Meeting Milla Jovovich was the highlight of RT’s visit to the set of Resident Evil: Extinction, and not just because the impish actress is as energetic as a live wire. She also spilled tons of info about her character Alice and story points from the upcoming sequel, and spoke candidly about her disappointing experience making last year’s Ultraviolet. Read on!
Although her filmography reflects a career of carefully chosen roles — Joan of Arc was a noble gamble, surely not a safe choice as far as Hollywood actresses go — Jovovich seems content with, and energized by, the niche of tough, sexy, and tormented action heroines she’s fallen into of late.
Consider the trajectory of Milla Jovovich‘s career to date. From inauspicious beginnings in the multiple Golden Raspberry-nominated Return to the Blue Lagoon (her first big starring role, as one of two castaway kids growing up on an island), Jovovich has built a career of dabbling in movies large and small, in period dramas (Chaplin), quirky indies (Dummy) and cult classics (Dazed and Confused) alike. But it was 1997’s The Fifth Element, Luc Besson‘s celebrated science fiction cult classic, that gave us our first glimpse of Jovovich’s potential as an action heroine; who could forget her alien superwoman Leeloo, guns blazing and karate chopping all over the galaxy in an outfit of strategically-placed medical bandages designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier? With her delicate looks, steely gaze, and the rare ability to make all-out action and weapons handling by a dramatic actor actually believable, it seemed only natural then that Jovovich assume the mantle of the foremost female ass-kicker in the movies; once Paul W.S. Anderson adapted Capcom’s Resident Evil game into the profitable first film in the series, Jovovich’s place in action cinema was cemented.
With her third turn as the zombie-battling T-Virus survivor Alice approaching (Resident Evil: Extinction hits theaters September 21), Jovovich takes obvious comfort in the role for which she has twice before leveled a lethal combination of guns, fists, and feet at countless undead humans, Dobermans, and superhuman enemies. Her Alice, clad this time in a getup of army surplus shorts and a sun-beaten duster, wielding traditional Nepalese Khukuri knives and pistols holstered at her thighs, cuts a cross-cultural iconic figure in the barren desert wasteland of future Las Vegas that, not coincidentally, calls to mind the loner gunslinger heroes of the Wild West. Thus, she takes a bit of inspiration from some of the greatest cowboy toughs to ever grace the screen. “I would like to say [I’m playing] more of a Clint Eastwood than a [Charles] Bronson,” Jovovich told us during roundtable interviews on Extinction‘s Mexico City set. “I’ve been trying to play it just as natural as I can possibly make this scenario.”
In Resident Evil: Extinction, Jovovich’s Alice is once again the only hope of a dwindling population of humans who are now being hunted by legions of the bloodthirsty undead. Like the typical antihero of a Western, Alice is compelled to defend the lives of innocents, all the while being hunted by the sinister scientists of the Umbrella Corporation, who are cloning her in hopes of harnessing her growing superpowers. More so than in the previous two films, Alice is becoming a leader and protector of the uninfected, though by now the prospects of the survivors are far bleaker than they were when we first saw Alice wandering through the Umbrella Corp.’s underground Hive laboratories. “All three movies are 360 degrees from each other, which is great — different looks, different characters,” Jovovich said. “I think more than anything, you have [Alice] really kind of innocent in the first movie, and now she’s more hard, and more sad, and a little bit more…not defeated, but this is life; there is no future for her.”
In Extinction, Alice joins a small band of survivors crossing the Las Vegas desert, where she meets up with Resident Evil: Apocalypse buddies Carlos (Oded Fehr) and L.J. (Mike Epps). Before they head to a rumored safe haven in Alaska, they’ll have to contend with a Hitchcockian horde of undead crows — good thing Alice’s exposure to the T-Virus has endowed her with all new skills. “Well, she gets very…psychic thingies,” Jovovich excitedly shared. “A little Carrie-ish — I’m trying not to do the Carrie thing obviously, trying to do my own little thing. But yeah, she bursts everything into flames and stuff. It’s really cool! It’s great for me because I didn’t have to do so many stunt sequences! It’s more like, she bursts things into flames, so it’s really useful against the birds and things. There’s a lot of them everywhere — just (gestures) poof!”
