The Many Faces of Best Actor Nominee Michael Fassbender, From 'Steve Jobs' to 'Macbeth'

Versatile leading men in Hollywood are a rare sight. Some actors, whether they can help it or not, are confined to the same types of roles throughout their careers — think Morgan Freeman repeatedly typecast as the "wise old man." As such, actors who can truly excel in a variety of personas are valuable, which is why you've probably noticed a lot of Michael Fassbender films in recent years. 

Fassbender, who is up for best actor at the 2016 Academy Awards for his portrayal of the late titular Apple CEO in Steve Jobs, has made a plethora of physical and emotional transformations to capture some of his best roles. Whether it's a tech entrepreneur, a heartless slave owner or a futuristic android, Fassbender has extraordinary range in his roles. Here are nine of his most versatile on-screen depictions: 

Read more: Bryan Cranston's Oscar-Nominated 'Trumbo' Reminds Us He's One of America's Greatest Actors

Steve Jobs in Steve Jobs:

This year's Oscar nomination for Fassbender is for his portrayal of the now-deceased, somewhat controversial Apple CEO. He wouldn't seem to fit the bill for Jobs' physical appearance — who had a lankier build — but he makes it work. 

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Stelios in 300:  

It's a smaller role in the film, but Fassbender plays the Spartan Stelios under King Leonidas (Gerard Butler). He, like all but one of Leonidas' men, falls in battle at the hands of the Persian army, but not before putting forth a valiant and gruesome effort. 

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Edwin Epps in 12 Years a Slave

In the highly praised film, which earned Fassbender a best supporting actor Oscar nomination, he plays the cruelest of Solomon Northup's (Chiwetel Ejiofor) slave owners, Edwin Epps. 

"Debased and demoralized as he is — and even forced to perform unspeakable cruelties — Solomon retains some human dignity, some aspirations for a better future," Andrew O'Hehir wrote for Salon. "It is Epps, rather than Solomon, whom the institution of slavery has reduced to the level of an animal."  

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David in Prometheus

Following in the tradition of the original Alien films, the prequel Prometheus features an android — David. In previous films in the Alien franchise the androids have ventured between being morally corrupt monsters and genuine saviors. Fassbender's David falls somewhere in the middle, and the emotionally complex android is one of the highlights of the film. 

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Frank in Frank

No, he's not really doing anything with his face, but Fassbender still has a strong performance with a papier-mâché mask over his head. In the film, the titular Frank is a musician — part of an experimental band that's extremely talented, though relatively unknown. A new member of the band (Domhnall Gleeson) aims to capitalize on the band's success, and challenges Frank's insecurities in the process.  

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Lt. Archie Hicox in Inglourious Basterds

Fassbender's character is one of many moving parts in the fast-paced Quentin Tarantino film, and his actions, along with those of German double agent Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger), cause an intense chain reaction of death at a German tavern. 

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Macbeth in Macbeth

In the 2015 adaptation of the Shakespearean tragedy, Fassbender plays the titular Macbeth — a man who murders the king of Scotland after receiving a prophecy from a trio of witches. Guilt and paranoia consumes Macbeth, and he slowly loses his mind by the end of the film. 

"Fassbender certainly doesn't wing it, turning in an all-electric performance that will further enhance his stature as one of the world's most in-demand leading men," Cahir O'Doherty wrote for Irish Central

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Bobby Sands in Hunger

The most compelling element of filming Hunger is how much weight he lost for the role of Bobby Sands, a man who leads a hunger strike at an Irish prison. According to Men's Journal, Fassbender lost around 42 pounds to play the part — a grueling ordeal that dropped him down to 127 pounds by the end of the extreme diet.

Source: YouTube

Carl Jung in A Dangerous Method

As the psychologist Carl Jung — the founder of the school of analytical psychology — Fassbender stars alongside Viggo Mortensen as fellow psychologist Sigmund Freud and Keira Knightley as his patient, Sabina Spielrein, who seeks treatment for her hysteria. In the process, Jung and Spielrein develop a controversial romance.  

Source: YouTube

His ability to believably play virtually any role puts Fassbender in rare company among a small group of actors, such as Daniel Day-Lewis, Javier Bardem and Charlize Theron. What do these three also have in common? An Oscar win. 

Ultimately, Leonardo DiCaprio will likely win the best actor award this year for his compelling performance in The Revenant. However, given the sometimes unrecognizable and often highly praised roles Fassbender has already assumed, you can certainly expect to see him earn future Academy Award nominations. 

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Miles Surrey

Miles is a staff writer at Mic, covering culture. He is based in New York and can be reached at miles@mic.com.

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