COMIC CON: ‘Resident Evil: Extinction’ Roundtable

Welcome to RopeofSilicon’s continuing Comic Con coverage. This time we take a look at the Resident Evil: Extinction roundtable with writer/director Paul Anderson and stars Milla Jovovich and Ali Larter. A lot of ground is covered here so let’s dive right in.

Director Paul Anderson

I’ve been quite familiar with the work of Paul Anderson for some time now. I have a strong dislike for many (though not all) of his movies. But one thing I’ll say about the guy: Of all the roundtable interviews I did at Comic Con this year, Paul was probably the gosh-darn nicest. Also, give the guy some credit for reviving a genre …

“When we made the first Resident Evil, no one had really made a zombie movie – like an A-list zombie movie – for about 20 years since Romero was making them. And since we made the first one there’s been a whole slew of undead and zombie films. I think one of the reasons hopefully the audiences are ready for a new one and a fresh one is we’ve really changed the location a lot and given them a really different vibe.”

“I wanted something that was recognizable to a mainstream audience and not just an American audience … and Roland Emmerich has done such a good job destroying – with Patrick’s [special effects guru Patrick Tatopoulos] help quite often – New York over and over and over again. It also offers a bit of European imagery. You have Venice, the Eiffel Tower … and also the whole desert setting kind of fitted into what I wanted to do with this movie.

So why the sudden popularity of these types of films? “I think in a very crass and commercial sense, Resident Evil made lots of money and so studios went, okay, we’ll have a bit of that. Let’s do our own zombie movie … there’s something about this decade that I think harks back to the 1970s and the kind of – the fear of centralized government, the loss of individuality, suspicion of large corporations and I think that’s where the zombie movies had their roots.”

Anderson only directed the first Resident Evil film but has stayed on as a writer and producer through the other two. This time he hired Highlander director Russell Mulcahy. “I love Russell … for my generation of filmmakers, Highlander was the bomb. I mean that was an amazing movie. And Russell kind of pioneered that kind of very operatic way of shooting. Lots of sweeping crane shots. He’s a very visual filmmaker so it was a real treat to work with one of my idols.”

I asked Paul whether or not he knew going into the first film that he’d be talking about another Resident Evil movie five years later. “I had my hopes and I was always hoping to make a trilogy of films but what a filmmaker hopes and what turns out to be are quite often very different. The first movie was deliberately planned as a prequel to the series of video games. I always thought, you know, it would be great to do the prequel, [then] the a movie that was set during the body of the video game world and then the movie that was set after the game world as a kind of cap to eventually what the resolution of the Resident Evil game world will ultimately be … which is that these outbreaks will eventually not be controlled and the world will be destroyed.”

While he admitted you should never say never again, Anderson was pretty adamant that this would be the last film. “We always intended to make a trilogy and we made one … The movie brings to an end a lot of character story arcs and a lot of characters die in the film so it very much brings the trilogy to a close.”

On the horizon is another film sure to draw criticism and ire from the fanboy world before he even steps onto the set. In four weeks he begins shooting on the Death Race remake which he calls “more of a re-imagining than a direct remake”. The film will star Jason Statham as Frankenstein, Tyrese Gibson as Machine-Gun Joe and – of all people – Joan Allen as the prisoner governor, a character Anderson calls “bad ass”.

Anderson said the film will be more serious than it’s 1975 predecessor. “Its a humorous film but it’s not going to be a campy movie like the original one. It’s got humor in it because, you know, I think Statham has a dry sense of humor. But it’s a much more serious movie than the first one was.”

He didn’t reveal anything knew about Castlevania which Sylvain White is directing. “He’s directing, I’m producing and I wrote the original screenplay although he’s refashioning it to fit his vision obviously.

Years ago there was a rumor that Tom Cruise would star in Death Race but it appears his involvement is limited to producing. “Tom’s a producer on it. We’re doing the movie as a co-production with my company and Tom’s company.”

