Interview

Interview

Johann Urb on Playing Leon Kennedy in ‘Resident Evil: Retribution'

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When it comes to adapting video games into movies, the players are definitely a difficult crowd to please. Not only do they demand their beloved source material remain intact, but that the actors closely resemble their electronic counterparts. Enter Johann Urb as Leon Kennedy. With his hulking presence, blonde bangs, gruff voice and bulging muscles, Urb is almost a dead ringer for the Resident Evil secret agent.

After emerging from a toppled vehicle earlier on the Toronto set of Resident Evil: Retribution, Leon, along with Alice and Luther, were all poised to rumble with Bad Rain and the defected Jill Valentine. Unfortunately, that battle royal is for another day. Instead, things are much quieter when the Eastwick actor later plunks down in the deserted cafeteria to give me the lowdown on joining the Resident Evil family.

We saw you outside there in that scene. It was very, very clear. You popped out of the cockpit and you had this look on your face. No, you were climbing down, you turned around and you had this look on your face. Can you talk about what you were thinking in that moment and the overall scene? Can you tell me what's happening?

What was I thinking?

We'll, I don't know. Your motivation, right?

I was like "I wonder if the hot dog truck is still out there?" [Laughter.]

That may be it.

Normally, I wear glasses, so it's like "Where is it? I can hear those journalists eating my hot dogs!" No, what I was thinking is probably "What's going on? What's happening here? We were just turned over and the shit hit the fan and I thought it was all good. Now, there's more trouble! Where's Milla, so she can save me?"

How does that big vehicle get turned over? Can you talk about that at all?

So we're driving in the snowstorm. You can't see anything. You can barely hear anything except the snow and the wind buffeting. Then suddenly, a submarine comes. There you go.

How does your character get involved with Alice's storyline, at this point?

As far as I can tell, I've been fending all for myself, taking care of business and banding up with some people. Apparently, what's happened is Alice is in a bit of a trouble and Wesker needs somebody who is smart enough, and strong enough, to go in and save Alice. Leon, right? That's the first thought that comes to mind, obviously.

Is Ada part of your crew? Because Ada and Leon have a history in the.....

In the games, definitely. The way I imagined it, and obviously, I have no back story besides the games, is that we had this romance that never really ....we're always missing each other. It's kind of like Mulder and Scully and an X-Files type of deal, where you're waiting for it to happen, but it never does. Maybe in the next one, I'm hoping.

Well, it sounds like there's potential for a Leon movie spin-off.

I don't know if a movie is right. Franchise? Why not? TV series. Movies. Toys. You name it. I'm down. This character is so fun to play and these guys are really, really great. It's a great group of people and I'm having a blast, for sure.

Sony made a CGI Resident Evil feature film and I've never seen one of these things in the theatre. I went to see it at the Egyptian in Hollywood and when the Leon cartoon came on the screen, every girl gasped. So if that's the reaction the girls are going to give to a cartoon character...

They are going to be disappointed! How can I live up to this cartoon character? I don't know.

There's a lot riding on you, man.

Yeah. Pressure. We'll see. Hopefully, the fans will like it and enjoy it.

Did you consult the game at all before you began filming? Did you go out and play the games?

No, but I did watch quite a few of the odes on YouTube that people have put together, these clips and things. Yeah, I watched some of those YouTube clips and it was super cool and fun. I had no idea when I read for this part that... I figured this is movie #5 and they are bringing in a new character. 

Was there anything to gain from watching the video game?

Yeah, a little bit. Mannerisms. Sort of seeing how he reacts and how he talks. He doesn't have a high-pitched voice. I feel in physicality and actually the way I naturally talk, which is slower, it matches. It wasn't a big huge thing for me to switch into. But I could be totally wrong. There are fans out there going "Oh my God! He's so not Leon!"

Message boards will tell, won't they?

Yeah, and everybody has a different opinion.

