Michael Fassbender would like you to know: He is only too aware that movie adaptations of video games, as a genre, have a piss-poor box-office track record. In point of fact, he could not shut out that awareness even if he tried. “I’m aware of that because every single article that’s ever written about us asks, ‘Will Assassin’s Creed be the first successful video game-to-movie?'” Fassbender told me from the film’s set in southern Spain last December.
That is to say, the Oscar-nominated 12 Years a Slave actor has been duly informed of the financial under-performance of such craptacular game-to-cinema fiascos as 1997’s Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Hitman: Agent 47 (2015), Super Mario Bros., Wing Commander (1999), and 2008’;s Max Payne. But here he is, pulling double duty as star and co-producer of the big screen blow-up of the blockbuster video game franchise Assassin’s Creed. And in terms of conception and execution, he insists the new film—which reunites Fassbender with acclaimed Australian filmmaker Justin Kurzel, who directed him in the Cannes Film Festival-anointed 2015 adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth—will forefront storytelling and character and shed much of the gaminess that has plagued so many other movie translations to date.
“We took elements from the video game that are the spine and DNA of what we’re doing,” Fassbender said. “But we really are breaking away from a video-game mold. That’s been a problem with some of the efforts before.”
Arriving in a season crowded with splashy Christmas releases—the Chris Pratt/J. Law vehicle Passengers, animated animal romp Sing, Martin Scorsese’s messiah-complex period piece Silence, and Star Wars standalone Rogue One among them—Assassin’s Creed finds Fassbender portraying Callum Lynch. Lynch is a misunderstood drifter-loner who’s about to receive a death-row lethal injection when he is rescued by a shadowy extra-governmental organization with seemingly unlimited technological resources and an even more shadowy agenda.
Turns out the character is descended from a long line of master Assassins™ who have been locked in armed conflict with a rival faction of professional stealth killers called the Templars down through the centuries. And, in a nod to the decade-old, multigazillion-dollar Ubisoft game franchise on which the film is based, a super-serious scientist character played by Marion Cotillard locks Cal into an immersive VR-on-steroids gizmo called the Animus that helps him unlock genetic memories en route to unleashing his latent homicidal heroism. First up: a chain-mail hoodie wearing 15th century Andalusian assassin named Aguilar.
Yeah, it’s kinda complicated.
“When I met the guys from Ubisoft, they started to explain how DNA informs our life, how what we call instinct comes from DNA memory that comes from our ancestors and is passed down through the generations,” said Fassbender, who had just finished filming a sequence requiring him to ride and acrobatically dismount a horse galloping across a dusty savannah for the better part of an afternoon. “I thought that was very plausible. You have a fantasy world we’re dealing with. But when you bring in something scientifically plausible like that, it really elevates it.”
Before you can ask, no, the Steve Jobs star was never a gamer and only picked up the joystick after agreeing to top-line the movie—primarily to get acquainted with the character’s physicality—much in the same way he consulted with real-life sex addicts in order to so indelibly portray one in the 2011 indie drama Shame. “I’d heard of it,” he allowed of Creed. “But I didn’t play it before this film.”
Fassbender was no stranger to intensive physical prep for films, however, having worked out until he was “physically ill” to portray a Spartan warrior in the 2006 swords-and-sandals blockbuster 300 and training in fighting and sword combat for the 2010 historical action-drama Centurion. So to inhabit his assassin character—a guy, who it should be noted, does not have super powers per se, but displays ninja-like hand-to-hand combat skills and Road Runner-esque conflict avoidance techniques—the actor learned parkour, knife fighting, and close-quarters fighting techniques.
“This has been more immersive, and at 38, I’m starting to realize some of the injuries take a little longer to heal,” Fassbender said with a laugh. (He turned 39 in April.) “But I’m enjoying that side of things, I have to say. Especially if you have a superb stunt team around you. It’s nice to be in the right hands.” [Source]
Tags: Michael Fassbender
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