OSCARS: Why Michael Fassbender's Refusal To Campaign Likely Won't Matter

Buried near the end of a lengthy Michael Fassbender profile in the November issue of GQ, writer Zach Baron gets the Oscar-buzzed actor to explain why he has no plans to do the campaign circuit this season for his supporting role as the vicious slave owner in 12 Years A Slave.

“I’m going to be busy working. I just don’t really have time. (Campaigning is) just not going to happen, because I’ll be in New Zealand. I’ll be on the other side of the world. You know, I get it. Everybody’s got to do their job. So you try and help and facilitate as best you can. But I won’t put myself through that kind of situation again. It’s just a grind. And I’m not a politician. I’m an actor,” Fassbender said of the whole Oscar process, which seems to grow every year and includes numerous Q&As, luncheons, meet-and-greets, private screenings, film festival tributes, presenting at endless awards shows, well-timed talk show appearances, etc etc. Many artists who suddenly find themselves the object of an all-out Oscar campaign find this part of the job even more grueling than making the actual film. And by the time the Oscars roll around they are spent.

Campaign or no campaign, in Fassbender’s case it may not matter. He’s very likely going to get nominated — and could win — for Best Supporting Actor and I think that’s a scenario whether he lifts a finger or not in doing the usual rounds. The film and the role are so strong it’s hard to imagine the actors branch ignoring him. Now after the nominations it could change, especially in a tight, competitive race where every vote counts.

Fassbender was on the circuit for 2011’s controversial art film Shame, which like 12 Years was directed by Steve McQueen. He won Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival and was considered a near-certainty to land an Oscar nod for the film as well, but the movie — and Fassbender’s performance — was snubbed by the Academy. Apparently he doesn’t want to repeat the experience. Fassbender was in Telluride and Toronto when 12 Years premiered but he hasn’t been around much since while much of the cast and McQueen are doing nightly Q&As and seem to be everywhere for the film which opens on Friday.

This all reminds me of the situation Sony faced in trying to get director David Fincher out there for The Social Network three years ago. It appeared that film was by far the front-runner, sweeping every critics award and Golden Globe in sight. But Fincher, working in Sweden on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, had already soured on the process when his previous film, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, was an early front-runner that was derailed by Slumdog Millionaire. He made the rounds then but seemed fairly disheartened by the whole process. When it came time to tout his directorial achievement on Social Network he was pretty much MIA, with his work schedule being a convenient excuse. At the time I didn’t think it would matter, even after it became apparent The King’s Speech would win Best Picture and director Tom Hooper took the DGA Award. Based on conversations I think the final vote for director was razor-thin. The difference in this case could have been due to Hooper’s tireless campaigning. He was everywhere while Fincher was invisible. In an extremely close race shaking hands with voters can matter. Other examples include Joaquin Phoenix, who rarely does interviews and never campaigns for awards. It didn’t stop him from a nomination for The Master last season though in the end he lost to Daniel Day Lewis. Meryl Streep has also been shy in campaigning for most of her 17 nominations. But when 2011’s The Iron Lady came around master campaigner Harvey Weinstein got her out of the house and more visible than I had ever seen her during Oscar season. After not winning an Oscar in 29 years, she finally nabbed her third statuette. Sometimes it just has to appear that you want it.

But in the end will Fassbender’s visibility even be an issue if the performance is so powerful it just can’t be ignored? Oddly, publicity from Fassbender’s declaration that he won’t be campaigning could actually be a plus. Voters might respect the “purity” of it all. And let’s not forget the anti-campaign stance Mo’Nique took for 2009’s Precious. She openly questioned the value of campaigning for awards and, for the most part, refused to play that game. Yes, that’s Academy Award winner Mo’Nique.

  1. Hope he doesn’t do one event. It is NOT part of the job. It’s self-aggrandizing bullshit that greedy producers put the actors thru so they can make more money on the film. Put forth your best work, if you like to do PR and events, by all means go ahead, but not one actor should HAVE to. And this article’s tone seems to suggest that it’s all important–with, THREE sentences devoted to the story, and the rest about campaigning. Jeez, the business side of things is so soulless.

