Milla Jovovich has been kicking zombie butt in the Resident Evil franchise for a long time—ten years, to be exact. And impressively, she hasn’t lost a drop of passion for sci-fi/horror/action hybrid franchise.
We spoke to Jovovich on the set of the latest installment, Resident Evil: Retribution (you can head over here to check out our exclusive report from the set), and she gave us the lowdown on the fifth movie’s enhanced action, cast reunions and calculated segue to a sixth movie…
On what drives Milla to keep making Resident Evil films, even ten years later:
Well, we love the franchise. It’s definitely brought our family together. And we love the story. We’re constantly going on, ‘Okay, what’s going to happen next?’ so it’s very organic in that sense. And it’s fan driven. Every movie is done better than the last and people want to see another one. We have the ideas for it, so it’s not like anybody is bored and going ‘Okay, let’s just write something. Whatever. Just put it out there.’ Paul [W.S. Anderson, writer/director/producer of the series] constantly has these great ideas for it. I’ve been having zombie dreams for the last ten years now.
On her input she has in the story:
Paul and I definitely have a back and forth dialogue because we live together and Resident Evil is such a huge part of our lives. We’re always talking about where it can go and what can happen, who’s coming back and who’s not. What is Alice going to be in this movie? Definitely, I have a lot of input into the stunt sequences. It’s really funny because I’ll read the script, Paul’s original script for it, and I could never write a script. I could never direct a film. I’d kill myself if I was Paul. I don’t know how he does it. But I do have good isolated ideas which kind of go like, ‘Well, there’s kind of a lull here and it would be great if something happened that was super cool. Fill in the blanks! Maybe make me jump off of something and something explodes.’
Alice started off as the audience, as this innocent bystander watching what’s going on and then finally understanding what role she had to play in all of it and who she was. And then throughout the series, she kinda started separating from people. First she realized Umbrella was controlling her, so she couldn’t be close to people. Now that she’s human again, and not only human again… I mean, this is her life. It’s like when you spend 10 years of your life at war, what else do you have, in a sense? This is what she knows. This is what she loves in a weird, sick way. It’s what she does best. It’s how she excels. I don’t know if she would be able to become a teacher or have some sort of career outside of what she does. This is what she does best. And I think in this one, she has a little bit more of a sense of humor about it and is a little more relaxed with it. It’s not as shocking as it normally is. In a sense, now she’s got her friends, her team, she’s part of a team. She’s a human being again, so she’s connected with the people around her. And she has fun with them. In some strange, twisted way, she gets a kick out of it.
On upping the action in the fifth installment:
Well, it better. The whole point is that we want to make every film better than the last one. So, we definitely have more creatures and monsters and action. And the action sequences for the actors are really difficult. It’s one of the most trying physical undertakings that I’ve ever done in an action movie. I think the Jill and Alice fight has over 200 moves in it, which is more than Nick Powell did for The Bourne Identity. It’s pretty crazy.
Her highlights from shooting the new installment:
Definitely, the first big stunt sequence is spectacular for me. It’s really out of this world. I can give you a hint. There’s definitely a Kubrickian homage to it. It’s one of the most unique stunt sequences and action sequences and zombie sequences that I’ve ever seen to this point. That was definitely a big highlight.
Obviously, working with all the actors again is amazing. I have to say, working with this really phenomenal little girl in this movie named Aryana Engineer, and you know her from Orphan. She was the deaf girl. She plays a deaf child in this movie, but she speaks. She has an ocular implant, so she does hear and she speaks incredibly well. I think if she continues with this speech coach, she could grow up to be a phenomenal actress that you wouldn’t even know she was deaf. In this movie, when we saw her audition, there was such a beautiful charm about her. The way she talked, you could hear there was something off about it, like she doesn’t talk like she should for someone her age. It was just heartrending. As a mother, I was just going ‘My God! Her parents must have worked so hard to have gotten her to this point.’ As a mother, my heart just went out to her. She’s so unbelievable. She’s a phenomenal actress.
On the big chase scene in Russia:
Well, we had a splinter unit go to Moscow and they pretty much cleared Red Square for a day, which is quite a big deal. Then they cleared the Russian subway for about five hours, for as much as they could, to get plate shots of everything. So, we have all the background and then we built pretty much the Moscow street. I don’t know if you guys got a tour yet of the sets, but up front, there’s a street in Moscow where we did the Rolls Royce chase sequence. It’s exciting for me because obviously, I’m Russian. To be able to show my people what we’ve created in Toronto and how we’re really trying to bring the Russian people into the Resident Evil universe… I think it’s going to be really fun for everybody.
