When producers Jeremy Bolt, Don Carmody and Robert Colter enter the room, it's like the Three Wise Men have arrived. These guys know the ins and outs of every detail of Resident Evil: Retribution. In fact, Bolt, a frequent collaborator with director Paul W.S. Anderson, has been around since the franchise kicked off. On the Toronto set, the trio settled in as I grilled them about what viewers can expect in the upcoming sequel. Read what they had to say after the jump.
If I'm not mistaken, the last film ends with a boat and a lot of planes coming at them. It's a big climax. With this film, do you guys take a little bit of time, or does it just jump right into the action?
Jeremy: Well, there's action. There is action.
Don: Yeah, nonstop.
Jeremy: This film had a lot of twisting, turning moments. It's playing, respectfully, with the audience. We are trying to make people think a little bit, although you'll enjoy it if you haven't seen a previous film. If you have seen the previous films, you'll enjoy it even more. It has that video game spirit, where you have to engage it a little bit.
You're bringing a lot of characters back from past movies, so will people who haven't seen those movies still get it?
Jeremy: Yeah. That's why it's called Resident Evil: Retribution, and not Resident Evil 5.
How does that work then? How do you feel that you're starting fresh, that anyone could come into the world, at this point?
Jeremy: There will be a voice-over from Alice, who will set the world up. New characters are properly introduced. You don't need to play the game to know Leon Kennedy and Jill Valentine is coming back. Unlike the previous films, we actually have a sequence which is very much in the real world, which is going to be an interesting part of this version of Resident Evil.
Would that be Oded's sequence?
Jeremy: He is in a part of that. This is actually quite difficult to talk about, I'm just realizing [Laughter.]
Don: I think everything is explained well enough so that even if you haven't seen the first few Resident Evils, you'll understand what's going on, without too much confusion.
I think each movie has really defined itself on Alice's mission. She's always discovering something new in herself, which lends itself to the new adventure. How would you describe that arc for her, and how that mirrors the movie, and what you're going for in this installment, to differentiate itself from the rest?
Jeremy: I think you feel she's getting very close to the answer, if you like, of the whole Resident Evil franchise. We are within sight of the end, or at least something we think might be the end.
There's been a lot of talk about the finality of the Resident Evil series. Do you have ideas in mind for that?
Robert: Everything has to come to an end. The question is if it's by your choosing, or if the audience chooses it for you (Laughter).
When Paul did Afterlife, he had mentioned something at Comic-Con about a new trilogy. The third one had wrapped up, and he had envisioned a new trilogy. Beyond six, could you guys foresee doing a Resident Evil from different perspectives and different angles?
Jeremy: Yeah. I could see a prequel to (Resident Evil) one, definitely. And, possibly, spinning out another character, yeah. The really exciting thing for us as producers is when you love a franchise, and for Paul as a director, that works. It's so expensive to release a movie these days, that it gives everyone confidence, so you can get creative under the umbrella of the franchise. This is something studios are doing all the time. If, as Robert said, the box office deserves it, we'll keep exploring it.
But, going back, how does this one really differentiate itself from the others?
Jeremy: It's more science-fiction-y. This is more tricks-y, turn-y, plays respectfully with the audience.
Don: But, at the same time, it has probably the biggest action.
There's a big car chase scene as well. Can you talk about shooting that?
Jeremy Bolt: Yes. It was a lot of night work.
Don: A lot of cold night work. A lot of machine guns, very loud machine guns.
I was trying to figure out how Russian zombies drive motorcycles.
Jeremy: They've mutated. The Las Plagas parasite has enabled them to have a certain motor function and mental abilities. The undead have evolved. Much faster.
Can you elaborate about the good and bad aspects of Oded's character, Carlos, and of Rain? I believe those are the only two characters who have that duality.
Jeremy: The idea is no one is who you think they are. The only thing you are certain of is that the Umbrella Corporation is all-powerful, and is always one step ahead. Alice is the only one that's really getting close. We wanted to create an atmosphere where the audience goes, "Is that person really Carlos? Is that person really Rain?" There's good Carlos and bad Carlos. It's very much taken from the world of gaming, where everything can change. We are definitely, as I think Paul has done with the previous movies, taking a narrative structure out of the video game world.
Robert: We felt the last movie was really quite linear and was pure action-survival. We felt that we definitely had to try something narratively, from a structural point of view, that would make it more of a mind-bender for the audience. With Alice, you go through the movie and question everything. As it becomes this ongoing battle for survival of humanity, you might even find humanity in the least likely places, even in your enemies. To a certain degree, they might have things you need for survival. There might be alliances in the story, that Alice wouldn't have trusted, but, for her survival, she might have to make a bargain and see how it goes.
Jeremy: She is definitely fighting to hold onto her humanity. She has a relationship with a young child in the film, and there's definitely an echo of a mother-daughter, a little bit of a Ripley-daughter connection. Even though, when you see the film, you might go, 'Why is she doing this?'
