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Fassbender game for ‘Assassin’s Creed’

Thesp to star in, co-produce bigscreen adaptation of vidgame

Michael Fassbender will star in and co-produce “Assassin’s Creed,” the bigscreen adaptation of Ubisoft’s videogame franchise, through his DMC Film banner.

While Fassbender’s profile has risen with roles in “X-Men: First Class,” “Shame,” “Haywire,” “Prometheus,” and will next be seen in “The Counselor” and “Twelve Years a Slave,” thesp also has spent the past year developing films with Conor McCaughan through their new shingle. Together, they produced the short “Pitch Black Heist.”

“Assassin’s Creed” is the duo’s most high-profile project, given that the game is Ubisoft’s biggest franchise, selling over 30 million units since 2007. A third “Assassin’s Creed” game bows Oct. 30 and is set during the American Revolution. First two take place during the Crusades and Renaissance. Altogether there have been a total of nine games released across various platforms.

Plot revolves around a man who learns his ancestors were trained assassins after he is kidnapped by a secret org with ties to the Knights Templar, and sent back in time to retrieve historical artifacts.

Michael Fassbender was our first choice” to play the franchise’s iconic hooded hero, said Jean-Julien Baronnet, CEO of Paris-based Ubisoft Motion Pictures. “Michael (Fassbender) is an extremely smart, talented, versatile and committed actor.”

Last fall, Ubisoft was in talks with Sony to develop a series of “Assassin’s” pics (Daily Variety, Oct. 20, 2011). But the companies have since put negotiations on hold.

Ubisoft execs now plan to stick to their initial plan and develop the film independently in order to maintain greater creative control. Last year, Ubisoft invested in launching UMP, headed by Baronnet, former CEO of Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp, to adapt the company’s games into films, TV shows and digital projects.

While Sony could still wind up distribing the films, UMP will package the project with a writer and director before resuming talks with the studio.

“We’re open to re-discuss with the key studios once the production package is finalized,” Baronnet told Variety.

Ubisoft also is looking to raise financing for the tentpole through foreign presales and co-production deals, which again could again involve Sony.

“Whatever the financial model, UMP will limit its risk investment,” and will save on production costs by turning to its 26 in-house game studios like Hybride Technologies, to handle visual effects work, Baronnet said.

Ubisoft sees adaptations as a way to turn its games into larger brands that will get the titles in front of more consumers while creating lucrative new revenue sources for the company. One of its first projects is an animated TV series based on the “Raving Rabbids” franchise that will air on Nickelodeon. Ubisoft chief Yves Guillemot also wants to develop films for the games “Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell” and “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon.”

By controlling more of the creative through UMP, Ubisoft hopes it doesn’t wind up with another “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” adapted by Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer. Pic earned a disappointing $335 million worldwide, with just $91 million of that in the U.S. last year, ending any franchise dreams.

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