Talks about the ‘Resident Evil’ Franchise and the Horrific Accident
We went to South Africa with a small hive of journalists to visit the set of Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. In addition to enjoying the Cape Town location ourselves, we saw the deserted location that Anderson chose to represent the outskirts of Raccoon City, the headquarters of the evil Umbrella corporation that created and released an apocalyptic virus. Like the behind the scenes family behind the film, the story all comes full circle for Alice (Jovovich) too as she heads back to The Hive with a band of fellow survivors to try and destroy the corporation once and for all and save the human race. And of course fighting the zombies in their path to redemption.
During a night shoot we sat down with Jovovich to talk her full 15-year journey with the series. She revealed how her action jealousy eventually got Alice her own huge action set pieces, how her daughter’s Red Queen portrayal will be different, how a horrific accident on the set affected herself and the shoot and how she hopes fans and haters will get exactly what they want from the “final chapter.”
Question: The Final Chapter is pretty final. Does it help the film and shoot to know that you’re closing with this one?
I am just so excited that we have been able to do this franchise for as many years as we have and I think every one that we make we kind of close the book on it once we’re done and then once people want another one, I am ready to go again. But this time it will be a little bit difficult. I had just had a baby six months ago and so it was definitely challenging because I felt like I was cramming all of the exercise in the at the last minute and just couldn’t get myself out of mom, nursing, hanging-at-home mode. And I look at pictures of myself and from right before I got here I was 35 pounds heavier and when I got here I went into complete overdrive and had to kind of be careful with the dieting and the super exercising because I wanted to nurse my daughter for as long as possible and exercise and nursing don’t go well together so I couldn’t go full on but at the same time. I am now within 6 pounds of my pre-baby weight… I’m sorry that’s where my mind is [laughs].
Is it bittersweet knowing that this is the last one? It’s six of them, is there going to be a feeling of it being weird not being able to look forward to another Resident Evil?
Like I said, every time we finish we are kind of just done with it, so I didn’t expect more than the first one. So each one that we do is always a pleasure and kind of a surprise and I am so happy and honored to be apart of this franchise. But at the same time it is nothing that I take for granted, like oh yeah we’ll do another one. I remember doing number four and going oh it would be so great to do one more, just because the character and the story and where she is going now is really exciting and has great ideas and really fun stuff to film and then here we are three movies later. So it is just amazing that we have had a chance to make it as far as we have.
How has your approach to the character changed throughout the making of the films?
I think for me I just get more and more comfortable with the character of Alice. I mean, it is about finding little human aspects about her to show that about her, because she is not the kind of character that is going to laugh alot, she is not the kind of character that is going to fall in love, and have these simple moments with people you know, so if I can sneak little things in for her humanity, I have to. We did this amazing fight sequence, that we call “the upside-down fight” and I was watching the stunt double do it and watching them rehearse it and in my head I thought it would be great if she laughed in this fight scene because you could see a different side to her personality and i just thought it would be very charming in a way if you could put that into a fight sequence to give her character a little something instead of being tough all the time. And we did it a couple of times and when people saw it in the dailies everyone just kind of fell in love with Alice because it was just a kind of Alice thing to do. It wasn’t a scripted thing there were moments where I felt kind of inspired to do something different into the scene and I think it is those little bits of life that make a typical fight sequence stand out and something that people really believe and buy it when they watch.
For a franchise, something that is unique about this Resident Evil is that in the film the people that you act against are new and are in it for one film only what can you tell us about a lot of the new characters that are in this and the actors that you are acting against?
Well we got a great cast, really fun people, really great actors. It is sad sometimes because we need a body count and it’s important that we have people that are going to die and I am not going to die and you know characters from the game can’t die because you they are owned by Capcom and we’re not allowed to kill any of them off. So you know Ali Larter’s character won’t die or Sienna Guillory who plays Valentine won’t die, so Paul (W.S. Anderson) has to think of some cool characters that people are going to like and root for and who do die in a spectacular fashion. So we have a fun group of people this time and everyone has been wonderful about their deaths and it’s more about okay when I do go, it’s going to be awesome. You know Ruby Rose is here, and she is a lot of fun and…
What do you think is the most spectacular death scene in the franchise?
In the first movie the elevator sequence is still one of my favorite deaths ever. It’s funny because my daughter—who is in a French school, we have a french tutor come over to help her with her homework because we have been doing nights and a crazy schedule—is in the house that we are staying right now, and it has an elevator and I guess a lot of the houses in Cape Town on the beach have funny elevators and of course they never work and the teacher didn’t know this and she went into the elevator and nothing happened. She couldn’t open the door and then I come down and I was on the phone, and I see this poor French lady stuck in the elevator and I fiddle with the key thing and I slide the door open and then boom it closes really fast and I’m like my God, this was literally out of a Resident Evil movie. Then I started opening the [door] again and I slide it out and I fix it and then I open the other door for her and—the poor thing—because the elevator was already halfway up to the next floor, well, it goes diagonal and she had to climb out and climb up. “Oh this must be like a horror movie for you” and she told me that she was very claustrophobic (in french accent), the poor thing.