Jovovich explained the scenario: “There’s like a whole scene where they’re dumping these clones of Alice, because they’ve got her DNA and they’ve recreated all of these clones, and they send each one to try and get the real Alice again, one that’s cooperative. So they try and have selective memory choices; they send her through the glass corridor to try and escape the laser grid, then they send her kind of on the same steps she took in the first one, but each time the clone dies, she doesn’t survive. So you have all of these clones just being dumped in this pit, and all these zombies…it’s really cool!”
As an actress who likes to give her own input into a film, it’s been difficult for Jovovich to give her all into a performance that, in the final edit, gets lost under the guidance of what she may consider an ill-fitted director. While the original Resident Evil is her favorite thus far (and was directed by off-screen partner Anderson), Jovovich is not shy about discussing the shortcomings of the second installment, by first-time director Alexander Witt. “I did some really dangerous stunts that I felt like you didn’t really see what was happening,” she explained. “What we did was insane. And when I saw the freaking shot, I was like, you can’t even tell that that’s me, you can’t even tell how high I am, you can’t tell…and I’m telling everyone I jumped off a six story building! So, whatever. I had my little problems with the second one. Saying that, I think as [it fits into the] trilogy it’s great. It’s an exciting film. I changed a LOT in the dubbing; that was one of my biggest problems with the director of the second one. I just felt like he wasn’t in the moment.”
Last year’s Ultraviolet was similarly problematic for the actress. The tale of a futuristic vampire heroine defending a boy from evil forces was a highly stylized but incoherent affair with great action sequences, but garnered the ire of critics and ended up with a seven percent Tomatometer rating. When asked about her experience making that film, Jovovich was equally frank about director Kurt Wimmer. “Listen. All I can tell you is I was completely locked out from the editing room, which was unfortunate, because I was promised that I wouldn’t be,” she began. “On both Resident Evils I had a lot of input into the movie, before it was finished…more on the first than on the second. But with Ultraviolet I was very depressed, because [Wimmer] was a real cad, in the sense that he kind of reneged on his promises and didn’t allow me to see my performances.”
Sometimes actors make subtle changes while filming a scene that nobody else might notice. Jovovich thinks that having that sort of knowledge, and trusting an actor to know their own performance, are important tools for a director to use. “I said listen, I don’t want to step on your feet but there are certain things that I did, that I would remember. Like, you know in that scene, take three — there’s just a little movement of my eye, that’s cool in the close-up. Or whatever, you know…it’s unfortunate, because that’s the perfect example of a movie that I spent a year of my life preparing for and shooting, and once you see it, you’re like…ok…on to the next!”
Judging from Jovovich’s rapport with Extinction director Russell Mulcahy, it seems the actress is already more satisfied with the third film in the Resident Evil franchise. A seasoned filmmaker, Mulcahy (Highlander) is the most experienced director to take control of the Resident Evil series yet. On set, Mulcahy would deftly keep his buoyant star in character with frequent reminders (“You’re in the moment!”) and has guided the look and feel of the film in a more visually arresting direction than its subterranean and city-locked predecessors. “The way he’s shooting everything is so cool,” Jovovich gushed. “He does all these dirty shots — like pans, lots of wide shots, really beautiful, taking advantage of the desert and this incredible set that they built. It’s really cool, it looks different. I think the camera work is much better in this one than it’s been in either of the two movies…no offense to [Anderson and Witt], but I think it looks really great.”
Take a look yourself at the trailer for Resident Evil: Extinction here to see what sun-baked desert zombie goodness you’re in for when the film hits in September. Stay tuned for more set interviews with Ali Larter and Oded Fehr in the coming days!