Justin Kurzel was sort of an unknown player before he directed Michael Fassbender in Macbeth. Of course, he’d directed Snowtown before, an acclaimed Australian film, but Macbeth was his first film to get a lot of attention overseas - in part because of the involvement of Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, but also because of its stunning visuals.
We recently talked to Kurzel about his decision to work on the movie, a recent comment he made about the setting of a possible sequel, and whether or not we might see more of the ancestors in Assassin’s Creed films down the line.
I think it’s fair to say that the general consensus regarding video game movies is that they tend to suck and that there really hasn’t been a very good video game movie yet. What makes Assassin’s Creed different?
I don’t know, I haven’t seen very many of those other video game films, so…I think we always tried to make this a film. We didn’t want to make it an appropriation of the game. Ubisoft were really keen to create a whole new set of characters and locations. And I think we were just trying to do it all for real, you know, trying to make it a film real experience. A lot of the actions sequences are not green-screened, they’re there, shot on location in Malta and Spain, and I think there’s something behind it.
I was really surprised when I first sat down and started talking about Assassin’s Creed, in terms of ideologies of free-will and power and control, and this whole notion of the animus and genetic memory and understanding who you are through your blood. You know, it’s got a lot of meat on the bone. So I think already we were kind of in a world there where we didn’t have to feel like we were reaching too much, that there was some solid stuff there to put on screen.
There are lot of similarities between this movie and the video game series, particularly the first installment, but there are also a good deal of departures. You talked about changing locations - what was the idea behind setting this during the Spanish Inquisition as opposed to one of the eras from the video games?
Well, I think Michael Fassbender and Ubisoft had decided on the Spanish Inquisition straight up - and that was trying to find a departure from locations that had been done before. But it’s just such a great period of history. It’s not only visually spectacular, but the religious persecution that was going on at the time and the figure of Torquemada, it just seemed like a great backdrop to kind of put a bunch of assassins in to fight against.
I know you’ve talked about potentially wanting to explore the 1950s in a sequel, or maybe do a noir thing.
Is that true?
That was - that was an offhanded comment and it’s become kind of this call of war thing. Yeah, look, I think you could go anywhere. I mean, I’m really fascinated by recent history. We haven’t sat down and discussed, talked about where possibly a second one could go. Usually [in the games] you go back a fair way and it’s about the contrast of the present and the past. But I’ve always been fascinated by recent history and that was one of the little answers I kind of threw out there that seemed to have got a bit of wind to it.
Fair enough. This movie puts the focus on Cal more so than Aguilar in the past. I’m curious if you were to make a sequel, would there be more of an emphasis on the Assassin ancestor than Cal, or would the focus stay with Cal in the present?
Possibly. I mean, I think no matter what this was an origin story, that we were trying to set up a present-day Assassin and for the audience to sort of understand how he evolves and I guess how he kind of realizes he’s an Assassin. I always loved that about the idea that came from Ubisoft and Michael in regards to an origin story. I think in the second one, now that you’ve established it, I definitely think you could spend more time in the past. But I do think that Assassin’s Creed as a film is unique because of that dance between the past and the present, which you don’t play as much in the game. You very quickly go back in history. But I actually think it’s what’s interesting about it as a film.
But yeah, I definitely could see perhaps spending a little bit more time with an ancestor if we were to do a second one.