Paul W.S. Anderson speaks for the Resident Evil family. His wife and star, Milla Jovovich got stuck in traffic traveling separately to San Diego, so she missed the press rounds at Comic Con. Anderson spoke about the fourth film, Resident Evil: Afterlife, in 3-D and the growing Ander-vich family with their daughter Ever.
Q: Is it nice to come full circle?
Paul W.S. Anderson: It’s fantastic. I love Comic Con. I came here I think 15 or 16 years ago when it really was just a bunch of us and some comics. So it’s fun to come back here. This is my fourth year in a row. Definitely it’s nice coming full circle talking about wanting to make the movie and being excited about making it in 3-D and now actually having shot the movie. I literally just came from finishing the film last night. It really is the best Resident Evil yet. I’m very, very proud of it.
Q: When 3-D was announced last year, it wasn’t so big. What are your thoughts on the last year of the 3-D industry?
Paul W.S. Anderson: Well, I mean, obviously I’m excited about it because I do think 3D is the future of cinema entertainment, and home entertainment as well. I just came form Japan and saw the new Bravia 3D TVs. They’re unbelievable so I’m very excited about that, but it was funny because we finished shooting Resident Evil in December and still 3D wasn’t anything special. It was like well, that’s kind of interesting, 3D. Then Avatar came out. Suddenly January 1st back in Hollywood it was like, “3D! Raaaa!” Everything had to be 3D. We just continued making our movie. I think the interesting thing is really it’s going to be the first proper live action 3D movie of the year. I don’t think anyone’s really seen a proper 3D live action movie since Avatar. I think Imax is a good example of that. Imax are very picky about the movies they put on their screens, especially the 3D ones. They very, very rarely go with R rated movies. I think Watchmen was the last R-rated Imax movie and that’s really only because Imax have a huge relationship with Warner Bros. because of all the Harry Potter movies. For Imax to endorse this film by putting it onto 3D Imax screens is a huge thing. The only reason they’re doing it is because they know how good it looks. We are actually the first to edit fully in 3D as well. So in the cutting room, we were wearing the glasses and on the set we were wearing glasses. I spent my life wearing these glasses. I wish someone would design something slightly more fashionable than my dad’s ‘80s Ray Ban look but I’m sure that’s going to come.
Q: What was your troubleshooting process on the set?
Paul W.S. Anderson: You know, I’m spoiled working with Ali and Milla because they’re just not divas at all. They turn up for work, they’re in a great mood, you beat the hell out of them, you send them home with bruises. They come back the following day. They go, “Yes, sir. What would you like me to do now?” They’re lovely to work with. They’re very committed and they’re so not divas. The 3D cameras because were the ones that never wanted to work and always had problems. It was fun being on the cutting edge of technology because I really feel that this is something, it’s the equivalent of sound coming in or it’s the equivalent of color photography coming in. I think these changes in cinema only occur once every 40 or 50 years and it’s exciting to be a filmmaker working on the cusp of one of these big changes. Certainly the easier and cheaper way would be to just shoot it 2D and dimensionalize it but that bandwagon is going to crash and burn pretty soon because once people start getting used to the new wave of 3D movies – Resident Evil, Pirates of the Caribbean – all the big ones are being shot real 3D, Scorsese’s new movie.
Q: What is it about this franchise and these characters that has maintained your interest and passions?
Paul W.S. Anderson: I think it’s a fascinating world and I think it’s two things. I think the undead kind of touch a primal fear that we all have. I think there’s something very primal about the fear of the dead coming back to life and the unstoppability of them and the inevitability. We all have these recurring dreams where you’re being chased by someone and they just will not stop. They don’t go particularly fast but they’re coming and they’re coming. People have these dreams, maybe it’s just me, but the people I know. But I think they touch a kind of primal fear. I think that’s one thing and I think also the fear of the apocalyptic world and the modern world is kind of on a knife edge and could tip into chaos very easily is something else. I think that’s one of the strengths of the franchise and that’s why I think it’s an enduring franchise.
