Ubisoft's historical adventure/sci-fi action series Assassin's Creed will be the first of the company's video game properties to make the jump to the big screen, under the watch of Ubisoft Motion Pictures: an in-house film and TV production house that Ubisoft founded in 2011. The budding studio already has a number of projects in the pipeline readying to follow Assassin's Creed's lead, including adaptations of the open-world third person shooter series Watch Dogs and two Tom Clancy-branded IPs: Splinter Cell and The Division.
The Division, based on the the video game title of the same name released in March of 2016 by Ubisoft (and co-published by Red Storm Entertainment), is currently without a writer or director (officially) attached, but has already found one of its leads in the form of Jake Gyllenhaal. It now appears the film may have found its female lead, in the form of another Oscar-nominated actor.
THR is reporting that Jessica Chastain is currently in talks for a presumed-leading role in The Division opposite Gyllenhaal. The original Division video take takes place in a futuristic version of New York City, wherein an agent of the Strategic Homeland Division (or 'The Division," as its frequently called in the game) leads an operation to deal with the aftermath of a smallpox pandemic that leaves the city in chaos.
It's plausible that both Chastain and Gyllenhaal are up to play "Division" agents in the movie version of The Division. Chastain could also be circling another key role in the film, such as that of Dr. Jessica Kandel, who heads the medical base of operations in NYC during the game's events. Chastain has played scientists in such past films as Christopher Nolan's Interstellar and Ridley Scott's The Martian, but also tried on her action hero hat earlier this year - making for a highlight in the (otherwise forgettable) Snow White and the Huntsman spinoff, The Huntsman: Winter's War, where she played the bow and arrow-wielding warrior Sara.
The original Division video game pairs the game's protagonist (who is fully customizable, including with regard to gender) with fellow "Division" agent Faye Lau, so the odds seems to be in favor of Chastain playing a scientist such as Dr. Kandel instead of a third "Division" agent. This could allow the film to create a buddy dynamic between Gyllenhaal's protagonist and Faye Lau that resembles the relationship between Brad Pitt and Daniella Kertesz' characters in the sci-fi disaster setting of World War Z, as one example. Either way, The Division isn't expected to stray far from elements of the original game, similar to how the Assassin's Creed movie plot/characters exist in the continuity of its source games.
Beyond that, the casting of Chastain in The Division is in keeping with Ubisoft Motion Pictures' trend of attaching top-notch talent to headline its video game film adaptations. Assassin's Creed features Michael Fassbender and Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard as its leads, while Splinter Cell is slated to star Tom Hardy as the original games' protagonist, Sam Fisher; and now, Gyllenhaal and Chastain are set for The Division. Ubisoft's movie/TV division is taking its cues from Marvel Studios' approach to building its own big screen franchises in that respect, by recruiting A-list talent and staying largely faithful to the original IPs.
Marvel's approach has allowed it to stay in the good graces of its fanbase and better transform its properties into multi-platform brands, at the same time. That approach has worked wonders for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it remains to be seen if Ubisoft can even come close to replicating Marvel's success in that respect, starting with the release of Assassin's Creed this December.
We'll bring you more information on The Division as it becomes available.