Interview with Magnus Bruun (Eivor in Assassin's Creed Valhalla)
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To celebrate AC Day, we interviewed Magnus Bruun, who provided the voice and mo-cap performance for the male version of Eivor in Assassin's Creed Valhalla!
Colum: Hi Magnus, thanks for joining us today! I'd like to start by exploring your Assassin's Creed journey.
When you first auditioned for the role, did you know that it was for an Assassin's Creed game or a Viking related project, and was it always with the intention of playing male Eivor?
Magnus: When I first heard of the project back in the spring of 2019, it was called The Black Wolf Saga and was an animated Viking series to be filmed in Canada. So when I made my selftape I had no idea what was actually going on, nor did my agent. It was first when I got the call back and the invitation to come to London for the audition that we found out that it was Ubisoft who was producing it, but we still didn’t know exactly what it was.
So I flew from Copenhagen to London still in the blind, but when I entered the audition room and was met by Darby McDevitt and three other directors from Ubisoft Montreal it all became very clear. Also I originally auditioned for the role as Sigurd, but that changed when I got the call back and for my two days of castings in London I was auditioning for Eivor.
Colum: What were your initial thoughts on the character?
Magnus: I loved Eivor, such a great character to dive into. Eivor is stubbornly independent, honor bound, strong and adventurous but also a character dealing with a childhood trauma trying to find the way to a brighter future.
Colum: This is the first time the series has split a character into both male and female versions. How did filming work, and did you take turns with Cecilie to film scenes?
Magnus: I shot almost all of the cinematics for Eivor so we never really took turns, but we did shoot one scene together, though I really can’t talk about that one since it would spoil the game for the players who hasn’t completed it yet.
I love the fact that everyone playing AC Valhalla gets to met and live as Eivor and that you as a gamer make your own choice to how and who your Eivor is going to be, so I think the character choice in the game is working very well. I also really love Cecilie Stenspil's acting and voice work and I think she did an amazing job with the character.
Colum: How are you finding the motion capture, and do you ever get used to it?
Magnus: I found the motion capture a bit weird an unsatisfying in the beginning because I just came from shooting two seasons of The Last Kingdom. On the big Netflix set in Hungary I had an army, was riding a black stallion, looking like a true Viking warlord in my armour with scars, full beard and face tattoos, and now I had to be clean shaven for the facial scans and HMC (head mounted camera) and my costume was a tight spandex suit with small dots all around, not very ‘Vikingy’.
At the Alice Studios in Montreal there was nothing, or all most nothing. It’s an enormous room with green screen, a hundred cameras on the ceiling and four steady-cam operators walking around you, but there are no horses, the castle is made of boxes and when I jump over Yggdrasils roots (spoiler, sorry), it’s just me jumping over some big ropes and sandbags lying on the floor. So I had to cope with that, but after a few days it gave me a lot of freedom. In a studio like this everything is suddenly possible and from the moment I fully understood that, I embraced it and never looked back.
BTW the people working at the Alice Studio were so professional and helpful and they made all my weeks of shooting feel great, adequate and very fun.
Colum: Did recording during lockdown present any challenges, and did the team manage to overcome them?
Magnus: I filmed my last performance capture in Montreal the day after the Danish Prime Minister locked Denmark down. Then I flew home and we actually managed to record all the rest of the voice overs without having any real difficulties, thank God! Talking about the voice work I have to give my utmost respect to my voice director Thor Bishopric. Working with him made Eivor come to life in the voice-overs and I have a feeling that we created the character together.
I also want to praise Allan Beaupre our incredible voice designer, Sebastian Vaskio my sound technician ninja and all the other wonderful people working with me and Cecilie Stenspil during the hundreds and hundreds of hours we used in voice studios all over Canada, England and Denmark. There wouldn’t be any Eivor in this game without their tireless work. Never forget!
Colum: Do you think that your time working on The Last Kingdom contributed towards any of Eivor's traits?
Magnus: Portraying Cnut in The Last Kingdom definitely gave me a great deal of stamina towards playing Eivor in AC Valhalla. Though they are two very different characters, (one off them allegedly being being a villain) they are both Viking warriors getting more and more power and influence. Family and a home for their clan and their people are important to them and they are both very ambitious, but then it sort of ends there. Cnut being the unsung hero of his own saga, Eivor actually is the real hero of the Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Saga.
I shot my last scene as Cnut for season four of The Last Kingdom a week before I flew to Canada and started the first motion capture shoot as Eivor, so I was in the mindset of a Viking and had been it for more than three years, and that helped a lot.
