Milla Jovovich: Talks Video Games, Female Representation in Action Cinema, and More for Monster Hunter
If you know anything about me, you know that I’m ride or die for the Resident Evil films, and a lot of that is due to the fact that Milla Jovovich just kicks all the ass in all those films. I’ve been a huge fan of hers for decades now (I can still remember seeing Return to the Blue Lagoon in theaters with my cousin Missy during the summer of 1991), so it was a real pleasure to speak with her once again for her latest project, Monster Hunter, a new video game film adaptation from her husband and frequent collaborator, Paul W.S. Anderson.
During our chat, Jovovich discussed her appreciation for the Monster Hunter video game series, having the chance to base her character in the movie, Captain Artemis, on a real-life superhero she had the opportunity to train with, working alongside Tony Jaa, and the fearsome females that inspired her as a young girl who aspired to kick some ass in an action movie one day.
Great to speak with you today, Milla. I’ve been a big fan of yours for a long time, and I’m a huge nerd for the Resident Evil films, too, so I enjoyed getting to see you and Paul explore a whole new world here with Monster Hunter. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect going into it because I wasn’t too familiar with the video game property, but I had so much fun with this movie. What I really loved about it is you guys do so much with this movie on a visual level. A lot of that comes about because of the language barriers between your character and Tony’s character, but there’s a universality that is explored through those differences.
Milla Jovovich: Thank you. I mean, listen, we did our best to try and really get the feeling of the game when you play it. It’s such a beautiful world that you get immersed into, and when I was preparing for the role, I played the game a lot. I have to say, I spent half my time killing monsters, but I spent the other half just avoiding them so I could explore the world. It’s just so gorgeous.
I’m sure one of the big appeals of doing Monster Hunter is getting to work with Paul again, but was there something appealing to you in terms of playing Artemis in this role? Was there a certain challenge that came with taking on this character, that it was really exciting to you from a creative perspective?
Milla Jovovich: Oh, definitely. Paul knows me very well and he knows how I’ve always been very attracted to the military because both of my parents have roots in military families. I always joked that I would have joined the military itself just to keep the family tradition going. So, when he wrote this part for me, he wrote it as a female Army Ranger. And that really gave me a chance to do a lot of really interesting and super fun research. I got a chance to go spend a few days over at Fort Irwin, which is a huge military base outside of Los Angeles, where they do these real-world combat simulations that I got to be a part of and watch and work with the soldiers on teams and things. It was just unbelievable.
I met a real female Army Ranger who I became friends with and she inspired Captain Artemis. We actually named her Natalie after her, and she ended up becoming our military advisor. Natalie and her husband came down to South Africa and trained me and all the other actors. It was really just the most amazing experience to be able to represent her here. Her stories about what she went through to become an Army Ranger, that branch of the military has only been open to women for the last six years or so, and there are only a few hundred women that have actually passed the Ranger test.
So, this role gave me the opportunity to play a real-life superhero. These women that are able to pass this test are on a different level from the rest of us. But they’re still real people and incredible people. I’ve played a lot of action heroes between Leeloo and Alice and they were always bigger than life. But to play a real woman who actually is a superhero in her own right, was very different and just so inspiring.
You just mentioned Alice and of course, that was a very physical character. But what I thought is really great about Natalie here is that the physicality to her character is very different. It’s very rooted in a sense of realism. Can you discuss how you approached her physicality in this film? Also, I absolutely loved the scene with Tony, when you guys are just going back and forth fighting. That was easily one of my favorite sequences in the movie, because it was just so much fun to watch.
Milla Jovovich: It was very humbling working with Tony Jaa, to say the very least. I mean, talk about a real-life superhero. He is a true master of what he does, and it was incredible to watch him work. It’s funny that you should mention that sort of realism because when we were working with the assistant coordinator to figure out what the fight scene would be and how it would go, there were quite a few moves that they had planned for me that to me just felt very inauthentic to what my military training would have taught me. After working with these soldiers and everything, I just felt like I wouldn’t be doing these crazy martial arts moves like him.
One thing that I felt very strongly was that you should have these two really divergent styles clashing, where he is doing all these beautiful martial arts movements and I, on the other hand, am just trying to get him on the floor in a very tight, dirty way. So, it was great. Obviously, I didn’t want to compete with Tony when it came to martial arts, but it also gave us an opportunity to showcase two completely different styles of fighting that are both incredibly powerful in their own ways, and really bring that divergence into both of our characters.
I wanted to talk about the sequence when you guys are gearing up for battle, because as somebody who watches a lot of video gameplay, that totally felt like a sequence plucked right out of a video game, as you’re going through the weapons and you’re going through the armor and the clothing choices. That really felt authentic to the video game experience, and it was something I don’t really feel like we’ve seen a lot of from movies based on video game properties.
Milla Jovovich: When you’re playing the game Monster Hunter, creating your armor is one of the main elements. And, when you kill a certain monster, you have to take elements from that monster and create your own sword and create your armor from that so you can take on a different type of monster. That’s one of the things I think the fans of the games will really appreciate. So, we really wanted to showcase that in the movie. And I loved that whole sequence myself, too. It was a lot of fun, especially as a fan of the games.
I know we’re almost out of time, but as I mentioned, I am a huge fan of the Resident Evil movies, and what I think is really exceptional about what you guys were able to do with that film series is, when you look at the context of those movies and how they came out and how they were received by fans and for as long as they ran, it’s a pretty phenomenal legacy that you guys were able to establish. Plus, I think you guys are the biggest female-led franchise in history, too. And as a female fan of genre films, that means a lot to me on a personal level to see that kind of achievement. I’m just curious, from your perspective, looking back on that, how much does your legacy in the realm of Resident Evil mean to you, personally?
Milla Jovovich: Well, gosh. I never really looked at it from that perspective. But, I guess you’re right. I mean, it’s funny. I always joke around with Paul, saying that Resident Evil almost felt like our own version of a TV show because we did six “seasons.” But I never really thought about it that way, and I guess Underworld got pretty close to our run. But, listen, it’s such a privilege to be a part of the Resident Evil series. As an ’80s kid, I felt like I grew up without being able to have many female role models on screen who were seen as strong and powerful. But when I was 12, I watched Aliens, and I saw Sigourney Weaver kicking alien butt, and I was so happy. Because even as a little girl, that’s what I wanted to do. And I felt like I could do it, too. I feel like between Sigourney in the Alien films and Linda [Hamilton] in the Terminator films, that was pretty much it back then. So, those were the characters that really inspired me.
When I did The Fifth Element, I had to convince them that I could really do this kind of work, but I love training, I love learning martial arts, and I love going into these universes. I feel like even today, women still need to be represented more in action roles, too. So, I’m grateful to be a part of that.