    1. I love Fassbender usually but found him a little week in 12 Years a Slave. McQueen clearly has a huge man crush on MF but focusing on his character too much to the detriment of focusing on Solomon for the second half of the movie is a narrative mistake. It helps add to the feeling that the film leaves you cold. I don’t see it truly as a frontrunner anymore.

      1. He plays a slave owner… of course he’s going to win or be extremely publicized for the academy award. This is Hollywood… play a role that shows the horrible lives of horrible people dealing with racism, slavery, or any other standard fare which allows the extremely leftwing white folks in Hollywood to continue to make themselves feel good about themselves, and it will win. I will cite Denzel and Halle winning together marking the first time two black actors won the academy award for best actor in the same year. The year that Russell Crowe lost for his performance in A BEAUTIFUL MIND… I don’t care if this comment isn’t published frankly it only re-enforces what I’m stating. Have a field day.

        1. Russell Crowe lost because of he accosted the director of the BAFTA awards and many of the Academy voters were turned off by his tirade. Google it. You were probably in junior high school in 2002. So you’re going off of the preconceived notions of left-wing-loving Hollywood in your right-wing brain. Denzel won for Training Day because he was snubbed for Malcolm X. Actors often win for a “body of work” versus a single film. Please go away.

  2. The Academy made a big mistake when they snubbed Fassbender in the 2011/2012 season and not just because of Shame. That was a revelatory breakthrough year, suddenly he became a movie star (X-Men : First Class), a festival darling (Shame, A Dangerous Method) and most importantly, a worthy, enigmatic and quite simply brilliant leading man (all three films mentioned above plus the criminally underrated Jane Eyre). He deserved that nomination, hell, he deserved two (he was campaigned in supporting for Jane Eyre) but the Academy once again disappointed.

    Now he does seem like a lock for a supporting nomination, and if ‘Twelve Years a Slave’ ends up being the one to beat in Best Picture, he could even win campaign or no campaign. My guess is that won’t happen. He plays a remarkably unlikable character and it looks like his main competition will be Jared Leto playing a remarkably LIKABLE role that required serious physical transformation…and as far as the Oscars go, you usually can’t beat that combination. Especially if Leto will campaign and Fassbender won’t.

    Having said that I have great hope that he will be a brilliant Macbeth and then next year he may just emerge as the strong LEAD Actor Oscar contender he should have been two years ago.

  3. When AMPAS made the horrible mistake in 2011 in deliberately snubbing Michael Fassbender, the fans at the Fassinating Fassbender community were livid. Michael is not just a ‘good actor’ who happens to be handsome, he really is a tremendous talent – if not of his generation. And he has demonstrated this in just six years! I know Michael was upset when he was not nominated, especially considering who was nominated instead – it was obvious that he was snubbed because he was fully nude in Shame, and had the nerve to actually still be excellent in the role. I don’t blame Michael Fassbender for avoiding campaigning for a possible Supporting nomination, but that doesn’t mean he won’t celebrate and be honored if he were nominated. He’s just not going to play those games anymore like he did in 2011-12 for Shame.

    I’m glad an actor like Michael Fassbender said what he said because it needed to be said in light of his film, 12 Years a Slave, being in prime position to win big on Oscar night.

    1. Possibly, but at dinner tonight, I had 3 Academy voters tell me face time matters and if Michael doesn’t care, neither do the voters.
      Face it:
      All awrds are a popularity contest.
      No matter how good Fassbender is, he’s beholden to a crony system.
      Play the game or go home without a prize.
      Simple equation, really.
      He’s great in 12 Years, but his snub could cost the film.

  4. Thanks for reminding me about Mo’Nique. Great movie, OUTSTANDING performance.

    Let the work speak for itself…

  5. Fassbender should already have a couple of nominations, at least. No wonder he doesn’t want to play the stupid game again! I’m looking forward to the two movies he will make in the time he could otherwise waste in lunches, appearances, and begging for votes from AMPAS.

