In terms of degrees of difficulty, no Quentin Tarantino film can rival the high-wire act that is Inglourious Basterds. Requiring performances from some of the most talented actors in the world, Tarantino’s script required versatility and an extreme command of language from the likes of Christoph Waltz, Mélanie Laurent, Diane Kruger, and Daniel Brühl. But in terms of specificity, it’s hard to think of anyone more perfect for their role than Michael Fassbender as Lieutenant Archie Hicox.
Requiring an actor who had an exact handle on the nuances of both British-English and German, it’s easy to imagine Tarantino wrote the part specifically for the Irish-German Fassbender, considering the specificity of the language command. In reality, much the same way Tarantino just happened to stumble into an actor who spoke English, German, and French fluently in Waltz, the director happened upon Fassbender and his diverse background.
Tarantino originally wrote the part of Lt. Hicox based on British actor George Sanders. The role required specific knowledge of the differences between German dialects and provincial pronunciations, and just like the role of Hans Landa, Tarantino needed just the right actor to bring the part to life. Fassbender was one of the finalists for Landa, but when Waltz won the role, Tarantino offered the actor the lesser role of Hicox which just happened to parallel his own upbringing.
In total, Fassbender’s screen time in Inglourious Basterds tops out at just over five minutes, most of which takes place in the basement bar scene that turns into a Mexican standoff between the Basterds and the SS. With most of their dialogue in German, Fassbender faces off with August Diehl as Sturmbannführer Dieter Hellstrom in an ostensibly friendly game of Guess Who that quickly turns into a tense standoff when Hellstrom sniffs out Hicox’s Allies allegiance thanks to his English hand gesture that gives him and his lack of German roots away.
Even though he had previously been applauded by critics for his work in films like Hunger and Fish Tank, Inglourious Basterds represented Fassbender’s most notable role to the general public up to that point. Fassbender is only in the film for two scenes, and yet his role is essential to turning the Basterds’ plan to kill Hitler on its head by botching his retrieval of Bridget Von Hammersmark.
Even though he’s perhaps the biggest character with the least amount of screen time, Fassbender’s Lt. Hicox is essential to pushing Inglourious Basterds beyond the realms of the standard war film. He was awarded mainstream recognition that continues to extend into the modern-day.
Check out Fassbender’s brilliant performance in Inglourious Basterds down below.