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Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen talk relished playing iconic fathers of Psychology at the press conference for A Dangerous Method

25 October 2011

It must be awfully difficult to take on a role of someone so esteemed and revered in real life, such as psychoanalysis’ Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud. However, Michael Fassbender (Jung) and Viggo Mortensen (Freud) relished in such roles, talking us through the difficulties and rewards when playing such challenging characters.

The stars, appearing in upcoming release A Dangerous Method, were talking at the film’s press conference at the 55th BFI London Film Festival, alongside director David Cronenberg, and writer Christopher Hampton.

“The fact that there is a lot of material written about, and by Freud just made it easier,” said Mortensen.

“I was a little hesitant to say yes at first, and had it been another director I might have said no. But with David I knew I would be in good hands, with him and his crew and I’d get to see Vincent Cassel again, and the fact that Michael was gonna play Jung, and that Keira was in it – many more reasons to say yes and take the plunge than not.”

These thoughts echoed by co-star Fassbender, appearing in his second film at this autumn’s festival, following on from Steve McQueen’s Shame.

“It’s always easier if there is information available to you, and there’s a lot for both characters,” Fassbender started.

“Then that’s the fear element – here is somebody who has a very passionate, vocal and loyal following. So you want to do justice to the character, justice to David and justice to Christopher’s script.”

Fassbender is fast becoming one of the most cherished actors in world cinema, with a string of impressive performances over the past few years, and this was no different as he successfully tackled what was such a testing role.

“The main thing for me was to tackle a very eloquent, muscular piece of dialogue, which I tried to treat as a piece of music,” said Fassbender.

“I spent a lot of time with the text, trying to find the different rhythms and get a real power over the dialogue, because again we’re dealing with a different period of time when discourse, especially in the academic world, was a weapon, and if you’re not in charge of it you’re going to get destroyed.

So you just put it all together and see what you come up with. What is interesting when your dealing with such heavyweight characters, and revered characters, is you find out there’s human beings underneath there that have egos and have very basic and obvious flaws and to play with those elements is fun.”

Mortensen was also playing a rather demanding character, and one that is quite different to that of which he is usually cast, even despite having worked with Cronenberg in the past – on more than one occasion.

“It was an education, in terms of acting. I’m using different tools, and speaking a lot more, speaking really well written words. It’s a very well laid-out, well manicured garden with very exotic blooms, in the shadows of which are very disturbing little creatures and secrets,” he continued.

“Also, the fact the character speaks so much; I don’t usually get a chance to do that - even in David’s movies. For once he couldn’t tell me to shut up all the time, I had to speak.”

Lastly, Mortensen, who worked with Cronenberg most recently on Eastern Promises, compared the BAFTA-nominated director to his very own part – that of Freud.

“David’s sense of humour is not unlike Freud’s, in his wit and intelligence, I think that you could say about David what the New York Times said about Freud shortly after he died, which was that he was the most affective disturber of complacency in his time and I would say David is right up there.

We had a good time and a few laughs along the way,” he finished.

A Dangerous Method Film Page