So the first picture of Michael Fassbender as Frank Sidebottom have appeared on the internet, and the internet is all a kerfuffle. It doesn’t look – right – they say. The eyes aren’t round, the eyebrows have been shifted from Sievey’s perma-surprise to a more reflective, even pair of brows. And real-Frank was more dapper than this movie-Frank. The body language is all off too (but this may not be a film take). Just wait til we hear his voice, possible drifting from the Irish-German lilts that are the Scylla and Charybdis of all of Fassbender’s vocal performances.
But hold on a minute. Do we want this Frank to look just like the real Frank? This is not a case of impersonation, Fassbender is playing a role. A role in a film about which Jon Ronson , one of the writers, says : “The film isn’t a film about Frank Sidebottom. It’s totally made up and – whilst inspired by Frank – is inspired by other people too” Other people who took to the stage with papier mache heads, it was a big scene in the mid-eighties…
But if you think of it as a role, the subtle differences in this head to real-Frank’s head start to make more sense. If the other actors, if anyone is playing a real character, they will not be able to physically replicate them. This head must be a choice, its not as if the producers would have found it difficult to replicate Sievey’s original model. If it is a mistake that a costume design/art director is out of a job. So it must be intentional. And perhpas it is. I remember seeing Walk The Line and thinking at the end what a great job Joaquin Phoenix did as Johnny Cash. He didn’t look remotely like Cash. Or indeed sound much like him. So why hire Michael Fassbender if you are just going to put him in a perfect replica of Sidebottom’s head. Where is the acting in that? Oval eyes…that’s acting.