Justin Kurzel on how 'challenging' Assassin's Creed shoot led him to return home for 'True History of the Kelly Gang' (exclusive)

Stefan Pape

After the success of his chilling feature debut Snowtown in 2011 and his stylish 2015 Macbeth, it was inevitable that Australian director Justin Kurzel would make the move to Hollywood and try his hand at a bigger budgeted production.

However when Yahoo Movies spoke exclusively to the filmmaker when promoting his new film True History of the Kelly Gang, he admits his experience shooting 2016’s video game adaptation Assassin's Creed was a difficult one. 

The film, which struggled both critically (it’s rated a rotten 18% on Rotten Tomatoes) and in the box office, was labelled a flop – it was estimated to have lost 20th Century Fox $75-100 million.

Even its leading man Michael Fassbender eventually distanced himself, admitting it “took itself too seriously”, struggling to overcome the video game-to-film curse.

Read more: George MacKay talks Ned Kelly

“[Assassin's Creed] was a really challenging film to make,” Kurzel tells Yahoo. “There was a sense of going back [to shoot in Australia] to find one's self again, creatively, that led me to True History.”

“The scale of [Assassin's Creed] was enormous and being able to manage the number of people...” he said.

Michael Fassbender in a still from Justin Kurzel's Assassin's Creed movie. (20th Century Fox)

“In some ways True History was an antithesis to Assassin's, it was about getting back to Australia and getting back to a story and a group of characters I felt familiar with.”

Based on the Peter Carey novel, True History of the Kelly Gang depicts the story of the legendary outlaw Ned Kelly, played here by 1917's George MacKay, with supporting roles for the director's wife Essie Davis, Nicholas Hoult and Russell Crowe.

Orlando Schwerdt and Essie Davis as a young Ned Kelly and his mother Ellen Kelly. (Picturehouse Entertainment)

It's the first time Kurzel has returned to home soil since Snowtown, having helmed both Macbeth (also starring Fassbender) and Assassin's Creed overseas.

True History of the Kelly Gang is released in cinemas on 28 February.