The Assassin’s Creed movie created a 125ft leap of faith without CGI

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If there’s any one image that sums up Assassin’s Creed, it’s the leap of faith. In the games, getting the lay of the land usually required some deft parkour up a historical monument, followed by a quick perch on a convenient piece of lumber at the summit. Getting back down from that post? You could slowly work your way down a building, or you could instead hope that the wagon full of hay beneath you is made up of stern-like stern-like stuff.

Close your eyes, have faith and just…leap. It truly is a signature gameplay mechanic in Assassin’s Creed games, and the upcoming film adaptation wouldn’t have been complete without some daredevil stuntman risking his neck for Michael Fassbender. Fortunately, Damien Walters was that very stuntman, as he pulled off a signature leap of faith that was pure skill and good old-fashioned wirework.

“There’s not that many people who do high falling these days because everything’s done on wires,” Walters said to TotalFilm via GamesRadar.

I do quite a lot of wire falls. Or they’ll CG the guy. So to actually get the chance to do it for real was really cool. We rehearsed at the location the day before, and got up to 100ft in rehearsal. And then the next day, we got even higher. We started at 70ft, went to 80, 90, 100, 110 and then 125. When I did the 110ft, Justin was like, ‘You don’t need to go to 125ft if you don’t want to.’

I went, ‘No, it’s fine. I’m happy.’ He was like, ‘Well, if you’re happy, let’s do it.’ I even wanted to go a bit higher when we did that. I think the next one would be very cool if we did a higher jump, but off the real churches.

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The real challenge here? Not only the leap itself, but the body language that goes with it as Assassin’s Creed game characters usually adopt a very rigid shape during the execution of that move. “The character in the game doesn’t change shape, he holds that shape for as long as possible,” Walters said.

The problem with that is there’s no adjusting in the air, so you’ve got to guess as soon as you take off how much rotation to put in, and the higher you go, the more of a guess it is. As soon as you hit the bag, it’s a lot of speed to stop within two metres. You’ve got to spread your weight as much as possible. If you land on your feet you’re just going to crumple into a big heap.

The biggest danger is landing wrong on the bag. It’s not about missing the bag. It’s 10 x 10m, so you shouldn’t miss it if you’ve got any ability about you. It’s the fact that you have to land flat on your back. On the 90ft jump I landed a little top-heavy. I’ve got a little bump on the back of my head. It’s quite tight, the bag, so if you land slightly wrong you get a big whack. Even when you land properly, you get a fair whack in the back.

The wind’s a big issue. The bag is three–and-a-half metres high, so the wind can pick one side up and put the other side down. We had to park a truck in front to try and stop the wind from hitting the side of the bag. That’s something you don’t really want to think about when you’re up there. It’s like, ‘I hope that bag’s going to be there when I land.’

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I’m a big fan of traditional stunts and practical work in movies. No matter how realistic your CGI is, it’ll always pale in comparison to knowing that someone risked life and limb for a two-second shot that could have very nearly ended them. The Assassin’s Creed movie drops on December 21 this year. Just stand clear of the wagon full of hay that is parked conveniently under the tall building.

Last Updated: October 3, 2016

Darryn Bonthuys

Word-slinger at Critical Hit. Inventor of the macho Swiss gym chocolate known as Testoblerone. That's...that's about it really.

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