Q: Talk about casting Wentworth? Did you audition?
Paul W.S. Anderson: No. No, we didn’t. I was a huge fan of his from Prison Break. I thought he was a very appropriate actor for us because the thing that Milla and Wentworth have in common is they’re very serious actors. They take their craft very, very seriously. I think if you’re making a movie with creatures in it, that’s what you absolutely need from your actors. I always go back to Alien and Sigourney Weaver because having made an alien movie myself, you realize it’s not the most terrifying creature in the galaxy. It’s actually a man in a rubber suit who can barely stand up and he’s not scary at all. But Sigourney Weaver in the first alien, she sells the horror and she sells the believability. That’s what Milla does in our movies. She sells terror and she sells the undead. Even when I say cut, the undead will get on their cell phones or they go to the craft service table and they drink a diet coke. They’re not scary unless the actor makes you believe that they’re scary. Wentworth is from that kind of school where he takes it very, very seriously and the situation very seriously. He, like Milla, helps sell the believability of the world.
Q: How was working with him?
Paul W.S. Anderson: It was great. He’s very prepared. He would have lots of thoughts about character and the dialogue well beforehand. We’d have lots of talks about how he saw the scenes. We discussed a lot but then when he came to set, he’d be very prepared, boom, just would do it. So he was a real pleasure to work with. Also, really magnetic and charismatic. He comes across great in the film. He’s very cinematic and he really reminds me of kind of 1970s actors. He’s got this kind of dark allure of like a Richard Burton or a Richard Harris or a young Anthony Hopkins. I think that’s the kind of mold he comes from. Quite old fashioned in a way. He’s like a really old school 60s-70s movie star. I think he has a huge career in films.
Q: How were things different working with Milla this time, the fourth installment and with your personal relationship?
Paul W.S. Anderson: Well, we’ve obviously made four of these movies together. We’ve been together for all the films. The change this time was we had a daughter. It was one of the pleasures of making the movie to be honest, was getting to have my family around me at work and then at home as well. Milla’s a very serious actress and she takes her craft very seriously. She’s very committed to the work she does. We don’t really let our personal relationship affect the set at all. So it was a delight really. The thing about us is we love what we do. We both love filmmaking and we both love Resident Evil. So we take our work home with us and we talk about it when we’re lying in bed. It’s fantastic. It’s great to be able to combine your work life and your personal life like that.
Q: Is Ever big enough to be afraid of the zombies on set?
Paul W.S. Anderson: I wouldn’t let her come to set when the zombies were around because I didn’t want her to have nightmares but she certainly enjoyed coming around all the sets. She’s very much grown up as a movie child. She’s only two and a half but she knows if she wants to sit on set and look at the monitor, she has to be quiet and she wears her headphones. She tells me, “Daddy, there’s a lot of cables. You have to be careful of the cables.” So she’s a real delight and she travels with us everywhere. She’s a very good traveler. She’s very well behaved on aeroplanes.
Q: How much zombie action is in this compared to the others?
Paul W.S. Anderson: A lot. They’ve sped up because they’ve sped up in the games. When we did the first movie, I was very insistant that they had to be the slow Romero-esque zombies because that’s what they were in the game. They weren’t running fast. Slowly as the games evolve, and I think it’s one of the strengths of the game franchise, is the undead and the creatures evolved. As they evolved, so have we. One of the big things is the Majini undead. You can’t just have the same thing over and over again. If a franchise is to survive, like the T virus it has to evolve and it has to mutate. I don’t think we’d be correct making Resident Evil Afterlife wit the same shuffling zombies we made the first Resident Evil with. We’ve gone to the game so now we definitely have a lot of undead but now we’ve gone with the Majini style undead. So they move faster and they may just want to eat you and then something unpleasant will burst out of their mouths as well. You never really know. We’ve gone with the Majini dogs as well with the heads that split open. They look phenomenal. The Executioner I think is the best creature Capcom have ever designed. He’s my hero. I love him.