Anderson also confirmed the movie would be rated R while telling us the movie will not feature a point system like the original. “It’s super-violent like the original … a lot of people get killed with vehicles and it’s a race of the death. Other than that it has some echoes of the original … but rather than have the point system which actually had no payoff anyway, its kind of like Gladiator, it’s like the last person standing in the arena is the winner so the points are kind of a little irrelevant. It’s more about killing the opposition however you can.”

That’s pretty much where we ended and we were treated to the film’s star next.

Actress Milla Jovovich

A very pregnant (though still beautiful) Milla Jovovich came to our roundtable next and curiously half-apologized. “I really feel like I don’t belong … I’m like, ‘Should I really be here like this. I might scare people away'”.

This is Milla’s third film in the successful action franchise so it’s a little surprising to hear she isn’t a fan of zombie films in general. She did, however, like the video game. “My and my brother used to play Resident Evil the game all the time and that’s how I discovered this whole world.

So what’s changed with Alice (her character from Resident Evil) over the last five years? “I think the character has definitely had some enormous changes as well as myself. In the beginning she was very naive, this ingenue in a sense and once she gets her memory back and she understands her role in this whole disease breaking out … she goes through a lot of self-hatred in a lot of ways … She just knows she’s a monster in a sense and she doesn’t really know what to do about those feelings … and I think in the third movie she’s chose to isolate herself from the people she cares about. In a way, she’s trying to redeem herself. And for me personally, I mean gosh, I’ve had a lot of personal changes. I’ve had to deal with some … really insane emotional things … death of a friend, um, starting a clothing line which is incredible and now getting pregnant. It’s been quite a ride.”

And it was right at this moment that Milla’s baby kicked. She made a little “Oh!”, grabbed her stomach and gave us a slightly embarrassed look. “She’s crazy! She’s been kicking so much.”

You can’t talk to an pregnant actress and now ask her about motherhood so the question came up … how will her pregnancy affect her career? “I figure as long as she can come with me, I can work still and do all the stuff I did before and when she has to stay in one place is when I can take time off. I figure I’ll be 35 at that point …. 25 years into this career so I can take a break and be a mom for five, six years … come back as a sexy older woman.”

The roundtable questions veered back to the film. Someone noted at one point that Milla is known for playing larger-than-life characters in movies like Resident Evil, The Fifth Element and Ultraviolet. “It’s unfortunate because I’ve done a few independent movies. You know, I’ve done comedies and different dramatic roles that people just don’t get to see as much because these [the genre] movies get out to such a wider audience.”

Still, it’s very clear Milla is good at and is comfortable with these roles because she pulls off the physicality. She told us she uses martial arts to both focus and relax in times of stress. She’s also nifty with a blade. “It’s interesting because these knives that I use in the film called kukeris [ed note: couldn’t verify the spelling], they’ve never been on screen before. This is the first time they’ve ever been filmed. And for me to have two is super violent and super insane. I have to say i love them because I had so much fun working with them and they’re so versatile. You can slice, you hack, you can spread mayonnaise with them. You can like slice through cucumbers, you can de-bone chicken … ” And in case you’re wondering, yes she kept the knives. “I have so many weapons at home it’s hilarious.”

And that was pretty much it for Milla. She mentioned that she was going to shoot a Paul Verhoeven film this year called Winter Queen but it had to be pushed back ’till next spring when she got pregnant. Yet it worked for her in the case of Wim Wenders’s new film, a movie she would have a small part in and appear pregnant. I didn’t get the name of the film but I checked with IMDB and he has a film called The Palermo Shooting set to shoot in September which is a must because Milla’s belly will explode if the movie waits any longer.

Actress Ali Larter

Ali Larter is not only beautiful, but very down-to-earth seeming and she won over a lot of journos sitting at the roundtable when she admitted to Comic Con being, “one of [her] favorite weekends.” Larter was here last year promoting a little TV show no one heard much about called “Heroes”. The show hadn’t premiered yet and there was no telling if it was going to get picked up. Last year she was just that hot blonde from Varsity Blues who has some TV show on NBC coming out. This year she’s a true Comic Con star with not only the second season of “Heroes” on the horizon, but Resident Evil: Extinction as well.

