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Michael Fassbender finds little time to relax these days

Michael Fassbender can be seen “12 Years Slave” “The Counselor.” | GETTY IMAGES

Michael Fassbender can be seen in “12 Years a Slave” and “The Counselor.” | GETTY IMAGES

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Updated: April 14, 2014 4:48PM

TORONTO — Michael Fassbender is taking his newfound stardom in stride.

“I can walk down the street. I’m not Brad Pitt or George Clooney and I’d like to keep it that way,” says the big-screen sex symbol.

Fassbender, 36, stars in two of the fall’s most acclaimed movies: Ridley Scott’s “The Counselor” (opening Friday in Chicago) and Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave” (now in theaters).

On a cool morning in Toronto, he turns heads as he walks down the hallway at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in dark slacks and a black sweater. His smile is warm and wary, “I’m the guy who likes to be in the shadows. It helps the work,” he insists.

“The Counselor,” written by Pulitzer Prize-winner Cormac McCarthy, revolves around a greedy lawyer who finds himself in deep trouble when he gets involved in drug trafficking. The film also stars Brad Pitt, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem and John Leguizamo.

“It’s the kind of movie that you can’t really get out of your head,” he says. “It’s what Cormac does so well in his work, which is remind us that each action has a reaction.”

He says that his character believes he can beat the system.

“I play a guy who can’t be naive. He’s a defense lawyer who works on the Mexican border,” he says. “He meets criminals all the time and defends them. He’s arrogant. He believes he’s above anything happening to him.”

Fassbender’s love scenes with Cruz had an added twist: Her significant other was right there.

“It’s awkward to do love scenes, especially since Javier was sitting at the end of the bed. You just want to make sure that everyone is comfortable and safe,” Fassbender says.

In “12 Years a Slave,” he plays a man whose sanity has slipped. The film tells the story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from New York who is kidnapped and sold into slavery.

Fassbender stars as a brutal plantation owner who is drunk half the time and in love with one of his slaves whom he brutallywhips and rapes.

“It’s horrendous,” he says. “The man I play was in love with this woman and doesn’t know how to process that information. He tries to quash his feelings by beating her and turning to violence instead of his real feelings.”

Fassbender says that he had to plan a man and not a devil.

“A lot of people are saying, ‘Oh, he’s so evil.’ I prefer to think of him as a human being caught up in something so complicated and so unjust,” the filmmaker says. “I tried to find the human being as opposed to some evil plantation owner.”

Fassbender says the film “is one of the most complex movies I’ve done.”

Despite a career on the upswing, Fassbender says he has his doubts.

“The worst feeling in the world for an actor is to leave the day’s work, get in your car and go, ‘Ohs---, I should have done that,’” he muses. “You’re halfway home at a red light and go, ‘Damn, why didn’t I play it that way?’

“Me?” he poses. “I try to avoid second-guessing. I just go home and relax. Or relax somewhat.”

Big Picture News, Inc.

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