Do you ever stop working? It looks like you’ve been making movies non-stop for almost a decade now.
‘It’s been pretty full-on. I had a ferocious appetite and energy for it, and I went at it like a maniac. But I’m going to take some downtime now. The last five years, I was verging on being a workaholic. I’ve just been going from film to film.’
Your new movie ‘Assassin’s Creed’ is based on a computer game. Were you a big gamer?
‘Yeah, I played video games in my teens in Ireland. We never had one at home. My friend had an Atari and I would go round to his place to play it. I played arcade games too.’
‘Assassin’s Creed’ isn’t your first crack at acting and producing at the same time. You put on a stage production of ‘Reservoir Dogs’ when you were 18. That’s quite a precocious thing to do.
‘I didn’t know what I was doing, but we put so much work into it. I remember we all put on black suits and black ties and went around town putting flyers on car windscreens. We even carried toy guns with us – you probably couldn’t do that now.’
What kind of teenager were you?
‘I wasn’t super-popular and I wasn’t a total geek. I was somewhere in the middle. I was a geek but I got along with people. I loved my music. That was when music defined you. You were a goth or a grungehead or a metalhead, and from 15 to 17 music was a big part of me. Then, at 17, I discovered acting and that became all-consuming. That was what I wanted to do, and I went for it. I wasn’t very academic, I was pretty average. The same with sport, too.’
How do you spend your downtime now?
‘Surfing, which is a fairly new thing for me. I started about four years ago. It’s an immediate unplug. I learned all over the place but did a stint for ten days at a friend’s house in Brazil. I broke the back of it there. That was just before shooting “X-Men: Days of Future Past”. I also like racing. I go karting when I get a chance.’
Are you a risk-taker?
‘I don’t want to get hurt, that’s for sure! I’m not very good at pain. Some people have a relationship to it. I don’t. But I’ve always loved cars. Being a racer was a dream as a kid.’
You got the gang from last year’s ‘Macbeth’ back together for ‘Assassin’s Creed’. Same co-star, Marion Cotillard, same director, Justin Kurzel. Was it a big step up for everyone involved?
‘Yeah, we’ll see if it pays off or not! We wanted to make something on a big scale, but perhaps with something a little more to it. I always said “The Matrix” was a good template. That was a film where something changed. The thing that excites me about “Assassin’s Creed” is this idea in the story of DNA memory. For me, that anchors the fantasy in science and can make people believe in it.’
So you’re not a fan of big fantasy movies?
‘A lot of what’s out there is very similar. These CGI action set pieces that just sort of go on and on… I find it all numbing. We have relatively little CGI in this film – lots of real action and fights, and very little green screen.’
Your mother is Irish. Your father is German. You live in London. How do you feel about Brexit?
‘Gutted. Just gutted.’
At least you’ve already got an Irish passport…
‘I’ve actually got a German passport! I’ve been meaning to get an Irish passport for years and just never got around to it. The thing I love about London is the mix: the mix of all the different cultures and religious backgrounds. That’s what inspires me. For the next generation, the idea that if I had a son or a nephew they could easily go and work abroad like that, the ease of movement through Europe – that alone was worth staying in the EU for.’