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A "Shame" To Miss It

If you've heard anyting about "Shame," it's likely about Michael Fassbender's penis. Yes, the NC-17 film opening in limited release today focuses on a sex addict, played by Fassbender, and the star does indeed do full-frontal nudity. Less than a minute of it, but from all the buzz you'd think he'd spent the whole movie in his birthday suit.

While I'm not opposed to that idea, it's a bit of a shame (sorry) that so much of the buzz on the film has centered on the sex. Because there are two beautiful performances at the heart of the film, belonging to Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, who plays his sister. I think the movie is a big step forward for director Steve McQueen, whose first film, "Hunger," only bears mentioning because of Fassbender's excellent performance. "Shame" is a sad, touching exploration of a man undone by his own indulgences, and Fassbender is spectacular.

I recently attended a press conference with Fassbender and McQueen for the film--something I rarely do, but had actually showed up early to meet Fassbender--and was unnerved by the fact that almost every question was about the nudity. Nobody asked the actor what it was like for him to emotionally dig into such a character, it was all about the skin. There was also a horribly awkward moment when one journalist asked Fassbender: "What advice do you have for sex addicts who aren't as good looking or rich as your character?" To his credit, Fassbender took the question seriously and explained that when you're dealing with a fringe society--like sex addicts--its not about money or appearance, these people have ways of finding each other.

Later that day, I sat down with Fassbender and complimented the way he handled the situation and the fact that he had a sense of humor about this whole nudity thing--he even joked about using "fluffers" on set. He replied: "You have to laugh. In life in general, it's either laugh or cry, and it's always better to laugh."

As for the whole brouhaha over his nude scenes, he put it perfectly: "It's like, yeah, you know, I have a penis, and so do half the people out there. And a lot of the other half have seen them. It's not that unusual."

You can read the full interview with Fassbender in the upcoming Dec. 8 issue. In the meantime, check out "Shame," in theaters now.

--Jenelle Riley


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