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Ubisoft’s historical fiction-action-adventure series Assassin’s Creed stands as one of the most popular video game franchises ever created, selling more than 73 million copies and spawning comic books, novels, animated short films, even its own hard-cover encyclopedia in addition to popularizing some 20 series-related titles.
So you’d be forgiven for assuming that before Michael Fassbender signed on as star and producer of December 2016’s mega-budget Assassin’s Creed movie adaptation, he had probably picked up the joystick to play the game at least a couple of times — that the Oscar-nominated 12 Years a Slave actor had some conceptual grasp of what an Animus does or, perhaps, strong feelings about the wonders of the Bleeding Effect.
But you’d be wrong.
Before Ubisoft made their movie overture to him in 2012, the Irish-German thespian admits he couldn’t have been less of a gamer and didn’t have the most concrete idea of what he was getting into. “I hadn’t played it before these guys approached me,” Fassbender tells EW.
Starring as Callum Lynch — a character who does not appear anywhere in the game but who exists as a kind of cypher for all the time-traveling, first-person action in the games — has yet to compel the man widely hailed as one of the finest actors of his generation to spend more quality time with his Playstation 4.
“I’ve played it since [being offered the job] mainly to get an idea of the physicality of the character,” Fassbender says by phone from Spain, where he was filming the adaptation. “We’re striving to find something special. We believe the whole concept around it is special and want to service that the best we can. The fans are really passionate: very specific and they expect accuracy and historical detail. We’re really trying to capitalize and feed on and enjoy the fun element. We’re working hard to make this something special.”
Descended from a long line of master killers (who square off against another secret sect called the Templars in a centuries-old covert war), his character’s physicality does not, however, involve super powers or magic. “A lot of the stuff in the game is Parkour,” Fassbender explains. “Blades attached to his wrists. It’s about getting in close to the target, close quarters fighting.”
And that, according to Assassin’s Creed director Justin Kurzel (who also directed Fassbender in this December’s Cannes-anointed adaptation of Macbeth), has involved the actor doing a lot of his own stunts.
But he shrugs off questions about his physical feats on set. “I’ve learned how to roly poly, tumble turn,” Fassbender says with a laugh. “Stuff you can do in everyday life. Like cartwheels. No — just basic fight choreography stuff. I did some horse stuff today. So stuff like that.” Sounds killer.