Talks about working on the project and getting roughed up yet again for the genre of science fiction
In the sci-fi action flick Ultraviolet, Milla Jovovich plays Violet, a lethal operative afflicted with an infectious blood disease that gives her vampiric characteristics. As part of a covert, underground movement, she battles an oppressive government bent on exterminating her and all those like her. But when she discovers what could be the key to curing her condition once and for all, she unwittingly stumbles upon an intricate conspiracy that is far greater than what she originally expected.
Filmed in China, Ultraviolet features many slick visuals, and its stylized fight sequences blend several martial arts disciplines with rhythm gymnastics and movie magic. In this interview, Milla Jovovich talks about working on the project and getting roughed up yet again for the genre of science fiction.
MEDIA: How much of your character’s stuntwork did you do yourself?
MILLA: I had three doubles doing specific things that they were each really talented in. But I do all my stunts as well. I didn’t do the motorcycle sequences, and I didn’t do the flips. Like the gymnastics stuff, obviously, you kind of got to know.
We heard you’re afraid of motorcycles…
I am. I feel like I shouldn’t be responsible for having that kind of piece of machinery in my power, that goes that fast, you know? It’s not safe. I’m an actress. Give me like a plastic sword. That’s fine. But don’t give me like a real sword or a real motorcycle.
But that was still you on a motorcycle for the closeups, yes?
Yeah, we did the motorcycle on a rig, and I would go like that. [makes dramatic motorcycle gestures] [laughs]
Did you ever get hurt while filming?
Definitely. We got hurt all the time. But the worst that I got hurt–like “drawing blood” got hurt–I hurt myself, actually. I was spinning the sword, and spinning it really fast. And I had to stab this guy, and I ended up stabbing myself in the leg, and there was blood everywhere. The doctor came on set and took me back to the dressing room, and I’m thinking like, “I need to get help, I need to be on an IV, I need CPR. I need million of stitches, obviously!” And they’re like, “Um, no…Here’s a band-aid.” In America, I’d be in the emergency room with like a paper cut, but in China, it’s just a different culture completely. The stuntmen that are in China are incredible. They really do the stunts. Not much of the safety rigs and things like that. They get like a pad and then they just fall down four stories and land on the concrete. And it’s an amazing stunt, But it’s real. That’s why it looks so good. So it’s a very different environment, making an action film over there.
How was the physical stuff in Ultraviolet different from what you did in The Fifth Element and the Resident Evil franchise?
Well, Fifth Element wasn’t totally martial arts driven, the training. It was lots more just physical stamina training and just to be prepared to work the kind of hours we were working. And we did a bit of martial arts. I had to do a few kicks and stuff, so it was mostly just some stances and things. But the main difference between Resident Evil and Ultraviolet, the fighting styles…I had never done wushu before. Like Resident Evil was very much street fighting–lots of tae kwon do, a bit of kung fu maybe, but it was much more of like a modern street fighting style. And here, you really had a major influence from the eastern style martial arts. Wushu was pretty much the basis of all of the fights. And then you have like all the Filipino Kali stick fighting. But we gave it a twist because that all has the wushu through it…So it was a very fresh, new kind of look for this type of an American film.
Is there a particular fight sequence that you enjoy watching the most?
You know, I hate watching myself on film, so I tend to not really watch my movies more than they make me, like if I have a premiere or something. But I have to say, my favorite scene that I remember…It’s hard. The red room, the library is awesome. The white room, I think, is incredible, too. The flaming sword fight was insane, because really, I was fighting with a sword that was on fire. So that was pretty incredible, because you had to do all of these really close call kind of moves, where the sword is swinging really close to you, and very fast–but all on fire. So that was pretty cool. And that was a pretty crazy set, because we were in this black room, but it got very smoky very quickly. So we were all just having so much problem that whole week. Like everyone was sick. I don’t know what chemicals they were burning in there, but it was hard on everybody. That week was awful.
Any other hardships on the set, aside from all the fighting and stuntwork?
