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‘Resident Evil’ 15 Year Anniversary — An Interview with Director Paul W.S. Anderson

It’s been awhile since Paul W.S. Anderson locked himself away for two weeks and binge played the video game Resident Evil. When he emerged out the other end with two weeks of stubble, sweating and looking like he had the T-Virus, Paul had an epiphany: “We have to make this into a movie!”

Recently at the TCL Chinese theaters in Hollywood, Director Paul W.S. Anderson, Producer Jeremy Bolts, a ton of cool fans in cosplay and of course press, got to see a special screening of the original movie Resident Evil — the one that started it all. What a great evening!

Paul WS Anderson

Jeremy Bolts and Paul WS Anderson; Photo Credit: Vicki Woods

Between 2002 and 2016, fans got an amazing series of sci-fi/horror actions films that rocked the video game and horror world. Despite some negative reviews, with six films released, the Resident Evil film series is the highest-grossing film series to be based on video games of all time, having grossed over $1.233 billion worldwide.

Paul W.S. Anderson is a pretty down-to-earth guy. Married to his Resident Evil star Milla Jovovich, with a family and many successful movies under his belt, Anderson seems to have it all. At the TCL Chinese Theater, he happily sat down to talk to reporters and sign posters from the movie for fans. This screening was a great chance to find out more about the Resident Evil franchise and what is ahead for this creative director. 


Paul WS Anderson

Paul WS Anderson with Zombie Chris Hannan; Photo Credit: Vicki Woods

Los Angeles Zombie Girl: When you first decided to do Resident Evil as a film, entertainment was in a different place than it is right now. Comic book and video games are more popular than ever especially in films. Do you think what your perspective was then matches up better now?

Paul WS Anderson: “I felt the Resident Evil video game was way ahead of the curve. It was talking about things that people weren’t paying any attention to. Just talking about the idea of corporate malfeasance, and the fact that the government isn’t probably looking after us, these are things that that the Japanese and the game picked up on. The game came out before Enron blew up, before we really understood the big companies and big government don’t necessarily have our best interests at heart. And I think that’s something that resonates with people.”

“That’s why the Umbrella Corporation has always been a central part of the mythology of the movies. And while people talk about Resident Evil being zombie movies, for me they’re more about Alice’s struggle with the Umbrella Corporation, The struggle of the individual against the big machine. It’s more timely than ever when you see Milla crawl out of the hole in the ground that started the Final Chapter, and she’s in a shattered, devastated Washington DC. That struck a chord with a lot of people.”

Resident Evil Final Chapter

LAZG: You have been quoted as saying you had a strong female lead when that wasn’t the norm in movies. Thank you for letting women kick ass in movies, by the way, and why did you make that decision?

PA: “It wasn’t acceptable in Hollywood Cinema. Obviously, there were exceptions to the rule, for example Ripley in the Alien movies, but when I first came to Hollywood to make Mortal Combat back in the day, there was this rule that females in action movies don’t work. American studios didn’t want to make them. But the first Resident Evil movie was made outside of America, outside of the studio system. It was picked up by Sony but was very much an independent movie. In Europe, the idea of having a woman in the forefront of these kind of films was a lot more acceptable, so we ran with that. We had no American investment in the movie. We did what we wanted, and we were a big hit. So at that point we were locked in on that direction.”

Milla Jovovich Resident Evil

LAZG: Ironically the making of the first Resident Evil was affected by 911 wasn’t it?

PA: “Yes. We’d already wrapped the movie, apart from the very end when Milla comes out into Raccoon City. We’d shot the first part in Berlin, because it was all set below ground. But there’s nothing in Berlin or Germany that looks anything like North America, so we were going to shoot the last scene in Toronto. I was actually in the air when 911 happened. I was one of the last flights, out of New York to Toronto. So, we ended up just closing up the shoot and finishing up a month later. Originally, the movie was called Resident Evil: Ground Zero, so we had to change that as well.”

LAZG: I’ve heard you describe it different ways, but do you consider Resident Evil a horror movie?

PA: “I’ve never really seen Resident Evil as horror. I’ve seen them as kind of science fiction, action movies in many ways. They have elements of horror in them, but they’ve kinda always been a little restrained. I mean, considering they’re zombie movies, you don’t see the intestines pulled out, you know (chewing sounds) because that’s not what the movies are about. They’ve always had, to me, a bigger art than that. I love horror, but I don’t describe these as hardcore horror movies.”

Resident Evil

LAZG: Are you a geek yourself? Do you like any superheroes or comic books?

PA: “I love video games — that’s why I’ve done so many adaptations of them. Growing up in the north of England, I didn’t see that many superheroes. Superman wasn’t my guy. But the darker version of Batman, The Dark Knight, is definitely a favorite. The Watchman and The League of Extraordinary Gentleman…that’s my kind of stuff.”

LAZG: Fifteen years, six movies in the series. What was the best part of making the Resident Evil franchise?

PA: “Six years and fifteen movies would have been better. My bank balance would be much healthier. Ha Ha. Just making the first movie, that was the success. A movie that was made against the odds, outside the studio system, no American involvement. If at our very first test screening we hadn’t scored really pretty high, then the movie would have gone straight to DVD, and there wouldn’t be a franchise. So, for me, that first Resident Evil was the best part.”

“I call it the little movie that could, like the kids’ story about the train that’s going up the hill. We made a six-movie franchise, made over a billion dollars…and it worked! It was an uphill struggle to get the movie made, but then the problems suddenly became positive once people started seeing the finished film.”

“People really loved Milla. She became the avatar that fans really rooted for and empathized with. The fact that zombies were back in movies after many years, that was a fantastic thing, because people love to be terrified by them. It was one of those things where everything that I had to fight hard to get made suddenly became a benefit, and then we started seeing that reflected in other movies as well.”

Resident Evil Milla Jovovich

“I can’t really say “that one thing” was the best or the worst. I think just from a film maker’s point of view, you never stop making mistakes. But hopefully you never stop learning from them. As soon as you think you know what you’re doing, that’s when you make the biggest mistake of all. There’s the saying that a movie is never finished, just abandoned. You watch the movie you make afterwards and say, I could have done this or that differently. I don’t think that ever changes.”

LAZG: What is your next project?

PA: “I’m doing Monster Hunter, which is an adaptation of another video game. This one is, of course, about hunting monsters. I’m kind of staying in my wheelhouse, not making any romantic comedies in a hurry. I would like to kind of go back and do what I did with Event Horizon, and do another straight terrifying film. Event Horizon was a real horror movie, and I’d like to do something like that again. But I haven’t quite found the project yet. And of course, I’d like to find something to do again with Milla as well.”

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