In Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender play siblings of the future: Fassbender is a highly advanced robot named David, a kind of favorite son to the father of Theron’s character, Meredith Vickers. While Vickers overcompensates for her insecurities by being bossy, David is smooth and brilliantly manipulative. Their rivalry reveals each other’s central flaw—Vickers is too emotional and David too cerebral—but they share the goal of supremacy on their own terms. This essentially human conflict between the heart and the head underscores the larger themes of the film: science versus religion; reason versus emotion; the enticement of the unknown versus the evil that lurks within. Add a great many scary creatures that resemble a mash-up of male and female genitals and you have a grand existential battle amid all the sci-fi gore.
When not in character, though, Fassbender and Theron are anything but combative. Their friendship began at the rehearsals for Prometheus last year and grew during filming and throughout the awards season, when both were robbed by the Academy for their work in previous films: Fassbender’s haunting performance in Shame and Theron’s fascinating work in Young Adult were, apparently, too dark and complicated for the Oscars. “I would like to see a romantic comedy between those two characters,” Theron said at our shoot, which took place at an abandoned factory in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Although she was joking, Theron may be on to something—she and Fassbender have a natural chemistry that could make them the next great screen couple. They may not be romantically involved in real life, but they jab, they admire, they spark in ways that could seduce the world.
Michael, what was the first Charlize Theron movie you ever saw?
Michael Fassbender: The Devil’s Advocate. I knew nothing about it before I went, and during the movie I thought, Well, who’s this person? I had no idea what the movie was about.
Charlize Theron: Neither did I [laughs]. That was so long ago.
MF: And then you went on to win an Oscar. The rest is history.
Charlize, what was your first Fassbender movie?
CT: Hunger. A friend said, “You have to see this movie. It’s the best thing I’ve seen in my entire life.” I thought, Just chill out, okay? But I was absolutely blown away by it. It was, like, all bets are off from now on. This is the guy.
Michael, your parents saw Hunger at Cannes. In the film, you play the
IRA activist Bobby Sands, who fasted in protest of the conflict in
Ireland. He starved to death. Did your mother have trouble watching you
MF: Surprisingly, no [laughs]. I try to die in most films I do. In 300 I was killed by arrows. In Inglourious Basterds I got my testicles blown off through my ass.
CT: That was a great death.
MF: I had two exit wounds sewn into my pants: one on each butt cheek. It was a great death.