So yeah, the elevator sequence is one that I love. I am going through all of the films in my head I will have to think about that question because I can’t think off the top of my head which deaths. I have to think about it. When you do six movies, to think about spectacular deaths you know it’s a good question, and when I go out and come back I will have it, It’s just a lot to go through, but I do love the elevator sequence in the first film.
I want to go back to something that you said, so this is the final chapter, they are saying this is the final Resident Evil movie and fans have grown to love the characters that have appeared in the film and a lot of them have been wondering if any of the characters will be coming back like Sienna, she won’t die, so I am assuming that she will return or appear in the movie. Will any other characters like Chris Redfield, will he be making an appearance?
No I don’t. Unfortunately neither Chris or Jill is in this one. There are a lot of characters in the Resident Evil franchise and it’s difficult to have everybody involved. You know Jill has been around for the last two films and we knew we wanted to get Ali (Larter) back and we just kind of had to make some tough choices on this one.
There are not a lot of female lead franchises. What does it mean to you to be leading this and to be leading the charge in this because it really doesn’t exist beyond you.
I never thought 15-years ago that I would be sitting here talking about number 6 of an action-horror franchise. My mom was just here and going who would have thought when you were young that this is what you would be doing. But it’s amazing, it’s really a part of who I am and there are a lot of facets of my personality in these movies, there are a lot of facets that aren’t, of course. But I think it is a real character piece and it’s a beloved character for people that I was able to represent that for a lot of women, a lot of young people, a lot of fans of the game. Especially because Alice isn’t in the video games. It is kind of amazing to do something that people embrace so much.
I have been so lucky to play some really iconic characters in my career, Alice being one of them. So it’s wonderful to have my 40th birthday this year and it’s amazing going into my 40’s with so much under my belt and so much to be thankful for. It’s funny because I meet a lot of girls who come from very conservative homes and conservative countries and places where women are not very respected and a lot fathers who aren’t very happy to have a daughter let’s say and they come and say to me, I have been a fan of yours since I was a kid and you really pulled me through some really difficult times in my life where I felt worthless and very unloved and not very cared for in my own family and they have tears in their eyes and they say they appreciate the work you have done it’s really made me feel like I can do anything too. And it kills me at night when I see these amazing beautiful, brilliant women with huge insecurities in who they are because of the prejudices they have grown up with and these kind of old fashioned views of men and women… Letting women know that you can do anything and that your strength will pull you through and you just need to go after your dreams and just work really hard and achieve whatever you want to achieve and break away from the people that are trying to hold you down. I think that this franchise has shown that women can kind of command as well as any man, sometimes better. And I love the fact that I have been able to play so many strong female characters. It’s a privilege.
What kind of input have you had on your character over the years, because you are in a unique position where you are married to Paul and Paul is writing and directing most of them. Does he ever ask your advice, like do you think Alice will have this kind of moment? Or do you kind of just leave it to him?
It kind of depends.The first two movies, I was beating him over the head with the script because the first one he rewrote everything for Michelle Rodriguez because they got her in the movie and I love Michelle, but I was adamant that he remember The Fifth Element; like, Paul, you can’t take away my action scenes! And I hardly knew Paul at the time, so I was close to outta there. In the second one, I remember that he was really excited to have Jill Valentine in the movie and he gave all the good action to Sienna’s character and I was like, what are you doing? So it’s really nice that pretty much from number three onwards he pretty much knew that I would be pretty angry if he didn’t give me some great action. I want to keep it all to myself, but at the same time, that was my big thing, doing all the action, doing my own stunts and all that, so I really wanted to perform and impress my fans who’ve gone out to see me ever since The Fifth Element and the other things that are wild, strong and fun. So it has been quite a few times in this series that where I have come to Paul with ideas about a stunt sequence.
For me now, fights and stunt sequences are like second nature. So when I watch a stunt sequence, I think about what he has written and I visualize it and it is something that I am pretty good at being able to imagine and verbalize. So I see myself jumping down and elevator shaft, like I have this dream where I jumped into an elevator shaft and it’s so cool, so this image in my head is amazing from this dream because stunts are now in my dreams. And he always jokes about this, like and is like “Mila, I want to do something really amazing right there, write it [for me].” Sometimes I do come with hints and sometimes he does write it in. Most of the time he just listens and says “okay, honey”. His imagination is so unbelievable, [but] he is also really open to my opinion.
