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Michael Fassbender mixes pleasure, pain in 'Haywire'

The buzzy actor encounters sex and death all in the same scene

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Michael Fassbender has been all about sexual risk lately. In A Dangerous Method, he plays psychiatrist Carl Jung, tempting fate with a masochistic patient (Keira Knightley), and in Shame, his full-frontal nude scenes helped earn the film a NC-17 rating. (”I watched it for the first time in Venice and it was pretty full-on,” Fassbender says. ”When the lights came on, I was like, ‘Wait a minute! Give me a second here to put my clothes back on!”’) But in Steven Soderbergh‘s Haywire (out Jan. 20), sex takes on a brutal twist. The action thriller pits Fassbender, 34, against mixed-martial-arts champ Gina Carano, 29: She’s the special-ops agent everyone wants dead, and he’s an associate agent masquerading as her husband (as he plots to kill her). A savage brawl ensues as the pair enter their hotel room. ”It should be a quick kill, but it all goes wrong,” Fassbender says. ”And then it’s a matter of finding anything, something hard or that has a sharp edge. It’s an anything-goes-type thing.” Watch the attack in Haywire‘s trailer and it’s impossible not to see something sexual as these beautiful people tear each other apart. ”I suppose the life [these spies] are leading seems to be an exciting one, so there are many elements of sex and death,” Fassbender says. He supposes? At one point Carano puts his face in a leg lock while trying to smother him with her thighs. Fassbender chuckles: ”I mean, I just put my head where they tell me to.”