The hottest action star on the planet is freezing. Despite it being a “mild” winter so far in Toronto (the first November without snow in 80 years), Milla Jovovich is wrapped deeply in the thickest, longest parka I have ever seen. We are on the set of Resident Evil: Afterlife, the fourth in the zombie-virus-video game series, and Milla is back to star as Alice, with her hunt for survivors taking her to Los Angeles. We nabbed a few minutes with the chatty, vivacious star between takes.
Shawn Roberts is a relative newcomer to films, but he has a pretty plum role. How is he to work with?
We are so lucky to have him. He’s really got the character down, and he’s really going for it with the accent. You could tell that he really watched the game. And he’s such a nice guy, but he gets on set and he’s just stoney-faced. One time, he sat on his Wesker throne for at least 15 minutes without moving. He has the glasses on, and at one point I was like, “Shawn. Shawn!” He said [seriously], “What?” I asked, “Are you sleeping under there?” He was so still for so long I thought he might be asleep!
Do you enjoy being back on the Resident Evil set?
I have an incredible life. I get to come to this set every day, act like a kid… everyone feels like a kid on this set. Guns are going hot! Zombies are coming out! You’ve gotta love it. We have the family together, we get to spend so much time with our baby. I have friends who hardly see their kids until the weekend. We get to see our daughter every day at lunch, and every night before sleep. We have her on LA time, so she gets to stay up later. By the time we get home from work, we have a few hours to play. It’s hard when we are both working on separate projects. Next year when I go off on a new project, daddy’s not going to be there. It sucks.
How different is it for you to shoot in 3D?
It’s pretty interesting. I got punched in the head the other day because you have to get super-close to make [a shot] work. In a normal 2D screen, you aren’t seeing the same depth, so they don’t see that a punch is a complete miss.
Did you have to train a lot for this role, or was it all kind of “muscle memory”?
There is definitely a certain amount of training you have to do to maintain your stamina for the action sequences, and do the wire work and whatnot. I’ve been training a lot just to lose my baby weight. But I have a lot of experience now with martial arts and sword work and shooting guns, so it’s kind of like, “oh I haven’t been on a bicycle in a few months.” You get back on and it all comes back.
When you got in to acting, did you have any idea that this was the path your career would take – from model to action hero?
A couple of my best friends from second grade are animators, their dads were animators, so they taught me to draw. We were always drawing and watching stuff like Thundercats. For my wedding gift, they found one of my old sketch books and gave it to me. In it, there was a story called “Ice Cats” – nothing like Thundercats. Rather than Cheetarah it was Cheetra. No copyright infringement at all! I was eight years old, and I had these amazing drawings of the characters with their weapons, with these great descriptions – spelling mistakes and all – with all their powers. Really fast runners and jumpers, and one of them had a whip with “diamond studs and when you choke someone with this whip the studs would penetrate the skin and they would bleed to death and oh yeah, the studs also had poison in them.” Then you get to the male characters – I think I had like two of them, and eight girls – and his description was like, “He has very sharp claws.”
It was all about the tough chicks doing crazy stunts for me. That’s what I grew up on. I was talking to Paul while we were looking through this book, saying “I can’t believe it. This is who I was. No wonder I am doing these films. I was already kind of there.” It was hilarious. So I guess it does make sense that my career took this turn. I guess I wanted to be an action hero growing up.
Is your daughter old enough to really have a concept of what you do?
Well, mommy has a lot of swords around the house. Practice swords – wooden swords. So she will see me practice. One of her first words was “sabla,” which is “sword” in Russian. She always wants to play with mommy’s swords.
So do you think she will follow in your footsteps?
I definitely want her to do martial arts and dance and all that. I think it’s really important. She can do the splits right now, and she’s only two. I want her to do the splits every day and not know what it is like to feel pain when doing the splits. I can’t do the splits. But my daughter will grow up, able to do the splits! I want her to have a sense of confidence, I want her to feel comfortable in her own skin. I want her to walk into a room with her shoulders back and her chest out. You know, like Tony Montana [from Scarface]. At the same time, I think she will be a protector. I think she has the potential to be a bully. She is a very strong kid – they call it “high spirited.” That is the diplomatic term for it. But I think martial arts will take that strength and energy and make her a protector rather than a bully.
Have you ever been badly injured doing stunts on set?
You always get minor injuries – it’s par for the course with things like this. But I have to say, the flu shot I got yesterday hurts more than any bang-up I’ve gotten on set. I hardly slept last night! Someone on Twitter the other day said, “do you think your blood would bond with the H1N1 virus?” I responded, “I don’t know, but I got the shot just in case it didn’t.”
I got a pretty serious injury on RE 2, during training. I went to do a kick and missed the target and ended up doing the splits, which I’ve never been able to do. I tore a muscle and it is something that still bothers me to this day. But I’ve been lucky: never broken a bone, never stung by a bee.