Can you talk about that gun right there and the type of action you see in the movie?

You know, this gun is used very little. Mostly, it's . I have this guy right here. This guy is nice. This is a nice little piece here. This is a power ordinance.

What is it?

It's a .45 tactile. It has a little tactile thing. It's a power ordinance. It has a laser and a flashlight and everything. But, most of the time, I am actually firing off my Sig Machine Gun, which unfortunately I don't have here on me right now, but I named her Sheila. We get along very well. She's just a beauty. When I first got here, I had an option of testing out a couple of different weapons. She just spoke to me. It's like cutting butter. It's beautiful, so I will miss her dearly.

Do you have much hand-to-hand combat in this? Do you get to use that big beast of a knife right there or is it pretty much guns for you?

I'm a little upset about this because I had this really cool knife fight scene that unfortunately have removed right now. We're so behind schedule, I think, that they had to take it out. It was bad-ass. I don't know if you guys can talk to anybody about it and put it back in?

Who was it with?

This guy I was fighting was this 300-and-something-pound giant zombie. Pure muscle. It was a great fight. Hopefully, it will still be in the film. As of right now, I'm not using it [the knife]. We're talking about possibly using it in the end sequence if the other one is truly, truly out, and if not, I don't know. There is some hand-to-hand combat, very little, but a bit. I wish there was more, because I immensely enjoy it.

What other action sequences are you involved with?

Besides this end fight coming up? There's a lot. One of the big ones is when we're in Red Square in Moscow and we have these zombies coming at us. These aren't the regular ones. They're actually firing weapons, bazookas and there's a ton of them. And then at some point, we run out of bullets there and I have to take some of them on hand-to-hand, which is fun. And then the big action sequence is in the car, when we're in the Rolls Royce, and firing out the window. We've got the zombies on motor bikes chasing us and then we have the Big Lickers. Love that name. And they've got Uber Big Lickers, Super Uber Lickers, who knows? They are all coming at us. There's lots of fun action stuff here.

Can you talk a little about the 3D and working with Paul and 3D cameras?

This is my first 3D experience. It's really cool. I talked to Paul about it a little bit, just to find the difference and stuff. I could totally get this wrong now, but I think he said there are two lenses or it's just a different way the camera is built. But it looks really great. It's funny because I wear glasses normally too, and so when I look at the screen, it's all blurry and you're supposed to put the 3D glasses on. But I didn't realize in the beginning. I just thought because I wasn't wearing glasses, "Aww...it's blurry!" He's like "No, [it's] 3D" I'm like, "Oh yeah!" But I feel like it definitely adds, especially in action stuff, you feel like you're much more in it and involved. It's cool. Way cool.

How much time screen time do you get with Kevin Durand?

Lots.

My video game knowledge may be off, but Barry and Leon don't get together, I don't think, in the video games at all.

What do you mean get together? [Laughter.]

Partner-up.

Stop playing footsies with me. [Laughter.].

Fight alongside each other in the game.

Well...No, I don't know about the games, but here, we're basically partners-in-crime or on this mission. Basically, a best friends type of deal, I think. Super close. What a great guy, man. He's awesome. We had so much fun working together. Also, obviously working with Kevin and Boris, it's the first time I feel like there's actually people towering over me! I'm like, "Oh, yeah, I'm the little guy." It feels great.

Does he have a beard?

He does have a beard. I wish he was still here. He's just such a pleasure to work with. Great guy. Great actor.

We've been hearing from some of the actors that they auditioned and very soon got cast. Was it the same thing for you?

It was. Yeah, I came up here to do screen tests. I think probably on a Monday. No, no, it was actually on a Friday and by Monday I knew, so it was quick.

A lot of times when people book a gig, they buy themselves something. Did you buy yourself anything when you booked it?

Yeah, I did.

What did you buy?

I bought myself a trip to Thailand for a month, where I'm going right after I'm done filming.  

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