Colum: Which type of flyting do you prefer? Normal (insults) or reverse (compliments)?
Magnus: Normal flyting with insults of course!
Colum: Which missions were your favourite to shoot, and did you have fun working on the game?
Magnus: My favourite part of the game is the main story with Sigurd and Basim and in details I think everything involving Fulke, brilliantly portrayed by Gaia Weiss. The four of us had so much fun shooting all the performance capture scenes and Gummi, Carlo (Gudmundur Thorvaldsson & Carlo Rota), Gaia and I had a blast in Montreal when we had any spare time.
And YES I obviously loved working on the game and I love that it’s still not finished. I’m currently working on the DLC’s, Seasons and press for the game, so Eivor is still out and proud and doing all the dirty work. Also I made some great friends in Montreal and I don’t think I want to go back to my old life without Darby McDevitt and Alain Mercieca in it. Best damn writers, brains and lovely funny people I’ve ever met. Period.
Colum: Do you have a favourite (non-spoiler) line?
Magnus: As Eivor returns to his childhood home in Norway he says:
‘Home. Or it used to be home… Now it’s nothing but bone.’
And may I just add that I freaking love Norway in the game. It’s the most beautiful stunning place!
Colum: Have you had much time to play Valhalla yourself? If so, are you focusing on story or exploration?
Magnus: I haven’t been playing the game much since the release, but I’ve played it while we where making it. I’ve been watching some of my friends play it and I enjoy that a lot. The thing is that I know everything. I have read it all. Said almost all of it. So there’s no surprises. But when I’ll finally sit down and dig deep into it, I’ll plow through the main story so I can listen to my great colleagues work. And then I’ll go back to Norway and just explore. Jump from Island to island and enjoy the northern lights.
Colum: How do you feel the game has been received overall, and have you seen any of the fan content created to celebrate its arrival?
Magnus: It feels like most people really enjoy the game and that makes me happy. Of course we can’t satisfy everybody but when millions of people are playing the game that’s always a hard thing to do. I heard there were people wanting Eivor to sound like Kratos from God of War, those people are hard to please. (BTW I love Christopher Judges voice)
Back when we approached the character we wanted Eivor to be someone people would listen to, someone people would fall in love with, make alliances with someone to follow and genuinely like as well as be afraid of at the right times. We wanted to make a real human being with strengths and flaws. So if you are only looking for a bloodthirsty Viking, sorry, Eivor can be that, but not all the time.
About the fan content and art. I freaking f****** love it! Keep it coming!
Colum: One thing that was noticeable during the marketing campaign was the focus on male Eivor over female, contributing towards the creation of the AC Sisterhood movement. Do you have a message for fans picking up the game for the first time regarding character selection?
Magnus: I believe that AC Sisterhood is a very important movement and I really think you should keep up the incredible work you are doing and keep pushing. Things are changing in the world and also in the gaming communities and the female representation will change for the better even though the battle sometimes feels Sisyphean. I’ll personally do what I can to push things in the right direction and you can always call on me for help, I mean that.
When my Eivor arrives in England the first place I will go is the western part of Wessex. Here I’ll find myself an underground entrance so I for the rest of the game can show off some powerful tattoos with the most wonderful logo!
And I think that you should pic the Eivor you want. It’s a great game anyway you play it. Cecilie Stenspil did a fantastic job with her Eivor and I did my absolutely best with mine. Whatever choice you make you can always switch whenever you play it or you can let the Animus decide. Just go with your gut feeling. I think I’m gonna give Female Eivor a go because I’ve been listening to my own voice for all my life and I know how I’ve said and played every single one of the eleven thousand lines Eivor has in the game, so for me it’s time for a change. But pick your poison it’s a good drink anyway you drink it.
Colum: You recently attended the Assassin's Creed Valhalla launch event in Denmark, organised by the Ubisoft Nordic team. How was it?
Magnus: Yes I did, and it was great. Drunk Uncle Covid has f***** up the entire planet at the moment, so obviously it wasn’t the launch we wanted, but we had a good time. I met a lot of fans of the franchise, talked about making the game and signed posters. When we get to the other side of this weird period in the world I really look forward to meeting more fans at conventions but at the moment it has to be online, sadly.
We’ll prevail and when the sun shines again it’ll all be perfect. So wear your face mask and take care of each other then we’ll get to the other side faster.
Meanwhile I’ll make you a second DLC. Deal?
Look out for our Assassin's Creed Valhalla review, coming January 2021!
We would like to thank Magnus for joining us for this interview, and to Kim Beacham and DMJ Consultancy for making it possible!