On a November afternoon in Toronto, there's something truly bizarre taking place on the Resident Evil: Retribution set. While there's no snow on the ground, inside, the Cinespace Studios has been transformed into a frosty Russian wonderland, complete with the tip of a submarine protruding from the broken ice. Adding to the odd factor is Rain, a woman who became zombie chow in the first Resident Evil film, emerging from the submarine door. Standing along with former good girl Jill Valentine, the "bad" Rain has a gun pointed at fan-favorite, video-game character Ada Wong, before knocking her unconscious. It's all a big set-up for a royal rumble between old friends and new enemies. Oh, and to make matters even worse, there's not one single flesh-eating creature in sight. What the hell is going on here?
Milla Jovovich, who is married to director Paul WS Anderson and is perhaps better known as Alice, certainly knows. But as she squats on the floor of her trailer in front of a group of spoiler hungry reporters, it quickly becomes clear she's not about to reveal every secret.
Note: After reading this interview, be sure to watch the film's new trailer below.
How much are you borrowing from the video games? I think a lot of fans are really curious.
Can't give that away. We're two weeks out and we have the big Alice and Jill fight looming any day now. We're already preparing for that. I don't think we'll get to it today, but definitely tomorrow. It will take a few weeks to film it. It's a big deal.
With the Russian subway sequence, you seem particularly excited.
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 pretty much built 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.
What drives you to make these films after ten years, besides the fact there's still an audience for every one of them?
Well a) we love the franchise. It's definitely brought our family together. And we love the story. We're constantly wondering 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. It's not like anybody is bored and going "Okay, let's just write something. Whatever. Just put it out there." Paul constantly has these great ideas for it. I've been having zombie dreams for the last ten years.
Do you have input into where the story has been going?
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."
In terms of cool stuff and action and intensity, do you feel this ups the stakes in that department from previous installments in the franchise?
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 two hundred moves in it, which is more than Nick Powell did for The Bourne Identity. It's pretty crazy.
How does the 3D compare to the last movie?
I think definitely there is Jim Cameron and there's Paul. They are the masters of 3D. Paul has been working with the same team for the last Resident Evil, for Musketeers and now for this one. They've built a whole new camera system that's incredible. All the cameras are much smaller and more user-friendly, easier to operate, easier to use steadi-cam with. Everything in general, Paul understands the dynamics of 3D and what you can do and what you can't do. When you see a bad 3D movie, you get a headache and leave the theatre going, "Ahhh, my eyes hurt, my head hurts!" Especially when you do a panning shot and everything goes blurry. You know "Oh my God! What just happened?" It's so important technically to know how to shoot something so people don't leave with their eyes crossed and feeling sick to their stomach.
Does this film open right as the last film ended with you guys on the boat?
I can't tell you that.
What's it been like reuniting with Michelle [Rodriguez], the actress, and then for you as a fan of the series, having the character back as well?
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 bring 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 mindboggling! 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? Then there's something also that, you know, 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 ten years, and again Umbrella has been torturing them. It was almost heartrending to watch them again go through all of this. And the way the script is written, 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 anyone to weep in the audience, but just on a personal level, going through it for ten years of my life and watching these people coming together again, it was quite emotional.
How has your character evolved at this point? How are you tackling Alice in a new way?
You know, 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. You know, 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, but now she's almost… this is her life. It's like when you spend ten 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 wit the people around her. And she has fun with them. In some strange, twisted way, she gets a kick out of it.
You have two weeks left on this one. Are there any ideas percolating for the sixth film?
This is the first time Paul had an idea for number 6, where there's a story we talked about, a year ago now, that was 5 and 6. We were just talking about it. I said "And then what happens?" Then naturally, it was "This and that and this is why and this is what is actually going on." He does sort of have a rough basis for a sixth movie.
So do you feel this one is going to be a companion piece to the sixth one? Is it kind of a cliffhanger?
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 one hundred per cent of our passion into each one and I think the audience reacts to that. There's some ideas, potentially, for a sixth movie.
Do you hope to have a grand finale to Alice's story or do you hope to eventually come back to do another one because you love the character so much?
Well, listen. I mean, 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. But, it's hard to imagine this world ending for us. We work with the same people, we shot here [Toronto] for three films and it always feels like coming home. It definitely makes me feel 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 have gotten ruined. 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."
You mentioned Moscow. What other cities or places do you guys get to visit in the fifth film?
New York. We go back to Tokyo. Washington D.C.
I'm curious if you could reflect back on your first day on set for your first [Resident Evil] movie. Were you terrified? How was that for you then?
Absolutely not! 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. Half way 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. She had just gotten off of Girlfight and I had a year lull from Joan of Arc, at that point or something. I'm thinking "I'm out of here!" I hit the set… Poor Jeremy Bolt. I'm sure you've met Jeremy. 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.