The last time we caught up to writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson it was on the set of Resident Evil: Retribution, the fifth film in the Screen Gems series spawned from the Capcom video games. Since then, we’ve seen a teaser trailer make its premiere, giving us a sense of what’s to come.
At WonderCon 2012 in Anaheim, California, Shock Till You Drop reconnected with the man to find out where he’s at in the production process and to discuss new creatures, opening up the Resident Evil world and those supposed flashbacks that were hinted at in the teaser.
Shock Till You Drop: Where are you at right now and how are things going in post-production?
Paul W.S. Anderson: Editing the director’s cut right now and stuck in the editing room, editing furiously.
Shock: Good job on the trailer. I was suprised to see one released so early.
Anderson: Well, we were talking about it while we were shooting in the movie. We wanted to get the teaser out as a statement of intent – we’re taking the movie globally. I said if we were going to do another Resident Evil, we had to raise the bar in terms of scope and scale of the film. I wanted to make the first really epic undead movie, epic post-apocalyptic film and that’s what we’ve done.
Shock: Did you shoot anything specifically for the teaser that won’t appear in the film?
Anderson: Everything’s from the movie, other than the people standing around with their Sony products. [laughs] I love them, though, because they all deserve to be eaten alive.
Shock: Ah, so the White House footage with those flying creature – all the movie…
Anderson: Those are from Resident Evil 5. Part of raising the bar is making the creatures and the undead more of a challenge for our characters. I felt like humanity had its superiority for far too long. If you could make it to the chopper and take off, you’re safe, nothing can get you. That’s not the case because they introduced these cool parasitic creatures from Resident Evil 5, the video game, and we make use of them in this movie. In the White House scene they’re tearing these big choppers out of the sky, so there’s no safety. Plus, we have the Las Plagas parasite introduced in the Resident Evil 4 video game which is still an infection – people want to eat you – but now they have motor skills and have a degree of intelligence. They can ride motorcycles and shoot machine guns. It makes survival more challenging.
Shock: Since you’re opening the scope, are we going to see what survivors are doing around the world? Because the films have always been limited to one specific group that Alice encounters…
Anderson: Yes, because we go to more international locations – to enforce the epic scale of it. We go to Washington D.C. and see the Capitol building torn down, we go to Times Square, Red Square, back to Tokyo so it does have a global reach.
Shock: SyFy recently ran a double-feature of the first two Resident Evil films and it’s amazing to see how much this series has evolved…
Shock: Or that, no pun intended? I can imagine you ever thought you’d be able to take the series this far and be given the freedom to explore the universe this much.
Anderson: You dream and those dreams came true. This is a franchise I’m incredibly proud of. When you go from the humble beginnings of the first film, which was a film financed outside of studio system – we didn’t have a U.S. distribution deal in place – it went from this little film that could to building a billion dollar franchise. To evolve from that contained chamber piece horror the first movie was to a much more epic scope is very gratifying. It is an evolution though, because you look at the history of other franchises – which I do a lot – the ones that succeed are the ones that evolve. They say learn from the best or steal from the best and, obviously, a big fan of Alien, you look at the first two movies – from Ridley and Cameron – they’re a genius lesson in how to keep a franchise fresh. The way Cameron came in and knew Ridley had done such a good job with that tight, claustrophobic movie there was no way he could match that. So, he made his own film – scary but it had all of these action elements as well. That’s always been a lesson for me and that’s what I tried to apply here. Allow yourself to evolve and mutate so you’re delivering familiar elements for the fans but do something fresh as well.
Shock: Using that example of Alien and Aliens, you’re talking about two different directors. With this series, especially Afterlife and now Retribution, we’re talking about one director putting pressure on himself to raise the bar. That must be difficult…
Anderson: Yes, definitely. I spend a lot of time thinking about it, that’s for sure. The clip we’re showing today – set in the corridors of Umbrella – we’ve spend so much time in corridors. Corridors made of metal, corridors made of this and that. How are we going to be different? The production design in this movie is out of this world. Beautiful. We manufactured this one particular set out of glass – the type they make skyscrapers out of. It gave us a unique visual look because it’s sort of self-illuminating. We had lights coming through the floor, wall and ceiling. So crisp and white. But once you start spraying the blood around, you’ve got red on the white floor, Milla dressed in black. It’s a graphic and fresh look. It’s definitely a Resident Evil movie. There’s Milla, the undead, the Umbrella corporation logo – but it’s a look you’ve never seen before in the franchise. That’s what I’m always looking for.
Shock: Now, in the teaser, we had a little taste of what looks like Alice with kids in a suburban environment. And when we were on set, there was rumblings of perhaps flashbacks of some sort. Now that you’re editing, how much of these flashbacks take up the film?
Anderson: It’s a pretty big chunk. It’s not the whole film and but there’s a big chunk where you spend time with her in that environment and you really get into it. It’s a piece I’m really proud of because, again, we’ve never really done this in the “real world.” The first movie was in this stylized environment and, since then, has always been apocalyptic. So, to go to this real suburban neighborhood was a real thrill.
Shock: Was this a concept that you maybe wanted to toy with earlier but wasn’t given the chance? Or did the introduction of this world come about organically and just feel like the right time to do it?
Anderson: Not really, it felt like the right time. And I came up with the right story idea to explore that environment. It was fun to shoot in a real suburban environment. None of the home owners wanted us there. None of them. It was an up market with fairly rich people. They didn’t need the location fees we were giving them. But, every kid in the neighborhood wanted us there. Basically, all of the teen kids bullied their parents into letting us shoot there for a week. In return, all of the kids kind of became zombies in the movies. By the end, though, they wanted to kick us out because we were setting things on fire, crashing things – even if they thought it was fun, what they did not want is this big film crew at the end of their garden. When we pulled out, I told my team to shoot everything we needed because we were never going to get the chance to come back for re-shoots.
We’ll have more Resident Evil: Retribution coverage as we near the film’s September 14th release date!