Northern Ireland

Actor Michael Fassbender describes playing Bobby Sands in Hunger as the film 'closest to my heart'

Michael Fassbender (right) talks to Juan Banco at the Lisbon & Sintra Film Festival
Michael Fassbender (right) talks to Juan Banco at the Lisbon & Sintra Film Festival

ACTOR Michael Fassbender has described his portrayal of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands as the performance "closest to my heart out of all the work I have done".

The directional debut of future Oscar-winner Steve McQueen, the 2008 film Hunger was a drama about the 1981 hunger strike by republican prisoners in the Maze prison.

It won a host of international awards, including the prestigious Caméra d'Or award for first-time filmmakers and the Sydney Film Prize.

German-Irish actor Fassbender played the 27-year-old Sands, who died after 66 days without food.

In an interview with host Juan Banco at the Lisbon & Sintra Film Festival in Portugal this week, the 45-year-old actor was asked if he agreed with Sands’ decision to go on hunger strike.

"I can’t really answer but I absolutely respect it," he said.

"I am kind of in awe of such an uncompromising decision to use the only weapon that you have left in such a scenario – which is your own body and to put it on the line and sacrifice it like that."

Asked about the conflict in the north, he said: "War is never a black and white situation – certainly, Northern Ireland isn’t a black and white situation."

On his affinity with the film and role, Fassbender said: "This film is definitely the closest to my heart out of all the work I have done."

Danny Morrison, former editor of An Phoblacht/Republican News and secretary of the Bobby Sands Trust, said the actor's comments demonstrated that 41 years after the hunger strike, the deaths of the ten republican prisoners "still resonates around the world".

"Fassbender was clearly significantly moved by Bobby Sands and references him not just as part of a resistance movement but also as a poet, writer and songwriter," he said.

"Contrast Bobby Sands’ international reputation with streets, parks and gardens named after him across the world and the fact that in her hometown of Grantham Margaret Thatcher’s highly-unpopular statue has needed round-the-clock CCTV surveillance to prevent it being paint-bombed."

The then British prime minister described the hunger strike as the "IRA’s last card".

"But today republicanism has never enjoyed more electoral popularity and support with Sinn Féin being the largest party, north and south," Mr Morrison said.