Now in its third year, TIFF Soirée, a fundraising gala that benefits year-round initiatives like Pocket Fund and Reel Comfort, has quickly become a beloved new tradition that unofficially kicks off the festival. This year’s special guest was Academy Award and Golden Globe nominated actor, Michael Fassbender. Between a cocktail reception and late-night revelry, guests were invited into a theatre for an exclusive on-stage conversation between Fassbender and TIFF Artistic Director, Cameron Bailey.

Fassbender’s range of roles is as diverse and impressive as it gets. In Hunger (directed by Steve McQueen), he lost 40lbs for the role of Irish prisoner Bobby Sands. In Shame (Steve McQueen), Fassbender played a sex-addicted New Yorker wrestling with personal demons. In Twelve Years A Slave (Steve McQueen) he played a sadistic and evil slave master, and in Frank (directed by Lenny Abrahamson), Fassbender’s face is masked for the entirety of film. How does he do it? “I’m a great power napper,” he jests. (But seriously, naps are key.)

While his comic delivery on stage was well timed, he has not yet been cast in a comedy. “Maybe people don’t think of me that way,” he says. But that hasn’t dismayed him from trying to garner attention from filmmakers and comedians: “At a dinner party, I threw a blueberry at Seth Rogen.” Jokes aside, TIFF Soiree was a fascinating glimpse into the mind of one of the world’s greatest actors who not only went into depth about his method acting style, but also shared personal anecdotes, including the fact that he is an acting school drop-out and a self-proclaimed “slow learner.” (There’s hope for all of us!)

When asked by Bailey why he chooses the roles he does, Fassbender admitted to wanting to always push himself and never play the same role twice. “I’ve always wanted to learn as much as I can in the time that has been afforded to me,” says Fassbender, who is attracted to characters that seem impossible to pull off. “If you push yourself further than you think you can go, maybe you can improve.” It’s a strategy that has worked well for him so far, and one that has allowed him to take roles in both indie films (with directors he admires) and Hollywood blockbusters like X-Men and Prometheus.

Fassbender loves seeing his films for the first time with a big festival audience. “I get off on it. One feels more alive when the stakes are high.”

If you didn’t catch him last night, watch Fassbender in Tresspass Against Us (directed by Adam Smith) premiering at TIFF on Friday, September 9th.

Click on any image to view as gallery.