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Stars reveal the secret DNA that defines Assassin’s Creed

The film is set within the incredibly inventive and detailed world of the video games, but features a new story and characters.
From left, Jeremy Irons, Marion Cotillard and Michael Fassbender of Assassin’s Creed. Photo by Daniel Zuchnik / WireImage / Getty Images
From left, Jeremy Irons, Marion Cotillard and Michael Fassbender of Assassin’s Creed. Photo by Daniel Zuchnik / WireImage / Getty Images

Michael Fassbender is not a video gamer. In fact, he doesn’t even own a TV set.

“I have the same principle with video games as I have with television,” he says. “I just got rid of it because I’d just end up flicking all day long, and into the night. So I don’t have games.”

That did not prevent him from embracing Assassin’s Creed, the multimillion selling Ubisoft stealth-adventure series that flips players between past and present.

The Oscar-nominated star of Shame and Steve Jobs, was only vaguely aware of the franchise.

“I’d seen the billboards and adverts for Assassin’s Creed, but I didn’t really know what it was.”

But when Eli Rouchbourg – a former second-unit director who had worked with Fassbender on the little-seen 2009 movie Town Creek – offered an introduction to Ubisoft, the actor was intrigued.

The film is set within the incredibly inventive and detailed world of the video games, but features a new story and characters. Fassbender plays Callum Lynch, a present-day character, plugged into a device called the Animus that unlocks ancestral memories encoded in his DNA.

In essence, this allows him to relive the adventures of Aguilar, a member of the secret Assassin’s brotherhood, who are locked in an eternal struggle with the rival Knights Templar.

The two sides are racing to find a so-called “Apple of Eden”, a piece of technology from a highly advanced prehuman society which is said to contain the genetic code for free will – and the power to block it.

Fassbender was particularly taken by the idea of DNA memories.

“I thought that’s a really cool hook and something that will elevate it above most fantastical stories,” he says. “And then this idea of Templars and Assassins being at war from the dawn of time, Adam and Eve being the first Assassins, plucking the apple…and being the promoters of free will and choice.

“I thought all of this lends itself really well to a cinema experience.”

Fassbender jumped on board as star and producer, and enlisted Australian director Justin Kurzel and co-star Marion Cotillard, both of whom he worked with on last year’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

Cotillard, who plays Dr Sophia Rikkin, a scientist responsible for placing Lynch into this cerebral contraption, was similarly unfamiliar with the game.

“But one of my best friends is a hysteric fan,” she says. “She would try to get information [from me], but I was pretty good at keeping secrets.”

Joining Fassbender and Cotillard in the cast is veteran British actor Jeremy Irons (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, The Man Who Knew Infinity), as Sophia’s father, Alan Rikkin.

“[He’s a] shadowy figure, a man who loves his daughter and admires enormously her greater intelligence,” says Irons. “He adores her but tries to control her.”

Despite his co-stars’ previous working relationship with their director, Irons says he felt welcomed into film’s brotherhood.

“I didn’t feel like I was joining an exclusive club from which I was partially barred,” he says.

For Fassbender, being in part responsible for a blockbuster with a budget close to US$200 million (Dh734m) was a baptism by fire, and a step-up from his first movie as actor-producer, 2015’s Slow West.

“That was $2m – this is something much bigger. It’s a bigger beast,” he says. “So, yeah, it’s been really educational. I’m very proud of it. I think we have something original and exciting. But I have newfound respect for producers.”

And gamers, hopefully.

artslife@thenational.ae

Updated: December 27, 2016 04:00 AM

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