We definitely have kind of grown up together with this franchise and we trust each other and sometimes the great thing about our relationship—especially when it comes to these movies—is that I wait to read the script until he is done, done, done. I want my first reaction to really compliment all of his ideas as much as he has been able to do. I don’t want to see early drafts and not have that first full reaction. Then I have loads of questions and he jokes that if I was a producer nothing would ever leave development hell. I mean if it was up to me, Titanic would still be in development [with] all these questions [I have].You would be surprised how many people take for granted that when they read a script like oh he just did that where I am thinking about details like how did they know that was there, how did they know to do that in that moment?
How have you grown from the first time you read Alice, especially after number 5?
I was a huge fan of the game. Actually, I first wanted to develop Resident Evil myself because it was such a popular game and it was kind of subterranean and very underground. I love the set pieces. I love the character of Alice and her innocence. For me, especially coming off a bunch of independent movies with great directors and having an iconic original character in The Fifth Element already, I really wanted to do something very different and just something fun and personal because I loved the game and my little brother loved the game and I thought it was so cool to bring something to this and to kind of elevate the material. The idea of making an action-horror movie and turning it something chic and cool was appealing. I think we did that.
Producer Jeremy (Bolt) said that Alice will lose some of her powers in this one, and you said that for the previous films you wanted to have your big action scenes, now that you’ve had those is it nice to add a little extra vulnerability to Alice by losing some of your power?
I think the problem with having powers is that you become invincible and then why should people really care? It was something that Paul was thinking about a lot trying to bring Alice back to who she was in the first few movies where she was just a bad ass. She didn’t need all these superpowers. I think it worked really well visually to have superpowers because you have the crow sequence and everybody is on fire in number three. And he was right when you think about a franchise that goes on you need your main character to go on and be relatable and just have those vulnerabilities that you talked about. It was an honor to just play her as a really amazing fighter that doesn’t really need any of that. And in this one there are going to be some really great action sequences, Iain Glen, who plays Dr. Isaacs, he gets these superpowers. I spoke with the stunt choreographer to get the abc’s of a fight between us because she can’t really affect him so the only way we can really do some great stuff for me is to escape in a bunch of interesting ways. How do I deflect the near misses, how he comes after me and just misses, how do I get out of the way in a really cool fashion. We have been really inspired by Cirque du Soleil for this one for the fight sequences like the “upside-down fight” where it is almost balletic and very fast. Paul is not doing any slo-motion on this one so it has been a lot more challenging for everyone because we got to be really on it are really trying not to get hurt.
How strongly do you believe that this will actually be the last one and how much will you miss this character if this is the last one?
I will definitely miss this experience it’s not just my character though I love sort of playing the female Clint Eastwood, which I found so exhilarating. I love Clint Eastwood, and to sort of do that Dirty Harry thing over and over has been really really fun and I love that people buy it and that I can sell it in a believable way. But what I think I am going to miss the most is the family we created, not just with the actors that keep coming back and we keep bringing back to life over and over again, but our camera crew and the family experience we have. I met my husband during this and we had kids during this. I kind of compare it to a television show that goes on season after season except we take two year breaks rather than six month breaks. and you keep coming back and everyone has shorthand when they talk and everyone knows each other it’s just a really nice feeling. It will be really sad to say goodbye.
I’d like to ask something, and if you don’t want to answer I understand, I wanted to ask about Olivia (Jackson, the stunt double who had her arm amputated after a stunt went awry) and I know about that she has awoken and she has written a detailed list of her injuries but she has also wrote with almost a positive outlook. She is as much of a fighter as Alice is and I’m wondering, what has that situation done for this film and how has everyone reacted to that situation?
We were going to pull the plug on production, period; it was close. It happened on the first day of principal photography. Today is our first day back. What happened to Olivia was a nightmare, plain and simple. Paul was crying on the phone, I have never heard the man cry in the fifteen years that we have known each other, I mean it was the most shocking thing that I have ever been through, that Paul has ever been through and anyone on these movies has ever witnessed. That accident shouldn’t have happened. It was one of the most typical shots you could do on a motorcycle: straight ahead, camera goes over, you know it was something that everyone on crew has shot a million times in shooting car commercials. They are investigating what actually happened on that camera, but that shouldn’t have happened, it wasn’t, I mean all stunts are dangerous, but it wasn’t in anyone’s mind a dangerous stunt. No one was going “okay this is a big one, this is a dangerous one, we gotta be prepared.” It was normal. This is like what it is to be doing an action movie. It just took everyone so much by surprise, it was shocking. It shouldn’t have happened. The fact that Olivia is alive is a miracle, it’s a miracle. We all thought that, you know we were at the hospital when she first got taken in and just waiting for somebody to come out and say she didn’t make it. It was one of the scariest things I have ever been through in my life and she is so strong and the doctors were obviously so amazing. She had so many surgeries it’s insane, it’s absolutely insane.
