Video game comes to life
Multi-talented actress Marion Cotillard talks about her mysterious character on Assassins Creed along with the director Justin Kurzel
Your character in the film says, ‘Callum has to go into the Animus of his own free will,’ but at the same time he’s being held captive in Abstergo. How does she justify that duality?
Marion:Well, this is a very complex and mysterious character. And what you said is part of this complexity. What was more interesting in the character is that she’s a scientist. She uses people, but at the same time, she’s emotionally connected to them. So she doesn’t do what she does for money, recognition or more power. I think she really believes in what she does, and what she wants to achieve is to make humanity better, which is pretty dangerous when it comes through the desire of controlling humanity. I mean, some people tried before, and it obviously didn’t work. And it harmed humanity instead of helping. But what she wants to do, which is kind of a very noble quest that she thinks she has, is to change humanity from the outside by controlling them.
There’s a stigma attached with the movies that are adapted from video games. What problems did you identify with adapting a video game to the big screen, and what did you do with Assassin’s Creed to fix those problems?
Justin: The level of discussion and debate that we were constantly having about this game and the ideas in it, is in itself an incredible material to be the base an original story. And I wasn’t aware of the game, apart from the iconic imagery which is extremely strong. So when Michael started discussing it with me, it really felt like a film. It felt like a piece of narrative and from then on, even the discussions with Ubisoft were about story, narrative and were about how we were going to land this as a separate piece of narrative from the game.
How can you take out what is underneath the game? An incredible amount of research and the fact that it exists within a real world and is plausible. How do you take all that and put it into a singular narrative. That was, I must say, one of the biggest challenges – the development of the story.
The other aspect was how to do something in reality that’s been created artificially? But with real fantastic actors and real locations doing real stunts was something I never expected. I was a bit of a snob about these sort of films and video game films as I hadn’t seen many. So to be able to work on something like this by putting a lot of effort just like my other films was a real joy.
What were some of the ways you tried to sort of create that connection between the cold, clinical, modern Abstergo world and the warmth of the Spanish Inquisition along with the heat of the Iberian Peninsula within two time periods?
Justin: I think shooting in real locations, be it Valletta in Malta, Almeria and Seville, along with building real sets, make these two worlds feel quite real. I think the Animus became a really great bridging in-between the two. I know in the game you bypass the Animus and you get into the history of it really quickly. But what was really fascinating about this was how history was being revealed through a present-day character.
So I think we wanted to make the Animus – setting it in a kind of Templar Byzantine church — and created a theatrical space in which the past could live and breathe and interact with Michael. That actually became a great conduit between the two different looks and feels of the film.
Once we kind of cracked the fuel behind the Animus and what we wanted it to be, then it was able to kind of bridge the two worlds. But we were also loving the contrast. It created an ominous, clinical world of Abstergo and then we had these wonderful rollercoaster rides back into the past.
Sofia’s father would use elements of her speech and he was going to get credit for finding the Apple of Eden. It seemed to symbolise the idea of women in society who don’t really get credit for their work. Was that something intentional?
Marion: This form of relationship does exist a lot – behind a great man there is very often a great woman. The relationship between Sofia and her father evolved when I started to work on the character. I think it’s interesting she’s the real powerful and smart person there.
Justin: But if you look at Henry Ford, he did exactly the same thing to his son. So it doesn’t necessarily have to be a thing of the sexes. It’s just sometimes a very powerful person finds it very difficult to acknowledge the achievements of their siblings. When we were developing this, we wanted to have female characters in this movie whose objective did not depend on the arc of the male characters, which happens so often. Both Sofia and Ariane’s character are very strong – with their own goals independent of the men around them. In fact, Ariane’s character is a mentor to Aguilar. Usually it would’ve been the other way around, but it was very important for us to have that in this film.
Assassins Creed will premiere in India only on Star Movies and Star Movies HD on September 17 at 1:00pm and 9:00pm.
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