Highlands & Islands

Assassin's Creed via Macbeth and the Isle of Skye

Assassin's Creed Image copyright Assassin's Creed
Image caption Michael Fassbender in Assassin's Creed

New action movie Assassin's Creed arrives in UK cinemas in the New Year, in part thanks to Shakespeare's "Scottish Play" and the Isle of Skye.

Based on a video game series, Assassin's Creed stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard and was directed by Justin Kurzel.

The movie follows Fassbender's Cal Lynch, a convict facing a death sentence but given a second chance by a mysterious organisation, Abstergo Industries.

Through a revolutionary technology that unlocks the genetic memories contained in his DNA, Lynch is sent back 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 Templar Order.

Much of the film's action scenes, including a series of spectacular leaps across roof tops, were shot on Malta.

But it was another island that played a key part in bringing Assassin's Creed to the big screen.

On the Isle of Skye, Fassbender - who had just finished making Slow West with Scots film-maker John Maclean - Cotillard and Kurzel came together to make a film adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth.

Image copyright BFI
Image caption Fassbender in a scene for Macbeth shot on Skye

The filming was done on the island early in 2014, in often challenging weather.

Fassbender, who starred in the lead role, later described Skye as "cold, wet and beautiful" and said the production encountered "rain, sleet and snow - all the wetness of the elements".

Cotillard, who plays Lady Macbeth, fell down a hole in a bog during filming.

Fassbender said: "One minute she was there, the next she was gone."

Image copyright BFI
Image caption Cotillard and Fassbender starred in the lead roles of the Kurzel-adapted Shakespeare's Macbeth

The experiences of making Macbeth forged strong bonds between Cotillard, Fassbender and Kurzel.

"There's a trust that was built from working on Macbeth and Macbeth was a very intense and very unique project," says Cotillard.

"We had the chance to work for more than a month together before we started shooting. We shared this time of exploration of the story, of our characters, and it's really rare to kind of attend the secrets of making a movie of bringing a character to life."

The French actress adds: "It created this very, very strong relationship that we have."

Image copyright Kerry Brown
Image caption Cotillard and Fassbender in Assassin's Creed

Cotillard says Kurzel's approach to movie-making and Fassbender's to acting helped to overcome challenges in adapting Shakespeare's play.

"Justin's actually one of the best directors I worked with and definitely one of the best directors for actors I worked with," she says.

"And attending an amazing actor such as Michael. Attending his preparation and his exploration of the character, I mean, it created something very, very special and very, very strong.

"Macbeth was very stressful for me because of the language, but I had a lot of joy working with them (Kurzel and Fassbender) and I knew that working on a different project would bring the same amount of joy.

"There's this simplicity that is there because we know each other and we already had an amazing experience together."

Image copyright Kerry Brown
Image caption Kurzel says there were hints of Fassbender's physical abilities in the previous film they worked on

Kurzel says Assassin's Creed presented Fassbender with physical challenges, adding that Macbeth showed that the actor had the abilities to cope with them.

"In Macbeth we saw a little bit of action from him, but this is of a whole new level," says Kurzel.

"For him to get his body in the shape and the size and the kind of strength that it needed to be for this was a huge commitment.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Kurzel directed Fassbender and Cotillard in Macbeth

"And then to do a lot of the martial arts, to do the riding, to really leap off buildings, do the slack lining, you know that took an enormous amount of effort from him and kind of commitment.

Kurzel adds: "On top of that he was producing it."

Assassin's Creed will be released in UK cinemas on 1 January.

Image copyright Assassin's Creed
Image caption Assassin's Creed hits the big screen in the New Year

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