Don: The story is much more broken down, the narrative. She's focusing on it to remind herself of her humanity.
How much is the market guiding the direction of this franchise, i.e. the box office?
Jeremy: Well, we're in 3D again. The thing we try in every version of the film is to use different environments, and that has worked for us. We've been in the desert in 3, the city in 2, so again here, we're using different environments. Paul believes you've got to give the viewers the promise of something different. I think a number of franchises make the mistake of just making it feel the same. This will feel totally different.
Robert: There is definitely feedback coming from the international distributors. The movie performed so strong internationally, you say, "Is there a way to make it a global phenomenon, rather than set it in just one location?" We were in Raccoon City, we were in Vegas, we were in Los Angeles. Is there a scenario that allows us to make it a global event?
You mentioned this has a sci-fi edge to it. Are there films that you drew ideas from, or how to make it a sci-fi film?
Jeremy: I think Inception had a huge impact on everyone. I think Westworld is an important film for Paul. Everybody knows, because he talks about it enough, the Alien trilogy, Blade Runner, all these things are inspirations. As a filmmaker, I think he just keeps trying to push himself to do better than the last one, and to make it as entertaining as possible. Just taking up on Robert's point, there are sequences in Moscow, there are sequences in Tokyo. We really tried to make it global.
You obviously have an open-door relationship with Capcom. What was their reaction when you came to them and said, "We need two of the big characters, Leon and Barry?" The fans have been clammoring for them.
Jeremy: And Ada Wong. We have a great relationship, so it's very much, "Who are you going to cast? Do they look like the character?" They were very, very pleased with all of our choices, particularly Li Bingbing, who plays Ada Wong. They visited us on set last week, and they were really blown away by her.
Are they any closer to doing a Capcom game that's closer to the series?
Robert: I think we're stealing from each other, in a good way. They are two different worlds. They are so good at what they're doing, and we try to do our thing. I think we want to keep it that way.
As producers of this film, you said it's a big film with lots of action. On a 55-day shoot, what element of that is the most challenging?
Don: Everything [Laughter].
Robert: I think the one we're shooting right now, with the ice. In the script, it read like a $50 million sequence. We have a week and a couple of days on second unit, so it requires a lot of attention from all departments.
Don: As you can see, before we even yell action, we're yelling, "Roll this, roll that, roll this." There are 15 different things that have to happen before the actors can start talking. That's a challenge, but all of the sequences have been very challenging. The car chase in Moscow, when you see it, it's astonishing. It's really, really cool.
If I'm not mistaken, the box office has been going up and up and up for all of them. But are the budgets basically the same though?
Jeremy: No, they get higher, because everyone gets more expensive, including us.
Robert: Let's blame it on our currency.
What kind of feedback do you hear from Screen Gems? Do they ever lay down certain mandates?
Robert: They ideally would want it to do just as much as the last one.
Jeremy: They're very trusting of us and Paul. They see this as we know what we're doing, the box office has increased, and they want to give us the freedom to do that. They're pretty great to work with and, also, their marketing department is phenomenal. That's such a godsend for a producer, when you have a distributor who knows how to market a film, because that's the one piece of the pie we really can't control.
Robert: They are very much involved. We have to get the script approved, and then we have to figure out the right budget number. Once that number has been agreed on, we try to stick to it. Each movie we try to bring in new people, or bring back people from the previous movies. They obviously are engaged in making it the best possible movie for the price.
Is there a new breed or reiteration of a previously extinct creature that you guys are particularly excited about?
Jeremy: Yes. It's gotten bigger and better. We're doing it properly.
Are there characters that have not yet been announced, that might be making an appearance, that are still under the radar?
[Long pause, no answer.]
Will we see that character that was in the original Resident Evil, that was supposed to be her "husband" or boyfriend from that movie?
Jeremy: No. James Purefoy? No, you won't see him. But there are definitely elements from Res 1 that come into this. Yes, Paul has another movie in his mind, which will be the completion of this cycle, and we're moving towards that. That will connect, in some way, to the first film.
What zombies are you really excited about in this film?
Jeremy: Well, the Russian motorbike undeads are phenomenal. They're in their Communist uniforms, on their motorbikes, great makeup from Paul Jones, they're just terrific. Obviously, it's more enjoyable for us, having done it for so long now, that the undead are getting a bit more intelligent. After awhile, you feel sorry for them.
I'd like to go back to my first question. There's a big ending in the fourth movie, with 100 planes coming in.
Robert: We are not copping out of it.
Jeremy: You will not be disappointed. It will be the Pearl Harbor of zombie movies.
And, that's how it opens?
You're getting all Lost on us.
Jeremy: That's another one. Michelle's in the movie. Lost is a big influence.
I was just saying because when you set something up that big, the audience wants that payoff.
Jeremy: Yeah, they will be satisfied, but it may not be in the linear way they are expecting. As Robert said, we played around with the narrative.