There was one time I got food poisoning, and I still had to go to rehearsal. And it was for the library fight where I have the two guns that turn into swords. And in that scene, I have to do all these spins. And I’m like spinning and stabbing and spinning and stabbing, and I’m just feeling so ill. So it was like “Spin, spin, yak. Spin, spin, yak, yak. Spin, spin, yak, yak.” And they’re like, “Okay, go home,” But it was awful, because then we had to come on set the next day and do the actual scene, and I wasn’t feeling very good. Of course, it’s Murphy’s Law!
Speaking of being sick…Violet throws up in one scene. What’s the movie magic behind that one?
I never really threw up white stuff before. So I was curious to see what they were going to give me, and it was vanilla milkshake…It’s good! [laughs]
The guys on the stunt team say that you could probably handle yourself pretty well in a real fight…
They’re lying! They’re lying!
Don’t you feel that you’re stronger because of all the training?
Well, of course. But [stunt director] Mike Smith told me straight out, “Don’t ever try this in public. If you ever get into a situation where someone’s coming up to you…One punch, if you can get a good one, and then run as fast as you can.” He’s like, “I don’t want to ever hear or see you doing any Ultraviolet stuff on the street.” [laughs] I was, for a while, trying to figure out how I could carry my sticks around. It’s not very convenient in your purse, and I was like, [wild west voice] “I could carry them gunslinger style! Like one on each hip.” And then I thought, “People would think I’m insane, walking around with two sticks in my hand!” But I would like to. I’m still trying to think of a good collapsible stick invention.
What did you think of writer/director Kurt Wimmer creating the role of Violet specifically for you? Did that put extra pressure on you?
I felt more pressure having to learn all of the sword fighting, because that was something new for me. But to feel like somebody cared enough to do this and respected you enough to do this was awesome. It made me feel really good.
Would you say you are stubborn like Violet?
I’m definitely stubborn in certain ways. I’m a bit obstinate, I guess. But, you know, I try and listen, and if I feel like someone has a point, I’m not scared to say I’m sorry or admit that I could have been wrong. I think it’s really important to be open and to not get too hardwired in the way you think.
Were all of the stylized buildings in Ultraviolet just sets and miniatures, or did the locations in China actually feature some of that futuristic-looking architecture?
Oh, man, it was amazing! Like in Hong Kong…I mean, it’s like Blade Runner times ten. They have freeways that are like multi-layer freeways. And you’re driving on the freeway, and you see a building, and then you look down, and you’re like halfway up the building, on the freeway. So it’s all built “up.” And there’s high-rises up in the mountains. And Shanghai is crazy because they have the most modern architecture, but it’s kind of a strangely set up city, because it’s not like the modern architecture is there for people to enjoy. It’s just business…It’s not like you have a restaurant around there, or a plaza. And then you have to go like “all the way over there” for like restaurants. So that was kind of annoying, because there’s so much amazing stuff, but there’s nowhere to kind of sit down and take it all in…So hopefully they’ll incorporate that kind of architecture with something more pleasurable. [laughs]
How did you get so ingrained in this whole sci-fi action genre, and what do you see it doing for your career?
I got The Fifth Element, which sort of started me off in that direction. And then with Resident Evil, it was like my brother’s favorite video game, and I figured it would be great to have another big action movie under my belt, because I love doing it and it’s fun. But at the same time, these kind of movies will give me more of a chance to maybe develop a small independent project that I want to do as well. So there was a few different reasons that I felt like it would be good to get involved with these kind of movies. And they’ve sort of turned into something bigger than I ever really imagined when I first did it. People buy me in these movies. And I love it, so I guess it makes sense, you know. When you love to do something, for sure you find people that relate.
Are you currently developing a “small independent project”?
Yeah. This movie .45, which is coming out this year…It’s a really incredible script by this amazing writer [who] wrote a play called Blackout, which is something that I used to do in acting class, which is a collection of monologues from AA. And it’s a movie about domestic violence, and that’s something that’s very prevalent in Eastern European society. So [being from Eastern Europe], it was something that I felt like I wanted to portray–a woman who’s trying to escape that world. And it was very important. But it’s like a tiny movie, and it’s so hard to get it off the ground.