A MAN ON A MISSION
Game on: Michael Fassbender rises to the very physical challenge of dual roles in the franchise that’s sacred ground to its many fans
scar-nominated actor Michael Fassbender has enjoyed a whirlwind career since breaking through as the star of Hunger. Assassin’s Creed is the latest film based on a hit video game series, where Fassbender plays dual roles in the past and present, the former as Callum Lynch, a death row convict who is spared execution by a mysterious woman. Through genetic memories Lynch is able to relive the life of his ancestor Aguilar, an assassin in 15th century Spain. Fassbender explains his attraction to the role and what it takes to become a Master Assassin. What’s your history with the Assassin’s Creed franchise? I met with Ubisoft Motion Pictures in 2011 and I didn’t really know much about the game at that point. I’d obviously heard about it and seen all the posters and adverts, but I really didn’t know the story or methodology behind it. When I met up with the guys they told me the whole premise behind it: this idea of DNA memory and the war that was waging between the Templars and the Assassins, and the idea that Adam and Eve were the first Assassins. I thought all of that was really fascinating stuff. The real thing that I thought was going to give us an extra edge over other films of this genre was this idea of DNA memory; that we hold in us the experiences, mistakes and memories of our ancestors. That’s what we’ve come to call instinct. I thought that was a really cool scientific theory that seemed very plausible. And then this idea of the Assassins and Templars and the battle that goes on between them. It’s not as clear cut as, let’s say, the dark side and the light. The moralities get very blurred and both factions are quite hypocritical in certain respects. It’s a very grey moral area, which I always think is more interesting. That debate is central to the film: are the Templars actually doing some good? Exactly, and because this is an origin story, and we’re introducing it to the world of cinema, to deal with those main points in this one – to get them front and centre and alive early so people know what we’re dealing with from the beginning – that was really important. This fight has been going on for a while and we wanted to distil it and simplify it as best we could so that the information we’re giving the audience is the stuff they need, and we’re not hitting them with too much. There’s a lot to take on, you know. That’s where a lot of our efforts went in, to just sort of refine it and refine it. Is it interesting to play two characters in one movie who have this odd genetic connection? It is, because they’re very different people. Aguilar is part of a family and he believes very strongly in the Creed. He belongs to the Creed and he serves for the Creed. In contrast, Cal is somebody who’s much more of a drifter, really. He’s been in and out of correctional facilities for most of his life. He’s fairly underprivileged and doesn’t really believe in much. He’s certainly got no alliance to anything because his family is taken away pretty early. It’s with his journey, through Aguilar, that he starts to learn where he comes from and that he does belong to something. He belongs to this bloodline. This discovery gives him a direction for the first time. Does it feel like a movie of two halves? It seems like two different movies in a way. That was something that I thought would be very interesting cinematically – that you could have all the colours of this Inquisition time, and then have Abstergo, which is very neutral. I thought it would be cool to see both of those worlds laid side-by-side like that. Sure enough, I think it’s turned out pretty interesting. I think that contrast will look beautiful. Is this the most physical role you’ve had? Yes, it was definitely physical. I did a lot of training in the gym and all that jazz. The stunt stuff was fun – trying to get it right was the most important thing, and trying to keep up with the stunt team was the challenge. Our stunt team was fantastic. Did you spend a long time on Aguilar’s look? There were discussions about how far to go with him and we didn’t want to go too far because we didn’t want to add something just for the sake of adding it on. It was all about keeping it as simple as possible with the differences between Aguilar and Cal. With some of the costumes in the game, they look great but you couldn’t really translate them that well into film. They might look just a little off. That was a major part of it, the costume, and the look we discussed off the back of it. It was long hair, beard, all the classics (laughs). And just some contact lenses to give me brown eyes instead of blue. is in cinemas now
Marion Cotillard as Sofia and Michael Fassbender as Callum Lynch in a scene from Assassin's Creed.