Michael Fassbender: Making Assassin's Creed was 'baptism by fire'
Assassin's Creed actor-producer Michael Fassbender doesn't worry whether gamers would like the video game adaptation
What is Michael Fassbender doing in a video game adaptation?
The Oscar-nominated actor is not only the star of Assassin's Creed, which opens here tomorrow, he also produced it.
When the folks from game developer Ubisoft met him for lunch five years ago, he knew nothing about the game, which has sold over 93 million copies worldwide.
But Germany-born Fassbender, 39, was looking into developing stories for his production company DMC Film, and was intrigued by the themes in the game.
"I thought it would lend itself very well to the cinema," he told The New Paper at a press event for the film in Sydney recently.
Like the game, the movie explores the idea that people can travel back in time and relive their ancestors' lives, thanks to technology that can access "genetic memory".
Fassbender plays an original character, modern-day criminal Callum Lynch, who is taken in by Abstergo Industries, the shadowy corporation that develops the technology.
He is forced to go back to the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century to relive the memories of his ancestor Aguilar to find a key artefact to help Abstergo rid the world of violence.
He discovers the age-old conflict between Abstergo's precursor, the Templars, and the Assassins.
"When (Ubisoft) started talking about genetic memory, DNA memory, that seemed to be a very plausible scientific theory," said Fassbender.
"The concept between Templars and Assassins fighting for the future of humanity - there's a classic conflict there.
"And then the idea that you could travel through different time journeys, I thought it was going to be a lot of fun."
It’s not very clear who’s the bad guy and who’s the good guy, not like in Star Wars. It’s not easy for the audience to pitch their flag in a camp.
Fassbender, a fan of complex heroes, was also drawn to the moral ambiguity at play.
Unable to resist a dig at a competing year-end blockbuster, he said: "It's not very clear who's the bad guy and who's the good guy, not like in Star Wars.
"It's not easy for the audience to pitch their flag in a camp."
There was no script when Fassbender signed on, so he took a very hands-on approach to getting the movie made, including roping in colleagues from last year's Macbeth, actress Marion Cotillard and director Justin Kurzel.
"It was like the old band back together again," he said.
"It's nice, you move faster, you know how you work."
But producing was not easy.
"It's a lot more work, it's a lot more hours. Fun? I'm not sure," he said with a laugh.
It was different from Slow West, the Western he produced last year.
"The first film, it was US$2 million (S$2.9 million), very low budget.
"This is obviously a much bigger venture. It was a baptism by fire," said Fassbender.
But he still took on the challenge, in addition to learning a number of new things for his role, including the Spanish language and parkour to perform stunts as Aguilar.
He estimated he did about 90 per cent of the stunts in the film, but pointed out that he did not do the famous "leap of faith" from the game, where a character jumps from the top of building and lands safely.
"I can do basic things like running up a wall, jumping from one wall to the next," Fassbender said.
Next year, Fassbender, who also has drama The Light Between Oceans on his plate, may take a break from acting, but he is keen to continue developing some projects on the DMC slate, "whether they're entertaining rides or a small, slow film".
Asked if he feels any pressure to lift video game adaptations to a new level by attaching his name to a franchise, he shrugged.
"There's as much pressure as you allow yourself to bear," Fassbender said.
"I'd like to deal with the things that are in control. Sitting around and worrying about whether gamers like our version of it is pointless."