So is there a feeling now with this film that is now in a way being done for her?
I wish that I knew her more. It was the first day of filming, so we only got a chance to work together a few times before it happened. I was looking forward to spending months getting to know her, because she is so amazing. She’s so amazing that it’s taken three people to replace one Olivia, like the one that can do the motorcycle, the one that can do this stunt, the one that can do that stunt. I mean she is a powerhouse. For one of her you need multiple other people so you know she was really the best stuntwoman in this part of the world and it has been very difficult to replace her. All the stunt guys are really good friends with her and everything that we are doing we are thinking about her; we ask about her everyday and ask how she is doing. I just pray that she is able to continue after this experience and move forward with her life, because right now her arm is still paralyzed. It’s a nightmare. It’s a nightmare, I don’t know what to say, for that poor girl it’s the worst thing that could have happened to her.
There have been loads of creatures and effects in the six movies but for you personally it must be fun interacting with real prosthetics instead of a guy in a green suit with tennis balls all over him…
I think that for any actor to have that texture creating this world around you is so much easier to react to than having to act like you see something, you know it’s amazing when you see the practical effects right there in front of you. We have the big kind of truck you see on the camera that was a 16 wheeler that they disassembled and built a shell and took out on two miles of freeway that we had to ourselves. We had loads of zombies, they were young because they had to do a lot of running, so these young zombies were chasing us, there is this whole world in front of you and there is no green screen in this movie and that was just really fun for everybody involved because it makes it so all encompassing and just so much of a real experience for everybody. But I have to say that prosthetics are tough because I am going to have my first share of prosthetics in this movie as like a 90-year old version of myself. There is some really deep stuff but don’t let that scare you, there is still going to be shooting and stuff, there is going to be intense, and I have to sit through 4 hours of prosthetics for that it’s not going to be a visual effect and I can’t have my kids on set because my daughter will be traumatized, there are all these things you have to think about sitting down to get that kind of makeup put on but I also get really claustrophobic so for me to have all that stuff on me, I am really nervous, I feel like I am going to be really traumatized by that experience.
If The Final Chapter really is the last are you satisfied with the arc and the whole journey that Alice has taken?
Definitely, definitely. We have had an amazing run and Alice is such a powerful, beautiful character who has gone through so much hell and back again to fight for what she believes in. It is amazing and unique and I think this franchise is unique. It’s got it’s fans and it’s got it’s share of people that hate it saying that we have destroyed it. For some people, it’s like their favorite thing. I think that is the thing the franchise will be remembered for. The passion. The people who passionately love it or passionately hate it. And that is what I respond to I love passion and I think Alice has been a huge passion for my husband and I, and for me and for a lifetime. At 40-years old I think it’s a good time to call it a day and move forward.
Our daughter (Ever Gabo Anderson) is playing the Red Queen and she has got more dialogue than any other actor in the movie. I didn’t expect her dad to give her this huge part, but she really fell in love with being an actor this year; she will be 8 soon. I took her to an acting class and she was killing it, like I was so shocked and proud and just mystified at how comfortable this little girl was on stage. She she loves comedy, like I Love Lucy, but this isn’t really what she is going to go on to do. And we were going to give her a small role playing the younger Alice and as we went on we asked her if she would do it and of course she wanted to and she is just so amazing. Of course, as a mom I am going to say she is so amazing but I mean she really is so natural she really is a natural, unbelievable when she does her thing when she does comedy and timing. But what she brings to the Red Queen is this humanity.
All the other Red Queens have been really robotic and I think that Paul really hasn’t had that attachment because it wasn’t his kid. When you love your kid and you love their idiosyncrasies the more he thought about it he said, I am not going to change her voice, she has to do her own voice, because all of the other Red Queens have had an adult dub their voice and she has this childlike mannerism, and because he recognizes them he realizes he can’t cut that out. So it is going to be really interesting because this is the final chapter because it has all kind of come full circle and it’s going to be interesting to see this really interesting aspect to the movie and it’s going to get real.
At the moment she wants to be on a show like Jessie. And I told her she has to take classes and and she was okay with that, so I would look up auditions and see what she is interested in. I would download these sides and pretend to do an audition and it’s been amazing. I was such a terrible actor as a kid, not a natural. And to see your own kid just take over like that it just makes you so proud. It’s calming to know that she has found her calling, she has found her passion and she is going to be ok. Like I don’t have to worry she is going to be so cool.