“I suppose the German side wants to keep everything in control, and the Irish side wants to wreak havoc,” claims Michael Fassbender. I’m not so sure about that. When I am with Germans, I’m generally the one keeping things under control, while the rest run amok. I guess it depends on the Germans you know.
Weg mit ihren Köpfen
The Irish missionary Kilian went to Germany in 689 AD. It was a big mistake. When Kilian suggested that a local lady was not the most suitable bride for a newly-baptised duke, on the basis that she had once been married to the duke’s now-dead brother, the Germans chopped off Kilian’s head, and those of both his companions.
But times have changed. When Fassbender smashes his GT3 Cup nose-first into the Hockenheim pit wall right in front of the Porsche crew, they run through what went wrong and roll out a spare car. A few weeks later, he has another sizeable accident and another spare car is wheeled out. German-Irish relations have definitely evolved.
Anyway, this story is all about an actor en route to Le Mans. Yes, that old chestnut is back, except this time it is rather more interesting (for us Irish, at least). After a two-year learning curve racing Ferraris, Michael Fassbender is training with Porsche for a shot at the 24-Heures. His teacher, Felipe Fernandez Laser, is a VLN winner with Frikadelli Racing and should be capable of helping a decent amateur find their way up to the level of a quick GTE-AM driver.
So far, Fassbender appears to show decent potential. A ninth place finish in a Porsche Sports Cup race is no mean feat for a rookie and there are flashes of speed all the way through Porsche’s latest Youtube series, following Fassbender’s Road to Le Mans. The biggest test will be whether he can put it all together, but this is man knows what it’s like to do 10,000 hours.
Heidelberg to Aghadoe
Fassbender arrived into the world just 100 kms north of Stuttgart in Heidelberg, Baden-Württemburg on April 2, 1977. His German father, Josef, was a chef and his Irish mother, Adele, raised the kids. The pair had met while working in London but ended up moving to Germany. Adamant that the Republic would be a better environment for their kids to grow up in, Adele convinced Josef to move the family to Ireland. So, when Michael was two, they settled just outside Killarney, in County Kerry.
Killarney was rally central in the 1980s, so young Michael got into Group B. Then followed the age of Michael Schumacher and, as a young German who spoke the mother tongue fluently, Fassy followed Schumi: he’s often now found on F1 grids with Crazy Liam Cunningham and the pair met Schumi at one such weekend.
The youngster struggled to find some direction until he discovered drama in school. He immersed himself in acting and staged Tarantino’s ‘Reservoir Dogs’ over two nights for the craic. He eventually moved to London to study the craft. Things were tough in the smoke and Fassbender was living on a few quid a week, working two minimum wage jobs and battling exhaustion to do as many auditions as possible. It all took its toll and Michael quit drama school to go it alone. It would not be the smoothest path to success.
When he quit his bar job after landing a part in Steven Spielberg’s ‘Band of Brothers’, the boss advised him to keep in touch, as the work might come in handy again. Fassbender laughed it off, feeling he had hit the big time, but, after a spell in LA trying to crack Hollywood, he ended up back in the bar.
Bit parts on British TV followed, leading to more and more screen time and the emergence of a fan base amongst critics. Eventually, things took off: he delivered an exceptional performance as IRA hunger striker, Bobby Sands, in the film Hunger and then Tarantino came back into his life, casting the German speaker as a British spy in Inglourious Basterds.
While the actor-turned-racer premise may initially feel like Fassbender is buying his way into racing and walking in footsteps we’ve all seen before (not that there’s owt wrong with that), there is more to this story than the same old thing and Porsche has scored big with Youtube viewers. Part 1 alone has 700k views and Porsche’s channel has 800k subscribers, so that should tell you all about the reach of this.
I am also a fan of the documentary: the way this is shot is just perfect. Fassbender is given the full expression of his Irish upbringing with no bleeps or edits and we see things exactly as his driver coach sees them. “I’m so bummed about the fuckin’ smash there behind the safety car,” is Fassbender’s first line in part 1. It’s hard to resist parts two and three after that.
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