Evil Days Are Here Again for Paul W.S. Anderson


On the sequel and his love affair with 3D

Paul W.S. Anderson is a changed man. Since directing the first Resident Evil, he’s had a child with actress and wife Milla Jovovich, and he’s fallen head over heels for working in 3D. In fact, he’s applying the technology to the Evil franchise for Resident Evil: Afterlife, which finds him back in the director’s chair (it should be noted he’s written all the films). We caught up to the man very briefly on set.

For more coverage: Set Report | Interview: D. Eric Robertson (Visual FX) | Interview: Jeremy Bolt (Producer) | Interview: Ali Larter (Claire Redfield) | Interview: Milla Jovovich (Alice)

ShockTillYouDrop.com: Talk about what brought you back to the director’s chair and what you want to do with it that’s different than what you’ve done before?

Paul W.S. Anderson: I was excited about the fourth movie I guess conceptually because what I thought we should do is we should try and make a conceptual jump like Terminator did to T2. It was still the Terminator franchise, but it was something kind of bigger and grander. That was our idea with this Resident Evil – to make that kind of conceptual jump. It’ll still be Resident Evil. It’ll have all the really cool Resident Evil things in it, the characters from the game, the dogs that you’ve seen, but the dogs on a new level. These dogs are a massive improvement on the dogs before. I think some of the sets we’re building; the locations we’re using are giant. Again, like a big conceptual jump to try and make the movie kind of a bigger and a grander even than the first trilogy was.

Shock: Were you particularly surprised when you started playing Resident Evil 5, which had an influence on this film?

Anderson: There were some surprises actually because I was writing the script before the game came out, then the game came out and it had huge elements that were already in the screenplay. Talking to Capcom, Capcom’s so funny. It’s like every time I go to Japan and meet Capcom it is like going to see the Umbrella Corporation because you ask them things and they won’t give you a straight answer about anything. It’s like I kind of knew they would tell me that Wesker was in the game, kind of, but they would never really confirm it. Then, sure enough, he was the main villain and he was the main villain in the movie as well. Completely by coincidence, a large chunk of this movie takes place on a big ship and there was the ship from Resident Evil 5. We had the dogs in already. We have an awful lot of stuff that they had already kinda put into Resident Evil 5. Then, what I did was, I just did a whole big pass on the script to kind of bring it more in line with the imagery from the latest game because I thought that the latest game was fantastic. I mean, I thought it kind of reinvented the videogame franchise and I wanted to take a lot of it, frankly kind of like, steal from it and put it in the movie. There’s a whole fight scene that we’re about to shoot that we start next week with Ali Larter and Wentworth Miller which is taken almost – well, is taken shot by shot from Resident Evil 5.

What’s great in the game is it’s one continuous shot where the camera rotates around Wesker fighting the two and he just kicks their asses. But, they never cut which of course, you can do in animation. It’s a bit more difficult in live action. So what we’re going to do is probably shoot the fight in 10 different segments and then seam it together in visual effects so the finished effect will be as though the camera never stops rotating around. It’s really cool because you go around them and then you kind of like, go underneath them. It’s going to be a nightmare and everyone’s tearing their hair out on set trying to figure out how to do it, especially with the 3-D rigs which are huge.

Shock: And in terms of the story, how do you re-conceptualize the Resident Evil movie for 3D with this change?

Anderson: I wrote a script that I felt emphasized depth because I think that’s very suitable to 3D obviously. But, I kind of feel like I’ve always directed movies a little like they were ride films anyway. I mean, I’ve used that term a lot in the films I’ve directed from Event Horizon onwards. You know, there’s a scene in Event Horizon where the characters go through this tunnel that rotates. That was taken directly off a ride at Universal Studios where it f**ked with your equilibrium. So I’ve been very into that and I’ve often referred to ride films, or the Back to the Future ride and things like that because they’re very immersive. So I’ve always tried to do camera moves that I felt were immersive. I think as a filmmaker, my style of filmmaking is very well suited to 3D anyway. It’s not like I’m having to change a huge amount the way I shoot to work in 3D, I think you could probably dimensionalize some of my movies and they would make very good 3D films because they’re full of tentacles coming out and lots of depth.

