The British video artist-cum-filmmaker Steve McQueen, who directed Michael Fassbender in the psychosexual drama Shame, didn't care for his leading man at first. "I thought he was a bit cocky," he recalls of their initial meeting—an audition for McQueen's 2008 feature-film debut, Hunger, about an IRA prisoner's fast. His feelings changed, however, during a memorable callback, when Fassbender's intensity stunned McQueen. By their third confab, they were hitting pubs in London together on Fassbender's motorcycle.
Hunger's arty brutality—not to mention Fassbender's shocking 33-pound weight loss—earned the film a heap of critical praise and set the stage for the two men to reunite with Shame, a portrait of a Manhattan sex addict that costars Carey Mulligan. During shooting, McQueen was impressed by Fassbender's fearlessness in tackling the graphic sex scenes. "I was scared, and I wasn't even the one taking my kit off," the director says. "I needed someone who could go beyond my reach. That's what Michael does."
The duo may not be Scorsese and De Niro yet, but McQueen has already announced their next collaboration, the antebellum saga Twelve Years a Slave. Brad Pitt will costar, but Fassbender remains the filmmaker's key ingredient. "It's like a marriage," McQueen says. "When you've got something good, look after it."
Past: Together, they blew minds with Eastern Promises and A History of Violence.
Present: Mortensen plays Sigmund Freud (opposite Michael Fassbender's Carl Jung) in Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method.
Past: Sported yarmulkes and payot as Hasidic drug smugglers in last year's Holy Rollers.
Present: Star as lefty roommates full of white guilt in the Off Broadway play Asuncion—Eisenberg's debut as a playwright.
Past: The indie starlet and the rumpled folksinger released two albums as She & Him.
Present: The new A Very She & Him Christmas, a set of standards in the spirit of holiday albums by the Beach Boys and the Carpenters.
Past: The Nine Inch Nails frontman cowrote the Oscar-winning ambient soundtrack to Fincher's The Social Network.
Present: Reznor reteamed with the director for the sinister Girl With the Dragon Tattoo score.