ASSASSIN'S CREED avoided green screen; and 35 other facts you should know

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So I take it you’ve rewatched that first Assassin’s Creed trailer from last week quite a few times by now, right? (And probably a few times with the volume turned down so you wouldn’t have to hear the horribly inappropriate choice of soundtrack). With the film potentially having a chance to become the first really, really good video game feature film adaptation, fans of both the Assassin’s Creed games and just movies in general are keeping a close eye on this one.

And thanks to a set visit conducted by Collider a short while back, we now know quite a lot more about the upcoming Justin Kurzel directed film than what a few pics of star/producer Michael Fassbender and single two-minute long promo can have taught us.

Some of the details Collider learned has to do with the story, and specifically details around Fassbender and co-star Marion Cotillard’s characters, as well as this combination of futuristic and ancient worlds they find themselves in. This story is also said to be set in the same universe as the games – a companion piece, rather than an adaptation, if you will – and some interesting facts about how the movie has influenced upcoming games and vice versa have come to light.

You can read about all of them and more below:

  • The past sequences take place in 1491 Spain, where Fassbender’s character is searching for the Artifact.
  • Abstergo’s complex is hidden inside an old church in Spain, so the Abstergo set has exposed walls that make it look like it’s built within an old Spanish church.
  • Fassbender’s character, Callum Lynch, was on death row for murder in Texas, but his execution was faked and he was whisked away to Spain.
  • There are 30-40 other patients at Abstergo, and all of the main patients that Callum interacts with have ancestors from a time period in a previous Assassin’s Creed game.
  • Callum travels back via the Animus more than twice during the movie.
  • Marion Cotillard’s character is Sofia Rikken, who is running the Abstergo prison, trying to identify where violence begins and create treatments that eradicate violence in society. Jeremy Irons plays her father, who is the head of Abstergo and may or may not have more sinister motives.

  • Callum sees Rikken as the Warden of the Abstergo facility.
  • Production took place on the 007 stage at Pinewood Studios in London, which housed the Abstergo set.
  • The Abstergo set was built so that as much of it as possible was connected for real, from the corridors to the recreation area to the individual cells, so that cinematographer Adam Arkapaw could shoot a lot of long, unbroken takes without a lot of cutting.
  • They shot a recreation of the Spanish Inquisition.
  • Fassbender is the only present day actor who appears in the past sequences in the film.
  • The film is roughly 65% present day sequences, 35% regression sequences
  • The ancestor of Michael K. Williams’ character is based in voodoo and trickery, while Matias Varela’s ancestor is Yusef, a Middle Eastern assassin.
  • Some of the present day characters exhibit powers and extraordinary abilities.
  • The bleeding effect is in the film as Cal sees a vision of his ancestor who teaches him fight moves. Eagle Vision is also an important part of the film.

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  • For the scenes on location in Malta, they had up to 900 extras in 15th century clothes.
  • They changed the design of the Animus to make it more interactive for the actors, and Ubisoft liked it so much they may incorporate it into a future game.
  • British freerunner Damien Walters served as Michael Fassbender’s stunt double for freerunning sequences.
  • Sadly, there will be no scene of Fassbender jumping into a wheelbarrel of hay.
  • They made 3,000 weapon props. Getting the wristblades to work for real while also looking pretty was really tough for the team, but they pulled it off.
  • They treated the weapons like Easter Eggs, so weapons taken straight out of the games are scattered throughout the films.
  • Connor Kenway’s bow from Assassin’s Creed III makes an appearance.

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  • Ubisoft gave the prop makers a Bible of every weapon ever made for the games that they could use as a guide.
  • Even though the game wasn’t out yet, Justin Kurzel wanted to include a weapon from Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, so Ubisoft obliged.
  • Ubisoft didn’t make any specific requests with regards to which weapons needed to be included in the game. But they did request to keep some of the weapons after filming concluded.
  • The Assassins costumes took 2-3 months to make and were all hand-crafted. There are eight versions of each costume, with an entire costume team devoted to each of the Assassins.
  • They wanted to differentiate the 15th century sequences from the present day sequences through color palettes, with the flashbacks taking on a more Earthy tone in contrast to the stark, sterile nature of present day.
  • The costume designers had to construct the hoods so that they would maintain their point even while the actors were running around, which is tougher than it sounds. It took them 20-30 versions to create a hood that would look like the game and maintain its shape while the actor moved.

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  • Fassbender was attracted to the game because he wanted to do a fantasy film that was rooted in science, and also thought the idea of Templars vs. Assassins was intriguing.
  • Fassbender likens the themes of Assassin’s Creed to Star Wars in that there’s a dark side and a light side, and they’re both contradicting one another all the time.
  • Filming took place over the course of 80 days.
  • There was a strong emphasis on practical effects and doing as much in camera as possible, like having actors make a 30-meter leap for real.
  • Kurzel didn’t want the movie to feel like a superhero film, he wanted to embrace “what it is to be human” through practical effects and parkour-intensive stunts.
  • Production had to be completed by November 15th to make way for Star Wars: Episode VIII to take over the stage.
  • The toughest costume to create was Aguilar’s, because it had to be designed first in order to set their version of the Assassin.

In a follow-up interview with Kurzel, Collider also spoke to the director about how the movie is embracing physical stunts and long cuts to ensure that the film’s action stands out among all the hyper-kinetically edited Hollywood action blockbusters.

“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.” 

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And grounded means also avoiding post-production CG effects as much as possible.

“We’re trying to do as much as possible in camera. We’ve gone and shot in rural locations and I was kind of determined not for this film to be a car park film, where you’re shooting just in green screen and your [sic] using most of post to help you out.”

“We don’t want this to be a superhero 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.”

He also explained how he wanted to create something fresh, despite the fact that this movie is in the same pre-existing universe as the games – even though he was not above borrowing some elements from some of them.

“It’s been really important, also just to differentiate ourselves from the game as well in terms of timing. The wonderful thing about cinema is you can bring a 3D world to life. It was important that it had its own tone and it had its own kind of dance to it that is embracing the DNA of the game, but it’s also offering up something different, which is what cinema can do, especially if you film in the real places.”

“…[The games all have] certain qualities. The first game that I played was [Assassin’s Creed: Unity]. There’s a kind of romanticism to that game that’s very seductive. I think they’ve all, in their little bits, provided certain kind of points of view, especially through the assassin that we’ve definitely been inspired by.”

Assassin’s Creed is scheduled for release on December 21, 2016.

PS: And if you weren’t a fan of the Kanye West soundtrack used in the film’s first trailer, then local filmmaker and sometime-TheMovies.co.za contributer Willem Grobler (aka Eyegod) is here to rescue you! He remixed the trailer’s audio, removing Yeezy and instead adding in the epic “Iron” from Woodkid, which was also used in the video game trailer for Assassin’s Creed: Revelations.

Last Updated: May 16, 2016

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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