Trespass Against Us

Trespass Against Us: Michael Fassbender and Lyndsey Marshal on Teachers, Working with Livestock, and Going Big with Brendan Gleeson

In Part Two of our conversation about the crime drama Trespass Against Us (read part one with director Adam Smith here) we spoke during TIFF with the film’s lead couple. Michael Fassbender has been making a series of interesting moves with his career, unafraid to tackle giant budgeted tentpoles while still finding time for quirky independent fare like this film. He was joined by Lyndsey Marshal who first came to attention in HBO’s magnificent production Rome. The two play a couple trying their best for normalcy in the face of familial pressure, all while respecting the norms of their small community.

What drew you both to this film?

Michael Fassbender: There can be quite a bit of animosity between settled community and the traveling community, yet they’ve been living parallel for hundreds of years. In newspapers, it still seems to be acceptable to write the term “Pikey” and it’s quite derogatory for these people, and yet, any other minority group of people, if something of that equivalent was written it would be totally unacceptable.

I grew up in Ireland, so for me it felt like it was something I’d grown up with and I wanted to [show] the travelers viewpoint of their world and how it is for them to try and co-exist and even to make efforts to sort of integrate

There’s a line between entertainment and exploitation.  You want to be sure that you’re authentic to their storyline, not imitating their storyline

Lyndsey Marshal:  You have the massive commitment to do justice to that story. I feel like it’s a real insight into their world.  I went to school with a few kids who were from a settled site and I just remember they were so bullied, they were so ostracized, they were so separate.

It’s not a documentary, on the other hand, you’re dealing with real lives, real stories, real narratives.

MF: Everything that I do I take seriously, whether it’s me putting on a purple helmet and a cloak and pretending to move metal objects. We’re in a very privileged position as actors to be working and just never take that position lightly, so I really always put all of myself into whatever I’m doing.

As you say, when you’re playing sort of real life people and real life groups of people, or representing the traveling community here, there’s a responsibility to get certain things right, just on a very basic level. The accent, which is a pain in the ass of an accent (I mean, all accents are kind of, but it’s, it can go really sort of Somerset-y ), to try and keep it authentic to these guys, that was just hours of work.  That’s just sitting with a tape recorder.

There was a documentary they shot about the Johnsons, which Alastair, the writer of this, was part of. So watching that documentary, watching certain bits of that over and over again just to get a feel for this world and then drawing from the experience that I had.

Trespass Against Us

One of the undercurrents of the film is about the importance of education. Did you have a particular teacher or mentor that had a major effect?

LM: YI really worry about in Britain, our education system and how it’s changing.  One of my best friends is a secondary school teacher and he’s had to give up because he’s completely burnt out by the lack of resources. I’ve had a couple that I’ve been very lucky enough to have been in their class that just inspire you and I still hear their voices now. I went to my Classics teacher’s funeral. I think everyone at the funeral must have gone who the hell is she because I think I was crying louder than anyone!

MF: Lots of teachers, starting in primary school. Mr. Long, he was the headmaster of the school and then going into secondary school, Mr. Luddy, Ms. O’Donahue and Mr. Condon. There were a lot of really special teachers and it’s a very noble profession.

I think the education system at the moment is built and structured for an industrial age and we’ve moved so far beyond that.

Even people that weren’t teachers that put me in this position today, casting directors, a past pupil that came back to our school and started up drama classes, comedy workshops, I would have never known about this or that it was a possibility to do it.

Were you nervous hiding under the cow?

MF: That was the last scene we shot, so either we get shit on or stepped on, it didn’t matter. The cow was on a leash and there was a cow handler present.  But that [hiding under a cow] is a true story!

How did you two develop your characters along with Brendan Gleeson?

MF: Lyndsey comes from a theatre background so she brings a lot of intelligent physical theatre, all of the sort of things that go with doing a play which involves rehearsal and going in to all of these details of the characters. Then you have Brendan as well that’s bringing his wealth of knowledge and he’s a very intelligent man, so we all sat down and kind of discussed what we felt.

LM: Yeah, hours and hours of it.

MF: And that just sort of helped us all I suppose be on the same wavelength.  We didn’t like to rehearse things too much because when the cameras are rolling you hopefully capture whatever comes out.

When Brendan goes big in a scene do you find yourself pulling back?

MF: It’s about taste and feel, so yeah, if somebody’s doing something, you want to complement what they’re doing.  But honestly, I didn’t ever really find that I had to adjust myself because of what he was doing. My character was there in the documentary so I formed around that, and Brendan did the same

I first saw Brendan when I was 16 on stage doing Juno and the Peacock in Dublin and had a real impression on me then. He played Michael Collins in a television film and my grandfather was a big Michael Collins fan and believed he was related to him and so I remember the tape recording from my grandfather, whom I was really close to, so I always had this sort of connection to Brendan, and so working with him on set was a very special moment for me.

LM: I think he also rose to the challenge of what his lines are. Brendan’s dialogue was very lyrical. He has huge speeches that are almost like plays, theatrical speeches about super goats. I think he just brings another worldly element to it.

MF: That was an interesting thing about his character as well – He could read, but he wouldn’t let his son learn how to read.  Very interesting, very controlling element there.

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