Michael Fassbender On 'Alien: Covenant', Fame, And Leaving Brexit Britain

Actor also reveals what he'd do if he met a face hugger

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Alien: Covenant, the sixth installment of Ridley Scott's franchise about everyone's favourite friendly endoparasitoids, is a back-to-basics affair that harks back to the 1979 original - which is to say the long-snouted little buggers burst out bodies, 'hug' faces and generally terrorise a group of naïve space travellers while serving as a metaphor for all sorts of deep human fears about sickness, space travel and the future of our species. Which is what you want, really.

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Central to the action is Michael Fassbender, who reprises his role as David the synthetic android from Prometheus and also plays Walter, an updated model who looks exactly like David but is programmed to be less 'human'. Aside from a brilliant, Sigourney Weaver-matching lead turn from Katherine Waterson, the interplay between David and Walter is the best part of the film and lends a little bit of philosophical gravitas (at one point they quote Shelley's 'Ozymandias' to each other… you get the picture) to make you feel better about enjoying all the stomach-churning, gory deaths.

We spoke with the 40-year-old Bond-contender for 12 minutes 59 seconds exactly about the film, fame, and as much else as we possible could possibly squeeze in before bidding him farewell with a firm handshake, noting briefly as we go that – yes - Michael Fassbender in person is really rather handsome, impeccably well-dressed and perfectly polite, if a little visibly tired with the whole talk-to-successive-strangers-about-the-same-thing-for-hours thing.

How do you prepare for playing a synthetic human rather than, well, a human?

I spent a lot of time putting it together off set, a lot of time in the living room and the kitchen rehearsing the physicality of the part.

You mean the funny walk?

Yeah. Which is no different to how I'd approach any other part. I try and find it physically first, then once you're locked in you're locked in. Sometimes I'd watch a playback to make sure it's consistent.

Did Ridley ever say 'your walk's a bit off there do it again'?

No, no.

OK. How would you react if an alien came in that door right now?

You know it's probably not a good idea to run, but I think I'd end up doing that and probably not get very far. I'm more terrified of the space huggers, to be honest. I'd rather take my chances with the alien as opposed to having something incubate inside me like that.

I just saw Penelope Cruz outside leaving this very hotel, and she was immediately swarmed upon by guys asking for autographs and photos. They didn't seem like fans.

No, they sell those photos professionally those pictures, I guess.

Isn't that really annoying?

Well, everyone's got to make a living. And in a way they're helping to promote the films. It's not something I'd like to come across every day, but you understand when you're doing these junkets.

Has fame escalated now you've been in more blockbusters and you're in a high profile relationship [with Alicia Vikander]?

Definitely. Considerably, over the years, for sure.

Do you ever just stop and think to yourself: 'fucking hell, I'm a movie star'?

I don't ever think 'you're a movie star'. I stop most days and think: 'jeez, you're fucking lucky'. The dream was to work with the best people and that's what I've achieved. When I'm stood on a Ridley Scott set and we're doing Alien, I definitely pinch myself for sure.

How was working with Ridley?

With all actors, he puts people at ease. It's a very relaxed set. He approaches the work with a great confidence and openness. He won't ever give you direct orders, it's always suggestions or thoughts. For example the first thing he said to me about David when we were on Prometheus was 'he's like a butler in space'. I thought that was a great little note so I went off with that.

Did it make you think of Remains of the Day?

It didn't, although that's a good one actually. In terms of the physicality of the character I looked to Greg Louganis, the high diver, as inspiration.

Do you still live in London?

Yes, but that might not be for very much longer.

Because of Brexit?

A little bit. But also I've been here 20 years. I want a change of scenery now. I feel like something a little less intense. But I'll stay in Europe.

How do you find the atmosphere in the UK at the moment?

I think the media is responsible for hyping a lot of things up. A lot of people don't realise this is the safest time it's been on the planet in recorded history. I didn't realise. We're let to believe there's violence all around us but actually it's quite a peaceful time in comparison to other times that we've lived through. The thing that scares me are the xenophobic vibes. Mob mentality is the scariest thing - that concept of 'us and them'. I find that unsettling.

What do you want to achieve in the next few years?

I don't plan that much, I don't really think like that. But I would like to direct at one point in the next five years, for sure. Not something the size of Alien, obviously - something small and contained. Something I feel I could be confident enough to handle.

Alien: Covenant is out now.