Despite what you may think of the Resident Evil series, Paul W.S. Anderson has been consistent on one thing: he continually works on them in some capacity. After writing and directing 2002's Resident Evil, Anderson wrote and produced Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Resident Evil: Extinction. With Resident Evil: Afterlife, Anderson returns as writer and director, as he reunites with wife Milla Jovovich to tell the fourth installment in 3-D. And this time - gasp - the movie will even be influenced by the games! (who saw that coming?)
Anderson sat down with FEARnet and discussed why he decided to return to the director's chair.
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 [Editor's note: That's Alien VS. Predator, Paul.] when Resident Evil 2 was being made and it was for two different studios. It was for Fox and Sony. They don't care about one another. They just want their movies so it was very difficult to delay one. So I had to make a very painful decision to kind of 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'd had in development for almost ten years. Suddenly it was kind of igniting. Again I found it difficult to direct both movies, although on the last Resident Evil I was on set for almost every single day of principal photography. On this film, I was fortunate that hopefully my next movie is this version of Three Musketeers that we're trying to fast-track right now and it's for the same company that Resident Evil is. I've been fortunate that I don't have any clashes right now, so as soon as that became apparent I jumped into the director's chair. They didn't have to wait to put my name on the back of it.
I never really thought I went away, because I've written all of the movies, produced them all, and certainly provided services above and beyond the average producer on two and three. I was on set most of the films, called action, cut a lot of times, and did all that good stuff. And so, I was excited about the fourth movie conceptually because what I felt we should do is try to make it a conceptual jump like Terminator did to T2. It was still the Terminator franchise, but it was something bigger and grander.
That was our idea with this Resident Evil, to make that kind of conceptual jump. It will still be Resident Evil, it will have all the really cool Resident Evil things in it – the characters from the game, the dogs that you've seen… But you know, the dogs [are] 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, a big conceptual jump to try and make the movie kind of a bigger and grander event than the first trilogy was.
Anyone else find it odd to call Death Race a "passion project?"
Moving on, Anderson also talked about Resident Evil 5's huge influence on Afterlife, though Anderson claims that some of that was coincidental.
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. And, you know, talking to Capcom, Capcom's so funny. Every time I go to Japan and meet Capcom, it is like going to see the Umbrella Corporation. You ask them things and they won't give you a straight answer about anything. I kind of knew they would tell me that Wesker was in the game, kind of, but they would never really confirm it. And sure enough, he was the main villain and he was the main villain in the movie as well. And 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 had an awful lot of stuff that they had already put into Resident Evil 5 and then what I did was a whole big pass on the script to kind of bring it more in line with the imagery of the latest game because I thought the latest game was fantastic. I thought it kind of reinvented the video game franchise and I wanted to take a lot of that and frankly, kind of 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. Basically, all the heads of department have a player of the game. It's where Chris [Redfield] is fighting Wesker and it's Sheva, right, from Resident Evil 5 game? Anyway, the two of them are fighting Wesker and instead of the character from the game, we're putting Claire in there, so it's brother and sister fighting against Wesker.
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 we're probably going to shoot the fight in ten 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 go underneath. 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. You've probably noticed that. It's a very different experience shooting in 3-D because the camera rigs are so large.
Everything we've become accustomed to in the last ten years as filmmakers, which is cameras getting smaller and smaller and you can just throw them on your shoulder and stick them in a car and do whatever you want, you can't do any of that now. You're forced to put things on dollies and track and cranes. It's kind of like a throwback to an old school way of filmmaking. So for this kind of very flexible shoot, we're having to reinvent the wheel a little bit.
Resident Evil: Afterlife opens September 10.