Assassin's Creed Set Visit: Fassbender & Kurzel go in-depth on the film
Justin Kurzel and Michael Fassbender previously worked together on MACBETH, a visually stunning and exceptionally acted film adaptation of William Shakespeare's play. During the production of that film, Fassbender brought a little project he'd been developing to Kurzel to see if he'd be interested in taking the helm. That "little project" was ASSASSIN'S CREED, for which Fassbender had been trying to get off the ground for years at that point. Kurzel was ultimately sold on directing and the rest is history. During my set visit to the London set, I (along with a handful of other journalists) sat down with both the director and star to talk about the film, what made them both so passionate about it, the style, the videogame integrity, and much, much more. Below are the highlights from those discussions, which should shed some light on many aspects of the film for both fans and non-fans.
Kurzel on the main themes he wanted to capture for the film:
"For me, Assassin's Creed has always been about tribe, about belonging to something. Definitely, this story is an origin story, about a man who discovers that he's an assassin and that he's not alone and that in him he has a blood that runs very, very deep. Those themes and ideas are really kind of fascinating. The idea that your made up of the people that come before you and you somehow have some kind of conscious dialog with your genetics. I think it's really deep and interesting stuff. I think it's probably why the game's so popular. There's a context to the game that's smart and sophisticated, but also very contemporary."
Kurzel on how he’s approaching the action sequences in the film:
"We're trying not to cut a lot. We're trying to shoot the action in camera and try to work with the best stunt people. We've got some of the best parkour guys in the world at the moment. We're just trying not to cheat as much. I think that, some of these films, you can get away with creating an action sequence with continuous cuts. I think we're trying to, I guess, in an old school way, allow action to play out, and for you to be engaged with the action that's in front of and the sequences that are in front of you before you're cutting into them. That takes a lot of time and a lot of discipline ... Trying to use the actors as much as possible so that they're involved and engaged. Just trying to do it in a very honest and grounded kind of way."
Kurzel on the long development process:
"Yeah, there's been quite a few voices involved in this. Obviously, through the studio, but then also Ubisoft, and then Mike, who has been heavily, heavily involved. It's been really about kind of focusing the story telling. That's something I really love and enjoy. That really comes from when you start to kind of go into pre-pre and start to work out what you can achieve and what's starting to be the highlighted themes of it. It's been quite a similar process to the other projects. Probably more, what's been the involvement with Michael, and the intimacy in pre was very different from Macbeth, which obviously was already there and we kind of developed that."
Kurzel on balancing both the past and present settings in the film:
"That's been the most tricky thing. They both are very, very distinct, especially in the game. You do probably spend more time in the past in the game. The present settings are really kind of transient settings pieces to get you into the past. I guess in terms of setting up the film, we do spend probably, predominantly, a little bit more time in the present, setting up the lead character in Cal, and getting the audience to know him and understand him.
I think it's about how those worlds bleed. Obviously in the game there's the bleeding effect and there's the idea that the shadows of the regressions start to play out in the present world, and your starting to see your past ancestor. The idea that that history becomes a ghost within the present."
Kurzel on integrating aspects of the game’s dynamics into the film version:
"I don't think you can ignore the eagle point of view in the game. I think the notion and the idea of these assassins having the skills or sensitivity of an eagle and the whole notion of the leap of faith and flight and eagle vision ... There's certain aspects of just the character that we tried to work in to rather than kind of copy certain sequences within the game. Again, it's just been trying to approach it through character.
There's also certain things we can't achieve that the game can because it can go anywhere. I think we've been very conscious about that. We don't want this to be a super hero film, we want it to be a film that embraces what it is to be human. All our jumps and all our parkouring, it has to feel as though you're watching it and thinking, on a good day I could do this. Otherwise I think it goes into a fantasy, which I don't think the game is about. Assassin's Creed is based on real history. They spent a lot of time basing it on real characters. The details are just completely true to the period. It's very important that it feels tangible, the film feels tangible and it feels as though it has existed, but also that it just feels human."
