Today we got our first glance at Michael Fassbender's Macbeth, in the form of a poster out of Cannes. Of course, Fassbender is not only the latest star to play the Thane of Glamis and Cawdor, but also the latest member of the X-Men to play the part.
As others have realized—and McKellen himself has even mentioned—the four principals of X-Men: Days of Future Past, who share the roles of Magneto and Professor X, have all played the title role in Shakespeare's Scottish play.
In a recent interview on The Graham Norton Show, Fassbender said that, though he didn't work directly with fellow Magneto McKellen on Days of Future Past, he had "spent quite a lot of time watching, there's a clip of him on YouTube giving actually a workshop on Shakespeare, and on the Scottish play, which I was ending up sort of doing after, well, just finished it now." Though Fassbender doesn't specify the exact clip to which he is referring, there is a readily available clip on YouTube of McKellen breaking down the famous "tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" speech from the end of the play.
Though McKellen played Macbeth opposite Judi Dench in the 1970s in Trevor Nunn's famous production, his X-Men nemesis and really life buddy took a stab (ha!) at the role more recently. He first appeared in Rupert Goold's production in 2007, and took it to the West End, BAM, and Broadway. In a clip from a 2008 PBS interview, Stewart explained that he too took McKellen's advice on the speech, which he received after running into McKellen (in the middle of doing Lear) on the street. McKellen told Stewart to focus on the word "and" in the speech. "So Ian is entirely to be thanked," Stewart said.
For what it's worth, you can't watch Stewart's take without noticing the "ands" after hearing that story.
James McAvoy, however, avoided his fellow Charles Xavier's Macbeth when he played the part in an apocalyptic take on the play the West End recently. "I didn’t go; I don’t want it in my head," he told Time Out. "I did see it on YouTube. A couple of times I thought: I don’t know what the fuck I’m going to do with that line, I’ll have a look at how other people do it, and they don’t know what they’re doing either!" He did however, suggested that he, McKellen, and Stewart might have a "Macbeth-off" when working on Days of Future Past. (For what it's worth, McAvoy also played "Joe Macbeth" in a retelling of the play for the BBC's ShakespeaRe-Told series in 2005.)
Today, however, the X-Men/Macbeth loop begins to close with the release of Fassbender's poster, and if he's learned anything from his colleagues we can't wait for his brand of toil and trouble.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.