Remembering Russell Lees (1957 – 2022)
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Today we remember the life of Russell Lees, who recently sadly passed away at the age of 64. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends during this difficult time.
Russell worked on various AAA Ubisoft titles as a script writer, most recently as Lead Writer for Assassin's Creed Valhalla Wrath of the Druids and ACV's Sciropscire & Oxenefordscire arcs.
He is credited as the author of The Tyranny of King Washington DLC for Assassin's Creed III, alongside contributions to the Assassin's Creed Unity Murder Mysteries/ Nostradamus Enigmas, Far Cry New Dawn and Assassin's Creed Origins.
James Russell Lees was born in Salt Lake City on May 8, 1957. His father, Jay, was a theater director and college professor.
He left Salt Lake City as a teenager to study computer engineering at Boston University, then got his master’s in computer engineering from Stanford University and, back at BU, his master’s in playwriting.
Lees also co-founded the TheatreWorks/West production company in Salt Lake City, where he wrote and directed for the stage, and served as director of French-language plays at the University of Utah.
Survivors include his his wife, Lisa; daughters Charlotte and Madeleine; siblings Mindy, Becky and Jay; brother-in-law Stan; and sister-in-law Julie. (Via The Hollywood Reporter)
During his Ubisoft career spanning 13-years, Russell made many friends who remember him as a kind, passionate man who will be sorely missed.
Below we have collected memories and tributes from those who knew him best.
Rest in Peace Russell.
"We lost a dear friend and brilliant colleague this week. Writer and Narrative Designer Russell Lees was a part of the Assassin's Creed and Far Cry families for over a decade. All who worked with him will attest to his patience, his generosity, his passion, & his bright spirit. He will be missed, and remembered always as the most ideal artist in this busy, hectic industry -- devoted, collaborative, patient, and kind beyond measure. from Montreal to wherever you are now, Russ. Rock on."
-Darby McDevitt (Valhalla Narrative Director)
Today, I learned that I had lost a great friend. Russell was the Lead Writer on Wrath of the Druids. We walked hand in hand to make this story that I consider to be a turning point of my life. I can say that his presence, his passion and his kindness kept me going every day. When we parted ways, we were sure that our paths would cross again. Now, I can only look back at the time we spent working together. All my thoughts go to his family in these difficult times. Russell will be missed.
-Hugo Sahuquet (Narrative Director for Assassin's Creed Valhalla's Wrath of the Druids DLC)
I am just devastated about the news. I worked with him on AC3, AC Unity, and AC Syndicate. He was endlessly patient and kind, the level-headed writer who quietly got it done, even when the deadlines were short and we were all stressed and tired. He wrote the Dreadful Crimes on AC Syndicate, among other things. I still use those as reference today when I'm talking about writing for investigative gameplay. The past days I've had a flood of messages from Ubi and ex-Ubi writers who worked with him, everyone with fond memories. He worked with so many people, over so many years. We're all stricken and saddened by his loss. And a late addition - if you ever hear a character in a game say the words "dead as a mackerel", that was Russell. I found it amongst our guard patrol lines on Unity, and then Syndicate. He told me he tried to work it into every project.
-Ceri Young (Former Senior Scriptwriter at Ubisoft Montreal)
Still gutted by this. Russell was a great writer, friend and human. Contributed endlessly to AC and beyond as a playwright. Just a wonderful soul and will never be forgotten.
-Alain Mercieca (Formerly lead on Assassins Creed Origins, Valhalla)
Russell was a part of our dream team of writers on AC Syndicate. He helped make the impossible possible. He’s going to be missed.
-Jeff Skalski (Assassin's Creed Syndicate Senior Producer)
Photos of the AC Syndicate Writing Team
Russell had a way of listening deeply, like he was seeing inside you, and a calm assuredness. He always knew what to do, on top of being an excellent writer and person. This is a tragedy and he will be dearly missed.
-Jeffrey Yohalem (Former Lead Scriptwriter on AC Brotherhood & Syndicate)
I didn't get to know Russell well, but as a newcomer, professionally, to Assassin's Creed, Ubisoft, its tools and processes, he was always patient, kind and happy to explain things to me. No question was too small, too unimportant. He was Good People. GNU Russell Lees.
-Giles Armstrong (Senior Scriptwriter on ACV: Dawn of Ragnarok DLC)
Russell was immensely kind. He was talented and humble. He was always there to support me, sometimes early in the morning when I needed to talk. He was one of the best person I ever met. I already miss him and his smile so much.
-Sarah Beaulieu (Directing narration on an upcoming Assassin's Creed game)
He was such an absolute pleasure to work with briefly on AC Unity. Even working between two cities, we had a great time working on the mysteries and he was always so kind, generous, and an incredibly sharp writer. Can’t believe he’s gone.
-Navid Khavari (Additional Narrative design on AC Unity)
Russ was the kind of guy who could teach you about life with just a silence. He had a wicked laugh, an open ear, and the best femme fatale table read voice in the biz. He was generous with his experience and a novel voice in the industry. Play his stories so he may live on.
-Betty Robertson (Scriptwriter on AC Valhalla and Odyssey)
My friend, you meant so much to so many people and I'm deeply grateful that I find myself among them. You were such a mentor to me. Such a shining light in this industry. You were the best of us. I'll miss you forever.
-Christopher Grilli (Lead Writer at UbisoftMTL. Writer on Assassin's Creed Valhalla and Origins)