On bringing back and reuniting with Michelle Rodriguez:
We’ve been racking our brains on how to bring Michelle back for years because she’s just such an amazing actress and just such a cool girl and such a well-loved character in the first movie. When Paul got the idea of how to start bringing people back, it was really amazing. The script is just so different from any other Resident Evil movie. It’s going to take people by surprise. Every sequence and how everything comes together is just quite mind-boggling! It’s really cool. And it always keeps you on your feet. It always keeps you wondering what’s going to happen next. What’s happening? Who are these people?
I was watching an assembly of it, and I’m sure you read about it on Twitter, but I started crying watching it, because having the history of Alice and me and Rain and Jill and all these people who have been going through this hell for the last 10 years, and again Umbrella is torturing them. It was almost heartrending to watch them again having to go through all of this. And the way the script is written, the way Paul has written the script, there is so much more character involved and so much more subtext. The storylines are so intertwined and in such a strange and beautiful way that there’s something very nostalgic and sad about it too, which is different.
Listen, it’s going to be a really fun movie. We’re not expecting anybody to start weeping in the audience, but just on a personal level, going through it for 10 years of my life and watching these people coming together again, it was quite emotional.
On the films weaponry:
Yeah, we’ve got the Kriss Vectors this time, which I actually did a video of that I Tweeted, which are really wonderful guns. They’ve actually never been shot on screen before. They used a version of them on Total Recall, but they kind of did them up in some crazy sci-fi way. But these are the original bad-ass Kriss Vector guns. They are amazing in the way they fit and the way we have them incorporated into the costume.
On a possible Resident Evil 6:
This is the first time Paul had an idea for number six, where there’s a story that we talked about, a year ago now, that was five and six. We were just talking about it. I said ‘And then what happens?’ Then naturally, it was ‘Well, this and that and this is why and this is actually going on.’ He does have sort of a rough basis for a sixth movie.
We never make these movies thinking another one is going to come around the corner. I think that’s part of what makes them so great, is that you don’t have that comfort of going ‘Oh yeah, we’re just shooting them back-to-back. Whatever.’ We put 100 per cent of our passion into each one and I think the audience reacts to that. Definitely, there’s some ideas, potentially, for a sixth movie.
On a capping the series with a grand finale:
There’s only so much longer I can play Alice as she is today. At some point, I’m going to have to be the mentor to the younger generation. I love to make these movies. I have to say, it’s hard to imagine this world ending for us. We work with the same people, we shot here [in Toronto] for three films and it always feels like coming home. It definitely makes me sad when we start getting to the end.
This one has been extra hard because we were doing promotion for Three Musketeers and traveling to Tokyo and England. I had to do some work in Italy, so all my weekends kind of got ruined. So now, I’m a little bit like, “Ahhh!” towards the end. And there’s the depression of ‘Oh, it’s coming to an end and I don’t want it to end, but at the same time, I do want a week off.’
Her memories of day one on the first movie:
The first film, I was high on my laurels. I had just come off of Fifth Element, Million Dollar Hotel and Joan of Arc. I was like, ‘You’re lucky to have me!’ Me and Michelle…she had just come off of Girlfight. Paul cast me in the movie. I did it because me and my little brother played Resident Evil 3 all the time. I was like, “Yeah, they’re casting for it. I’ll go in and ‘read’ for the part. They won’t hire me, of course.” It was sort of very tongue-and-cheek when I did it.
And then I was doing this indie movie called You Stupid Man, and I was here in Toronto actually filming it. We were doing the first one in Germany and I remember reading a new draft of the script on the plane ride from Toronto to Germany. Halfway through the flight, I’m red in the face because Paul has completely written me out of the movie and put all the good fight sequences for Michelle. I’m thinking ‘I’m out of here!’ I hit the set—poor Jeremy Bolt. He’s one of our producers. He meets me with flowers and I’m like, ‘You better tell Paul to meet me in my room in an hour or I’m out of here first flight tomorrow!’ Then Paul came to my room. I was like, ‘You better sit down! We are going through this page by page and you are putting me back in the movie!’ He’s like, ‘What? What? You’re in the movie! You’re in the movie!’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m the little girl that goes ‘Look out! Oh, no!’ Why am I doing this?’
So, yeah, he gave me back my good action sequences. It was fun. I was 24 at the time. It was my mid-twenties, having a great time, successful, feeling good. Actually, for the second one, I was scared because it was like ‘Ohhh God, why are we making another one? Do people really want to see it?’ I felt very responsible for everybody and so grateful for everybody being there and just wanting to take care of all the actors and saying “Thank you” every day. And I still do. The more we go, the more I feel like Mama Milla on set. It’s just the welcoming committee and trying to make everyone feel like part of the family, feel good and comfortable, and make sure people are taken of, our crew, our actors.