X-Men Apocalypse: Michael Fassbender Compares His Magneto to Ian McKellen's

Michael Fassbender as Magneto in X-Men Days of Future Past

This May, the X-Men film saga continues with X- Men: Apocalypse, which pits our heroes (and some nominal villains) against the titular foe Apocalypse, the ancient, godlike and incredibly powerful mutant hell-bent on creating order out of what he perceives to the be the chaos of humanity. As in the New Testament, this Apocalypse also has his own Four Horsemen: Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Archangel (Ben Foster), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), and Magneto (Michael Fassbender).

When we last saw Fassbender's Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto onscreen, he was foiled in his attempt to assassinate President Richard Nixon on live television by Charles Xavier (Jame McAvoy) and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence). Xavier allowed Magneto to escape, ensuring that the one-time friends and now lifelong adversaries will definitely fight another day. The subtleties and contradictions of the character -- a survivor of the Holocaust who nevertheless believes the same kind of large-scale extermination of non-mutants is necessary -- will evidently be less apparent with Apocalypse's version of Magneto.

Screen Rant visited the set of X-Men: Apocalypse last July and spoke with Fassbender about this new chapter for Magneto. Fassbender has spoken about why Magneto agrees to serve Apocalypse, and how this entry sees the metal-controlling mutant pushed in a "more extreme" direction. He also spoke about how his Magneto compares to that of his predecessor in the role, Ian McKellen.

Michael Fassbender as Magneto in X-Men Apocalypse

Does this feel like Magneto is progressing towards the Ian McKellen version that we saw, basically straight-up evil with his own principals and justifications for that. Do you feel like you’re still on the villain journey or are there still ups and downs?

FASSBENDER: Well, I think Ian McKellen might have a problem with that (laughs). I’ve seen an interview with him speaking about [Othello's] Iago and how he’s an evil character and he’s like, "Evil, I don’t know what to do with that word." And that’s true, trying to unravel a character, "evil" is just too broad a word and too cloudy a word -- how do you access it, and how do you bring that characteristic and display it in a character without being "Mwahahaha!" Whereas Iago is racist, he’s insecure, he’s got all these other things that are huge things that you can build on. And the same for Magneto, he’s somebody who’s been injured, somebody who’s had all his loved ones taken away from him. He’s quite singular in his thoughts and yes there’s an element of a megalomaniac in there, and an aspect of a dictator for sure. So I always had those things in mind when I was playing him, so I don’t think it’s any more of a progression towards Ian’s Magneto. I think he was kind of doing the same thing.

I suppose by the time we see Ian McKellen’s Magneto in [X-Men: The Last Stand] he is, you know, pretty full-on. And I guess, in a way, it was these little steps that lead him to that, what makes him so empty towards human beings? And I think it’s because of these things that they’ve done to him, what they’ve taken away from him, their weaknesses. To me, personally, I know that my biggest fear in life is the mob, the idea of what happens to a mob mentality when people start feeding off each other’s fears and it can turn horribly wrong really quickly. So he’s been at the short end of the stick, putting it lightly, in terms of the mob mentality and human beings and how they respond when they’re under fear and insecurity. I guess the one thing about the comic book stuff, taking from anything else I’ve done that might be more let’s say anchored in reality, is I’ve always thought that there was an element here in these X-Men stories that is very anchored in reality in terms of people feeling misplaced or pushed to the outside of society. So I’m definitely drawing from real things to sort of ground it and root it in something that I can relate to.

Michael Fassbender as Magneto in 'X-Men: Apocalypse'

Indeed, the definition of "evil" is subjective, and the notion is even more malleable when it comes to comic book characters. Magneto's depiction across the different platforms which have featured the character has been varied, but the films have presented him as full of contradictions. X-Men: Apocalypse opens with him having retreated from the world, but he sees in Apocalypse a way to complete his vision of a world free from the rule of humans. Fassbender and McKellen's take on the character both featured this central design as more of a deep-seated need for Magneto than a villainous goal.

Like Shakespeare's Othello villain Iago -- or even Macbeth, a role which Fassbender has recently played -- Magneto does not (and perhaps cannot) see himself as evil. Richard III recognized himself as a villain, but Magneto sees himself as responsible for the survival of mutantkind and (like Iago) his deep-seated prejudices feed into that perception. Hearing Fassbender speak of his fear of a "mob mentality" is interesting given the level of fear Magneto has attempted to stir up in the past, which is likely to be increased exponentially in the all-out war to come in X-Men: Apocalypse.

For more quotes and reveals from our X-Men: Apocalypse set visit, check out the links below:

Deadpool opens in theaters February 12, 2016; X-Men: Apocalypse on May 27, 2016; Gambit sometime in 2017; Wolverine 3 on March 3, 2017; and an unannounced X-Men film on July 13, 2018. The New Mutants is also in development.

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