  6. Oh, these poor people that have to campaign for an award that may inflate their paycheques to ridiculous heights. There needs to be a reality check. We all do things we don’t like to do because our jobs dictate it, and most of it for little reward, and we don’t have praise heaped on us everyday, limos to drive us everywhere we want to go, and Malibu homes to sooth our “spent” bodies. Get a grip!

  7. Monique is the exception, not the rule. Being snubbed doesn’t make you more likely to be nominated, it makes more likely to be snubbed. And whatever ‘boosts’ he gets from the announcement isn’t going to last till January. Hanks will win. He wants it.

  8. I worked with Michael on a film and I don’t think a crew member could ask for a more gracious and professional actor to work alongside. There are likely no ulterior motives in this decision, probably just giving respect to those with whom he’s working in New Zealand.

  9. Fassbender does NOT need an Oscar. He is already “prestige bait” without it. In any event, getting nominated, or even winning an Oscar is NOT a pivotal moment in history.

  10. I doubt there would be much room for him to campaign for this film anyway. It’s going to be all Brad Pitt all the time from now until the awards show. No one campaigns harder for this ridiculous award more than he does. A few years ago part of his campaign was threatening to retire. Don’t see that happening any time soon.

    1. Well you are 100% wrong. Brad Pitt, both a producer of and actor in TYAS, has been working on a film in the UK since last month, he has not been at any of the many premieres of TYAS other than TIFF, while the director, other producers, and other actors have been out in force in support of this most excellent outstanding film of this year (I saw it @ TIFF). As a matter of fact Pitt has an interview on Today tomorrow that had to be filmed at TIFF because he has very short hair now for his new WWII film.

      Clooney is the obsessed Oscar and award campaigner, each and every year, he gets the smoozer and kissing babies trophy.

  11. I’ve been following Michael Fassbender’s acting career since BBC’s Hex , and I would take him over Channing ” Wooden ” Tatum , James ” Ego ” Franco , Leo DiCaprio , Bradley Cooper , Jake Gylllenhaal , even Tom Cruise & Brad Pitt . Mike is at the top of his game , and he is beloved by everyone . That is his Oscar ! Michael knows how to be raw , dark , complex , light , and comedic . Plus, he smartly adds the right amount of sexiness and watchability to his performances . All of the reasons will cause Fassbender to have a long and fruitful movie career .

    I want the movie gods to find a way to sign both Tom Hardy and Michael Fassbender to the same film. It would be too combustible for the big screen .

  12. The Oscars, like the Emmys, continue to lose legitimacy every year because it becomes more about the campaign and the strategy behind it than the recognition of the work itself. It’s ridiculous. And the Academy loves it.

    There are much better ways of supporting a film than trying to get awards for it.

  13. Yeah. I’m tired of all those stupid endless campaigning for Oscars too. I think we are all tired of it. Actors tired, we are tired, why even do them? Why in the end statue or nominations have to end in the hands of those who campaigned more and not those who better played the role.

    No one would hate Natalie Portman or Anne Hathaway if they would simply get those Oscars. But for 4-5 months they were in our faces every day, from every interview, event and we were so tired of them that we wished they would just disappear. Same with Social Network. It was good movie, everyone liked it, but then it was everywhere, every day and in the end people began to hate it.

    I remember how Blue Valentine premiered in Sundance (I think) and then poor Ryan Gosling had to promote that movie for whole year everywhere and then he didn’t even get that Oscar nomination. I think only Michelle got it. And Fassbender promoted that stupid Shame movie like crazy and then did not get that nomination. I’m not surprised he does not want go through that feeling again.

  14. I think deep down every actor would love to win an Oscar. I have to give him a lot of credit for his lack of interest in campaigning this year. He made a commitment to Macbeth and its crew has probably been at work doing pre-production for some time now. It doesn’t seem right to them that he would be distracted while shooting it by an Oscar campaign.

    Also, despite the raves he’s been getting for 12 Years a Slave, maybe this isn’t the role he wants to win for because of how vile the character is. Bardem won for No Country for Old Men and has been typecast as the oddball or villain character in most high profile roles since. Maybe Fassbender wants to avoid that sort of typecasting by not winning and playing a more diverse range of characters.

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