Navigating The Animus: A Conversation with Michael Fassbender
Based on the blockbuster video game series from Ubisoft, ASSASSIN’S CREED is a visionary new take on the action-adventure genre. In this worlds-spanning tale, one man finds himself at the centre of an ancient battle between two powerful sects. Only by harnessing the memories of his ancestor, which are contained within his own DNA, can he end the conflict and claim his own redemption.
Academy Award® nominee Michael Fassbender (X-Men: Days of Future Past, 12 Years a Slave) plays Cal Lynch, a convict facing capital punishment, when he gains an unexpected second chance at life thanks to the mysterious workings of Abstergo Industries. Through a revolutionary technology that unlocks the genetic memories contained in his DNA, Cal is sent back across the centuries to 15th Century Spain. There, he lives out the experiences of his distant relative, Aguilar de Nerha, a member of a secret society known as the Assassins who fight to protect free will from the power-hungry Knights Templar. Transformed by the past, Cal begins to gain the knowledge and physical skills necessary to topple the oppressive Templar organisation in present day.
ASSASSIN’S CREED also stars Academy Award® winner Marion Cotillard (The Dark Knight Rises, La Vie en Rose), Academy Award® winner Jeremy Iron (Reversal of Fortune, Die Hard: With a Vengence), Brendan Gleeson (Far and Away, Braveheart) and Michael K. Williams (12 Years a Slave, The Wire). The film is directed by Australian director Justin Kurzel (Snowtown, Macbeth). In addition to his acting role in ASSASSIN’S CREED, Fassbender also served as a producer on the film.
ASSASSIN’S CREED marks an exciting reteaming for Fassbender, Cotillard and Kurzel who previously worked together on William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which was nominated for the Palme D’Or, with Fassbender in the title role. Fassbender’s other credits include The Light Between Oceans, Hunger, and the upcoming Alien: Covenant.
How rigorous was the training that you had to do for ASSASSIN’S CREED?
It was a huge part of it to get in shape and to understand the parkour elements of the game and to bring that to the screen. I did a crash course in parkour and then there was physical conditioning every day in the gym, five days a week and then working with the stunt team and working on fight choreography. It was very important for myself, the director Justin Kurzel and Ariane Labed who plays Maria, that we have the actors do as much of the fighting as possible. We probably did 95% of it in the film.
What were your memories of the wagon chase scene?
In terms of working on the wagon sequence, I was lucky enough to get to do some riding. It’s always important in films like this for the audience to see the actor doing it because it helps to create the illusion and maintain it. Riding horses is something I enjoy doing. Luckily I’ve done it in a few movies now and slowly I’m getting a little bit better.
How enjoyable was it to work on the scenes that have the historical background between the Templars and the Assassins?
I think that it’s fascinating to go back through a timeline, through a sort of genetic DeLorean, this Animus, using our DNA. I totally believe in the theory that through our DNA we have the memories and experiences of our ancestors and it’s passed down through the generations to protect us. It’s like a sixth sense or a gut feeling or instinct.
Filming the Animus scenes looks like it would have been quite hard work. What was that experience like being pulled around on wires?
I’m not a great fan of the harness and wires, but it’s part of it and it looks cool, so it’s worth it.
How do you make a film that resonates with the core fans of the game as well as other cinemagoers
We definitely want fans of the game to embrace the film for sure. They’re such a passionate community. But it’s like that with any film. If I was playing a boxer, I’d hope that the boxing community would enjoy the film. It’s the same thing. Part of the challenge of writing the film was that we wanted to distill this universe down to simple things that people could latch onto. For audiences who walk into the cinema without bringing any previous knowledge with them, we really broke it down to the bare essentials and that was the Templars, the Assassins, their ideology and introducing this concept of genetic memory, the Animus and then we wanted to introduce the artifact. There are many artefacts in the world of Assassins, but the first one that we concentrated on was the Apple of Eden because people would recognise it from the Bible as people have a reference point there. We wanted to highlight the parkour elements as well.
There are some impressive sets in the film. How did they help you as an actor?
I think that the action sequences in the film are second to none and it was very important to Justin and myself that we wanted to do this in an old school fashion. A lot of the films in this genre and in this day and age are very much saturated with CGI and special effects. We wanted to do this with real people and real locations so I think that the biggest treat for me was doing the fight sequences on the rooftops in Valletta, the old town in Malta. Hanging off buildings and jumping off the buildings was very exciting. It was very hot, but a lot of fun.
THE TIME HAS COME FOR GAMERS EVERYWHERE TO EMBRACE THE CREED. ASSASSIN’S CREED IS AVAILABLE NOW ON DIGITAL DOWNLOAD AND COMES TO 4K ULTRA HD, 3D BLU-RAY™, BLU-RAY™ & DVD MAY 15