Shock: At what point did you realize you wanted to get back in the director’s chair for Resident Evil?

Anderson: To tell the truth, I’ve kind of always wanted to be there. It’s been a very difficult decision for the last two when I couldn’t. It was always kind of clashing schedules. You know, I had the opportunity to work with Aliens and Predators when Resident Evil 2 was being made and it was for two different studios. It was for Fox and Sony and they don’t care about one another. They just want their movies. So it was very difficult to delay one. I had to make a very painful decision to step away from directing the second movie and with the third movie it was the same. I had this movie Death Race that was a passion project for me that I’ve been around for like – I had it in development for almost 10 years and suddenly it was kind of igniting. Again, I found it very difficult to direct both movies although on the last Resident Evil, you know, I was on set pretty much every single day of principal photography. I don’t have any clashes right now. As soon as that became apparent, I jumped into the director’s chair.

Shock: You’ve got Three Musketeers next, that will be 3D?

Anderson: Yes. I’m a big 3-D convert.

Shock: You feel like you’re not going to go back now?

Anderson: I don’t think so. I really believe in 3D. I really think it is the kind of wave of the future for cinema. I certainly as a filmmaker feel you’re directing a talkie for the first time when talkies are the new thing. It’s a really exciting medium to work in and you really feel like you’re on the cutting edge and you know you are because all the camera equipment you take for granted doesn’t exist for 3D. All of the cranes with all the stabilized heads, they don’t work on 3D because they’re all built for lightweight camera packages. As soon as you kind of put two cameras together and all the other crap that they need, and the cabling to go back to the computers, we’ve literally – the cranes on this movie – they break after a couple of days. You can see them, they’re juttering and then all the gears burn out. So we’re having to build our own heads, build our own cranes. There’s no such thing as motion control that exists for 3D, again, because motion control on all the gearing is for lightweight cameras. So we’re having to build our own motion control rigs. We did a lot of helicopter shooting in LA and also in Alaska which looks fantastic, but we had terrible problems because the helicopters weren’t built to carry the weight of two cameras. So, we’d have real problems with the helicopters and the pilots going, “I can’t fly this thing and get you the shot you want.” So it’s been very, very difficult, but I think the plus side is you’re getting something very, very exciting.

Shock: Are you a fan of 3D games?

Anderson: Yeah, absolutely. I think 3D across the board is, both in kind of the home format and the cinema, it’s going to be very big.

Shock: We were talking to Milla, she said she hadn’t seen a 3D movie prior to being involved with this. Were you a fan of 3D cinema, going back to the old days?

Anderson: I saw Space Hunter in 3D, it gave me a headache.

Shock: House of Wax or anything like that?

Anderson: I saw all those old movies, absolutely with the red and the blue glasses. But, I think they’re all very gimmicky and I think the difference is now that people are trying to make more serious mainstream movies that are not just William Castle gimmick films.

Shock: Is there a 3D movie that you think best makes use of the technology now?

Anderson: I’ve pretty much seen every 3D movie made in anticipation for making this film, what was great about Up and also about Coraline – probably my favorite 3-D movie because it uses both negative and positive space really, really well. [James] Cameron feels like positive space, you shouldn’t use it, everything should be negative space. It should be a window into a world where you peer into another world. Then there are filmmakers who have done 3D movies that can’t get enough positive space and can’t get enough crap kind of poking out at the camera at of the screen. I feel like the best movies for me anyway so far combine a combination of both. Coraline, I thought, was really good because it used a lot of negative space so you knew you were watching a 3D movie, but it had like six or seven big moments where it used the positive space where stuff actually came out of the screen. Because it was used in a sparing way, it was very, very impactful.

Shock: I was wondering if that was what we could expect in this as well?

Anderson: That’s what I’m trying to do, but I’m me, so I probably won’t be able to contain myself to seven or eight big moments. We have been very restrained in the use of 3D at certain times. So, it’s not always the kind of thing you’ll face, but then we definitely have some big 3-D moments.

Resident Evil: Afterlife opens in 2D and 3D on September 10.

Source: Ryan Rotten, Managing Editor