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Russell Lees, a playwright and longtime Ubisoft writer-director known for his work on the Assassin’s Creed video game franchise, died Tuesday of a heart attack in Montreal, his friend Paul Dworin announced. He was 64.
Lees broke into the gaming industry in the mid-1990s and wrote and directed the 1995 PC horror adventure The Dark Eye, a digital adaptation of the works of Edgar Allan Poe.
He joined Montreal-based Ubisoft in 2009 and during his 13 years there penned narratives, scripts and sub-stories for numerous titles in the Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry and Watch Dogs franchises.
“We lost a dear friend and brilliant colleague this week,” Ubisoft narrative director Darby McDevitt wrote Thursday on Twitter. “All who worked with him will attest to his patience, his generosity, his passion and his bright spirit.”
Lees’ comedy Nixon’s Nixon, an imagining of a meeting between an inebriated Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on the eve of the president’s 1974 resignation, debuted off-Broadway in 1995 and was nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award.
He also wrote Monticel’, which captured the drama of the political infighting that threatened the election of Thomas Jefferson as the third U.S. president.
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.
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