the role at first. “I didn’t understand it at all. It took me a while to understand the tone,” she said. But the story stuck with her and weeks later, she called director Lenny Abrahamson to tell him she had changed her mind.
“I just thought it was very weird and bizarre,” said Scoot McNairy, who plays another challenged bandmember. “And I was like, ‘Sign me up!’”
Abrahamson said the music was adjusted around the actors and that everything was played live. “There was no playback,” he said.
And, yes, Fassbender did wear the mask, a mask that he could barely see through.
“The way to [act with him] was to pretend he was doing nothing unusual at all and didn’t have a fake head,” said Gyllenhaal.
The script actually began as a biopic of real rocker who wore a head mask in the 1980s and led a band that included future author Jon Ronson. Ronson, who wrote the book The Men Who Stare at Goats, wrote about his unique experience with the band in an article for The Guardian. When Peter Straughan, who adapted Goats into a George Clooney movie, read it, he suggested to Ronson that there could be a movie in it.
But as the two went through many drafts, the story became fictionalized and more of a fable. “We wanted to make tribute to the people on the margins of the music scene,” said Ronson.
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