Photography by { John Russo

Written by { Bonnie Davidson

Styling by { Victoria Sekrier

Grooming by { Lee Machin

Two-time Oscar nominee Michael Fassbender has been playing Erik Lensherr, the mutant terrorist also known as Magneto, since 2011’s X-Men: First Class. As the X-Men’s most dangerous foe, his character possesses the ability to telekinetically manipulate magnetic fields. He has evolved over time into a leader in his own right, and has struggled with society’s treatment of mutants. We find him living on a remote island named Genosha, a refuge for wayward and homeless mutants.

What brought you back to the film series?

I loved the journey up to Dark Phoenix and specifically wanted to come back because Simon was directing. I wanted to lend whatever I could bring to the table for him. He was such a fantastic collaborator and engineer of First Class, Days of Future Past and Apocalypse and I was really excited to see him get in the director’s chair. 

How did Simon do in his directorial debut?

He was very relaxed, very confident; it seemed like he’d been doing it for years. He’s been on so many massive films and been an integral part in so many of them. He’s also a very smart man, the kind of guy that doesn’t speak unless he’s educated on something or has knowledge on it. He observes, he listens; all the ingredients to make a great director. I think he wanted to strip everything down, boil it down to the bones… even visually, the way he shot it. A lot of it is handheld, and I’m not wearing any Magneto costumes. The helmet is there, but everything is pared down to be a character exploration. 

Did the others envy you for being able to wear a turtleneck and jeans?

I don’t know! I certainly was very thankful that it was an easy in and out for me, especially if you look at what Nicholas goes through each day as Beast! Compared to him, I definitely had an easier route.

What’s going on with Erik?

He’s finally become the cult leader that was always alive in him! He’s formed Genosha, so he’s managed to create this community, independent state/nation where mutants can live in harmony and without attack, and anyone who agrees to pitch in and do their part is welcome. It’s self-sufficient, it’s off the grid, and it’s the culmination of his struggles through the series. Since his family has been ripped away from him—[considering] what happened to him as a child and then, of course, with his wife and child—a sense of death is always with him. But this is a mature Erik. He’s more at peace, and he only leaves this haven out of loyalty. It’s like an old Western. He’s got to go on his mission. 

Jessica joined the cast this time. Did you get to act with her?

It was great to have her join us. We didn’t really have a lot of scenes together; just a few moments in the final act of the movie. She’s present with Jean, and so it mainly was acting beats that I had any interaction with her character, to be fair. It’s a very technical exercise. You’ve got to make sure that the timings are right and know that a lot of things are going to be added in later. It’s making sure those rhythms are correct. 

Have you gotten used to the whole special effects aspect of filmmaking these days?

Absolutely. When I started doing effects movies, you had to imagine what they were going to put in later. There was some storyboarding stuff. But now they’ve got pre-visualization stuff that they show you on a laptop, to see what it’s going to look like and the geographical elements. Of course, you know it’s going to be a lot more fantastical when the team has spent some time on it. I enjoy the technical challenges; it’s another thing that needs to be learned, and it’s something that is fun to explore. It’s not only being in time with the actors. It’s also being in time with the stunt team. If you’re on wires, it’s the riggers… Everybody is communicating in the same rhythm. It’s like a dance and I enjoy that.

Was the mood still playful on set? 

At the beginning you’re really trying to bond with everyone, you’re getting to know each other. Those sorts of silly games can be a little annoying if people are trying to gather order on set, but they’re also very important for the actors to get to a personal level with one another, to be comfortable with one another, and to have that camaraderie. We trust each other, we depend on each other and we all like each other. So, it’s just the maturation of that relationship, I think. 

Are you ever tempted to go method with Magneto’s feeling of isolation?

It depends what my mood is on the day. Absolutely there are times where I’ll just go away and find a corner where I can just be by myself if I need to be in more of a meditative state. We’re all at ease with one another. We all know each other very well and it’s whatever each of us needs to do. There’s always a respect there about whatever the other person’s process is and if anyone is ever struggling on camera, or in a moment, we’re all there for each other 100 percent. We want everyone to be the best on these sets.

What is the overriding theme of the movie this time?

Female characters and power. Simon had unfinished business after The Last Stand, and you could tell from Apocalypse that he was putting this story in place, setting it up. So, the germ of that was there. And the timing, as it happens, just seems to be in sync with what’s going on in the real world. But Simon’s always been of that mindset, the equality across the board for both the female and male characters.

Were you pleased not to be the threat this time?

I was a little bit jealous, to be honest. “What? Somebody else is causing trouble?” Although Apocalypse already stole that from me in the movie before, so I was getting used to it!

Would you come back again if asked?

I’m not spending much time thinking about it. I’ve had a great journey on these four films. I’m happy. If something comes up that looks interesting, I’m always willing to read and take a look. But I’m perfectly happy.