It’s a question Jeremy Irons found himself asking of his own character – Abstergo head Alan Rikkin, father to Cotillard’s Sophia. “I’m a mover and a shaker. A shadowy figure. A man who is very much at the forefront of this world,” Irons says, in his distinctive drawl. Like Sophia, Rikkin believes in “removing the violent impulse all men carry”, but with Charlotte Rampling’s even more senior Templar looking to shut down Abstergo’s $3bn/year operation, Rikkin sees an opportunity in Cal. “Rikkin believes the cause of unhappiness in the world is war, and if he can get rid of that then people like him will be safer and wealthier. [laughs] He’s not a very moral man, but he thinks he is.” What’s certain is that Rikkin loves his daughter, but with Cotillard describing their relationship as “twisted”, it seems Callum isn’t the only character with daddy issues. "Their relationship is distant, and she tries everything to make him proud,” Cotillard explains. “But at the same time, she starts to understand that they’re not really on the same page. The most important thing for her is not to impress her father. It’s to achieve what she started.”
Rikkin Sr.’s swanky, glass-fronted office overlooks the Animus chamber, where filming has resumed at Pinewood. Housed in a spacious circular room that was once a Templar church, sparse fluorescent lighting and anachronistic future tech is embedded in centuries-old stone. Dotted around are glass cabinets showcasing familiar weaponry from past games (we glimpse what looks like Assassin’s Creed IV’s Edward Kenway’s flintlock pistols), as well as Aguilar’s wrist-mounted, spring-loaded, Hidden Blades – the Brotherhood’s signature weapon. In the middle sits the Animus itself. At least, it will when effects house Double Negative has worked its magic. “For ages, we were like, ‘What are we going to do with the Animus?’” recalls Fassbender. The problem? The game’s static chair simply wasn’t cinematic enough (though eagle-eyed fans may spot the original chair lurking in the background). "At one point I thought of this idea where we’d be in a fluid tank, almost like a womb. But what the guys came up with is fantastic. Ubisoft are talking about putting it in their future games.” The solution: a giant, prehensile mechanical arm. Coupled with a doohickey (not a technical term) that attaches to the back of Callum’s neck, unlocking his genetic memories, the arm allows Callum to experience Aguilar’s adventures first hand. This creates a “Bleeding Effect” that helps Callum learn, by a sort of genetic osmosis, the killer skills that Aguilar possesses – but also has dangerous repercussions for Callum’s sanity as the past seemingly starts to seep into the present.
The process takes so much out of Callum that today he’s wheelchairbound, Sophia leaning over to hand him a locket before a lengthy conversation, the content of which is so secretive the sound to TF’s headphones swiftly cuts out. If the grimace on Callum’s face is anything to go by, he doesn’t trust Sophia one bit. The same certainly can’t be said for Fassbender’s relationship with Cotillard, who Kurzel brought on board after their sterling work together on Macbeth. “I’m working with the two of them today and there’s a beautiful shorthand with it,” Kurzel says under a barely lit gazebo hidden away in the corner of the 007 stage. “There’s an intuition that feels quite effortless. It was very different though, because Lady Macbeth and Macbeth are such an intimate couple. And it’s a different genre, so you’re dealing with a different tone and style."
When it comes to genre, Assassin's Creed is the kind of film that refuses to be pigeonholed – part sci-fi, part conspiracy mystery, part historical action romp. But with the games focusing almost entirely on the historical action over increasingly lacklustre contemporary sections, the natural assumption for players is that we’ll see far more of Aguilar than Callum. In fact, with just three major “regression” sequences in the film – one of which, a massive carriage chase, was filmed in Almeria along the same roads featured in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade – the majority of the runtime will be dedicated to present day. Rounding out the contemporary cast are several Abstergo subjects, including The Wire’s Michael K. Williams and Green Room’s Callum Turner, both of whom are heavily rumoured to be descendants of Assassins from previous games – voodoo poisoner Baptiste and Templar traitor Shay Cormac.