Michael Fassbender Talks Building “David,” His Character in ‘Prometheus’

As an actor, preparation for any role can require a great deal of research, analysis, and identification of character objectives. Many of these processes are greatly tied to an emotional outcome, as emotions and feelings are connected to any event in a person(or character)’s life.

However, there are exceptions to the average emotion-driven member of a story.

In Ridley Scott’s new scifi thriller, Prometheus, Michael Fassbender conquered an entirely different kind of character.

Fassbender recently chatted with Time Magazine to discuss his transformation into “David,” a new breed of android.

A different brand of challenge was presented for Fassbender in developing “David.” Even though one who normally uses traditional character preparation might take a different approach in playing an emotionless A.I., Fassbender seemed to think that similar processes were just as effective. “He’s got a life history of his own. It’s probably not relationship-affected. A lot of the time doing the biography is interesting because you can think about what was the character’s relationship with other kids in school, with parents, all that sort of stuff, but David was a programmed entity[,] obviously.” 

He went on to explain that instead of past relationships and experiences guiding his character’s heart, it was how he was, quite literally, wired. “[I]t’s more about how his programming has stayed intact. Are his objectives truly programmed objectives, or has he started to develop his own motivations?” Fassbender elevated an intriguing point – one that is often debated by many looking ahead to future days that might include robots, and scifi enthusiasts, alike. If artificial intelligence was possible, an android might have the capability to evolve into his very own sort of “human” status.

Fassbender went on to explain the possibility of emotions in a “feelingless” character. “I wanted to keep it open-ended. I definitely wanted to play with it, with the other crew members on board as well as the audience […] I just wanted to have the element with David, where you’re thinking, ‘Is he being sincere or is he being sarcastic? Is he being for real or is he taking the piss?’ I wanted that element alive in him. “

The element of mystery in “David” is certainly contributing to creating much conversation around Fassbender’s fascinating characterization. However, Fassbender broke it down into simple terms. “There’s always an objective. There’s always an internal dialogue going on. It doesn’t always have to be emotionally based. If I’m approaching a character, I don’t necessarily think of it emotionally.”

Fassbender gave a final comment about his actor process, which could act as a lesson for any actor. “[When] I think about what the character is trying to get and what the character [is] trying to achieve and how they go about going it, and emotion is a side-effect as opposed to being a driving force.”

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