Kurzel on doing long takes and utilizing the connected sets:
"That's kind of why we built it that way, is to try to keep the takes simple and long and moving. I think the same with the past, just trying to keep long action sequences that are not interrupted by the cuts. As much as possible, and the actors have spent so much time rehearsing the actual kind of moves, we just wanted to make sure that we were embracing the hard work that they've done, and that it felt ... When you look at Michael doing something, it's Michael doing something. It's Michael parkouring or it's Michael having spent 3 weeks learning a certain move. I guess that kind of uninterrupted, sort of longer takes is something that is definitely apparent in Adam's style but it's also something that we've brought into the film."
Fassbender on the appeal of Assassin’s Creed and why he was so passionate about bringing it to the big screen
"I just thought if you’re doing a fantasy film, the first thing about it was to have something that was seeded in some sort of scientific world. What I mean is basically the idea of DNA memory. I just thought that it was a really interesting catch, and I thought that it was a really plausible theory. And I think if you can bring something like that to a fantastical world, it hooks the audience in even more, and makes the journey even more immersive.
So I thought that was the first thing, and then I just loved the idea of Templars versus Assassins, this idea of an elite group of people struggling with the idea of free will and these sort of rebels to that elite force trying to struggle for humanity, essentially. And the idea that the original Assassins were Adam and Eve and the picked the apple in the Garden was really interesting.
Also what I liked about it is that it’s a lot like Star Wars; you have the dark side and the light. Both of these factions, they contradict each other all the time, they contradict themselves all the time. They are hypocritical, as well, of their beliefs — and I thought that was cool. So morally, it’s a very gray area that both of them are working in and I thought that was unusual for this sort of type of film, and also a lot more interesting."
Fassbender on the differences between Cal and Aguilar (his present and ancestor characters):
"Well, one doesn’t say a lot and the other does. [laughs] You know, basically in this story, you have somebody who doesn’t realize where he’s coming from. He doesn’t have a lineage he can sort of feel a belonging to. That’s our modern-day protagonist, Cal. He doesn’t realize he’s an Assassin; he’s a bit of a lost soul. He’s always been drifting in and out of correctional facilities.
Then, of course, Aguilar is very much somebody that belongs to the Creed. He has a cause, he’s sort of been following that cause. He belongs to it. So they’re the two different standpoints of the character, and hopefully Aguilar will teach Cal, from the regressions, that he does belong to something. That’s the main difference between the two characters."
Fassbender on how close the film is to the games:
"You know, it’s all part of the same universe. We really want to respect the game and the elements to it, but we also wanted to come up with our own thing. And one thing I’ve sort of learned from doing the franchises like X-Men is that audiences, I think, want to be surprised and to see new elements of what they already know, and different takes on it. Like I said, we’re really respecting the very core elements of the game, but we wanted to bring something new to it as well, so that’s why we have these new central characters."
Fassbender on the Animus and how it differs in the film from the game:
"Well, you know, we didn’t want to have something where you just sit in a seat. Number one, we’ve seen it before in The Matrix, and it’s not a very dramatic experience when we’re doing the modern-day version of the regression. We wanted to have the characters more physically involved in it. And so I think Justin has come up with something really interesting for the Animus. Talking to Ubisoft, I think, perhaps, they’re thinking of adopting some of these ideas. But we definitely want to have to just be Cal as sort of a passenger in a chair. We wanted to have something more interactive for that character in the present day stuff."
Fassbender on working with Ubisoft on the film:
"I think they just want to protect their franchise and protect the wonderful fan base that they’ve built up through their games. So I think they’ve had experience before with films being made out their video games and maybe didn’t get the results they liked, so they’ve been more hands on here, which has been great. Thanks to them, I was introduced to this world. Like I said, I didn’t really know much about it."
CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...