The actor on his dual roles and what's next for the franchise
Warning: This piece contains massive spoilers for Alien: Covenant
Those who saw Alien: Covenant in theaters over the weekend know that star Michael Fassbender was on double duty for the film — playing not just one, but two androids: Walter (Fassbender), a loyal synthetic who tends to the crew of the doomed ship Covenant, and David, the former servant of the Prometheus, who in the 10 years since the events of 2012’s Prometheus, has continued to experiment and perfect his creationism skills.
Fassbender says director Ridley Scott told him early on he’d be playing both David and Walter in this latest installment. “That was the first bit of information I got, actually,” he says. “David is so curious. The interesting thing about playing him in Prometheus was the ego and sense of vanity and pride and that was kind of fun to play with.” The David we see in Covenant has gone just a teensy bit feral — he has a bit of an Iggy Pop hairdo (and who knew robot’s hair could even grow out?) and tends to break out in dramatic renditions of “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo” (and misquote the Romantic poets, too).
Of course, as the film unfolds, we learn that David is actually the architect behind the horror that unfolds in Alien: Covenant (which will no doubt lead to the horror that takes place during 1979’s Alien), a kind of robo-Mengele. By contrast, Walter is an updated model of David, one who has had any human-like traits (like emotions and desire) wiped out. “I wanted Walter to be more Spock-like,” says Fassbender. “More devoid of the human characteristics or emotional content that is programmed into David. I wanted him more like a blank canvas.”
Fassbender’s work has been cited as a highlight, but among the actor’s standout moments is a mesmerizing scene where Walter and David come face-to-face for an extended sequence that’s equal parts sensual and scary — and involves playing the flute (“I’ll do the fingering,” David says to Walter). “It was interesting to shoot and pretty fun to do if you enjoy the technical side of things which I do,” says Fassbender of working opposite himself. “We did a continuous take where I would do the whole take as Walter and get the beats and the blocking with the double, who was excellent. He’d play either character off that. And then we’d block out David and hold that really tight.”
Oh, and about that flute scene: “I was practicing playing the flute in the place I was renting in Sydney, and I could hear the neighbor complaining through the wall,” Fassbender says, laughing. “Saying things like, ugh this f—ing reminds me of how annoying it was when so and so tried to learn the accordion. I thought, oh sh– and stuck a piece of cellophane in the air pipe.”
As for what comes next for David and the Alien franchise, Fassbender remains discreet. “I don’t really ask Ridley too much. I get a few nuggets here and there, we’ll meet up for dinner and I’ll get a little bit more information. I don’t press him too much! He’s been doing great so far.”
Alien: Covenant is out now.