In Extinction, the third film in the trilogy she plays Claire, the “leader of this traveling convoy who has no time for bullshit, there’s no time for catty fights or overly emotional exchanges. It’s a straight-to-the-point world. It’s a do-or-die world.”

I was a little surprised to find out she shot Resident Evil before “Heroes” even aired. “This actually was shot after the pilot episode [of “Heroes] and before we were on the air. So at this point we didn’t know what was going to happen. I was just at this stage in my life where I was ready to work again … shooting the pilot and that whole experience was amazing for me and when this opportunity came around I just was like, absolutely.”

Larter told us these genre roles weren’t really planned out, they just happened to have worked out that way. “You know when you’re Milla or Tom Cruise or these really famous people you get to pick and choose what you want. I was just an actress who hopefully was going to find a part that they liked or they wanted me to do and the schedule worked out. There’s not really this master plan.”

Now I know what you all really want to know. You want to know if there was any cat hissing on the set of Resident Evil: Extinction, right? Well don’t get too excited because it looks like Milla and Ali got along like peas and carrots. “It was amazing. She was so gracious, inviting me onto the set. She set an example for how I want to behave and act in the future. Especially with women. Woman can be tough and they can be catty and she made me feel so comfortable and [was] so supportive and encouraging and I think if everyone acted that way in this business it would be very different.”

She told us that “Heroes”, while it hasn’t changed her life has opened more doors for her. “But in truth I’m just a Jersey girl who’s excited to make money with what she loves.”

Larter has appear in a number of TV shows in addition to a number of films. But “Heroes” marks the first time she was involved with a pilot. When asked if she was surprised by the show’s success, she responded “Well, it was my first audition for my first TV show so for me I was not kind of the normal route. I was very, very, very, very lucky. So this is all I know. All I know is ‘Heroes’, it’s my first experience.”

When asked who would win in a fight, Claire from Resident Evil or Nikki/Jessica from ‘Heroes’, Larter didn’t tap-dance. “Jessica … would tear her apart. Because Jessica has powers! It you put a mere mortal up against someone who has powers … that wouldn’t be a fair fight now would it?” It’s an impossibly geeky answer to an impossibly geeky question and the table I think fell in love with her at this point.

When asked who she prefers playing on the TV show, Jessica or Nikki (her character has split personalities), Larter got specific. “It depends on the day, you know? There’s five sides to all of us. Certain days you wake up and you’re ready to take on the world. You better hope you’re playing Jessica that day. And then there are other days when you get out of bed and you feel the weight of the world on you and you’re feeling insecure and emotional and all that jazz … you know, I’m hoping I’m going to be working more Nikki. And when it doesn’t work out, a glass of wine helps.”

Larter talked about her stun work in both the movie and TV show but told us it doesn’t compare to the amount of stunts her co-star does. “I did a lot but she [Milla] is out of control in this movie. The spinning around and the kicking and the fighting, I mean … it is as hot as it gets.”

She went on to talk about “Heroes” a little more, telling us she had a lot of “really cool” ideas about her character but she was mum as to what those ideas were. She was unaware until it was announced at Comic Con that Kevin Smith would be directing an episode of Heroes: Origins and seemed mighty excited about it. She also expressed some excitement for the Resident Evil film. “I feel like they’re taking this trilogy to the next level by making it visually beautiful”.

However, one thing she is not excited about is the possibility of a House on Haunted Hill sequel. When asked about her thoughts of the film she responded, “Um, I’m not doing a sequel.” This raised everyone’s eyebrows and she had to inform us, “I’m only kidding” about four times in a row. The interview was over so we had to let her off the hook.

And that’s the end of the Resident Evil: Extinction roundtable piece. We still have some more great Comic Con goodness coming your way if you can believe it, so no clicking away.

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