German-born but raised in Ireland, 31-year-old Michael Fassbender became the hottest new star of British cinema thanks to his extraordinary gaunt performance as IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands in Steve McQueen’s Cannes prizewinner “Hunger.”

Before that, there were years of bit parts in TV series and a chance to show off his muscles as one of the Spartan warriors in “300.” Those muscles weren’t much in evidence after Fassbender dropped 40 pounds to play Sands. It’s the sort of physical commitment that gets an actor noticed. Fassbender is now taking the lead in Andrea Arnold’s “Fishtank,” and is signed to play Heathcliff in John Maybury’s “Wuthering Heights.” He has already completed roles in Joel Schumacher’s Nazi occult thriller “Creek” and Brit horror pic “Eden Lake.”