Marked by tragedy at an early age, Cal Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is a convict facing capital punishment when he gains an unexpected second chance at life thanks to the mysterious workings of Abstergo Industries. Through a revolutionary technology that unlocks the genetic memories contained in his DNA, Cal is sent back across the centuries to 15th Century Spain. There, he lives out the experiences of his distant relative, Aguilar de Nerha, a member of a secret society known as the Assassins who fight to protect free will from the power-hungry the Templar Order. Transformed by the past, Cal begins to gain the knowledge and physical skills necessary to topple the oppressive Templar organization in present day.
Released in 2007, Assassin’s Creed dropped players into the heart of the Crusades, imagining a world in which the bloody, centuries-long war between the Assassins and Templars had defined much of human history. The game became an instant blockbuster, spawning no fewer than eight sequels and a slew of popular spin-offs that have sold more than 100 million copies worldwide. The series has transported players to the Italian Renaissance, the foundation of America, the golden age of piracy in the Caribbean and revolutionary France.
Adapting Assassin’s Creed for the big screen, the movie introduces a new character to the established canon: Cal Lynch (Fassbender). A descendent of several lines of prominent Assassins, Cal is a career criminal who is rescued from his own execution by Abstergo Industries, the modern-day incarnation of the Templar Order. He is forced to participate in the Animus Project and relive the memories of his ancestor Aguilar de Nerha, an Assassin during the Spanish Inquisition. As Lynch continues to experience Aguilar’s memories, he begins to gain an understanding of his traumatic past and his role in the centuries-long conflict between the warring factions.
Fassbender, who has fast emerged as one of the world’s most accomplished and popular actors, immediately saw the potential in a new adaptation of the game. “The Assassin’s Creed universe seemed to lend itself very nicely to a cinematic experience,” he says of the project. His faith in the material was such that his company, DMC, boarded the project as producers. They were joined by Frank Marshall and Patrick Crowley, who together have been responsible for the Bourne series of films and, most recently, Jurassic World.
With his experience portraying the powerful mutant Magneto in the X-Men films, Fassbender uniquely understood the storytelling possibilities afforded by the game’s time-bending, sci-fi inflected premise, and he was excited by the opportunity to amplify the already expansive world of Assassin’s Creed for the big screen. “When I met up with the guys from Ubisoft [the creator of the game], and they started to explain this whole world and the idea of DNA memory, it struck me as a very feasible scientific theory,” Fassbender says. “I thought about the possibility of it being this cinematic experience. We’re approaching it as a feature film as opposed to a videogame.”
To that end, original characters — including the dual roles of Cal and Aguilar played by Fassbender — were created expressly for the film. Says the actor of Cal, “he doesn’t have a lineage he can feel he belongs to. He’s a bit of a lost soul. He’s always been drifting in and out of correctional facilities.” Conversely, Aguilar is “very much somebody that belongs to the Creed. He has a cause. He’s been following that cause. He belongs to it.”
With Fassbender on board, attention turned to a director who could partner with the star and bring additional depth to the storytelling. Having collaborated with Fassbender on 2015’s Macbeth, Justin Kurzel was a natural fit. Fassbender had first met the Australian filmmaker after he saw the director’s debut feature, the dark indie drama Snowtown. “I immediately felt that I wanted to work with this guy,” notes Fassbender. “Just from the feel of who he was as a person and the conversations we were having, I knew we could collaborate. We were lucky that he responded to the material. To have someone of his strength and vision was a huge bonus.”
“The great thing about Justin is that he can make the complicated elements and difficult subject matter manageable and relatable for an audience, which is what he did with Macbeth,” Fassbender continues. “So to have that perspective and bring it into a fantasy world, we knew that was going to be a huge bonus to us.”
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