It is not an understatement to call Paul William Scott Anderson the leading creative force behind the massively successful film frachise that is Resident Evil. He has written all of the four movies in the series so far and also directed the first installment himself. On the set of that first film, he also met his future wife in the shape of leading lady Milla Jovovich and the couple gave birth to their first child 6 years later. So, when Paul returned to the director's role for the latest effort in the franchise, Resident Evil: Afterlife, it is safe to say that he was putting a lot on the line! Buzzine's Emmanuel Itier sat down with Paul W.S. Anderson in Los Angeles, CA to talk about how to continually reinvent a franchise while staying true to its core.
Emmanuel Itier: How is it to be back in the director’s chair?
Paul W.S. Anderson: I really never thought I went away because I wrote all of these movies and produced them. Also, I was pretty much, every single day, on the set of the last episode of Resident Evil, directed by Russell Mulcahy, so I feel I provided the franchise with above and beyond-average services for a producer give to a film. I was excited about this fourth movie, especially conceptually, because I had the vision to do what T2 did with the Terminator franchise, which was to make it bigger and grander. This is what we are doing here with this new Resident Evil. It’s the same movie at its core with the same characters from the game, but it’s going to look so much more epic and gigantic in scale.
EI: How similar is the film compared to the game?
PA: This is interesting because I usually write the script before a new game comes out, and when the new game came out, I found out that there were lots of elements in the game that were already in the script. It’s funny because we obviously try to work tightly with Capcom, the Japanese company behind the game, but every time I get to Japan and try to find out things from them, it’s like dealing with “The Umbrella Corporation” — I don’t get much of anything! You never get a straight answer about anything with them. But by a happy coincidence, we have the same main villain in the game and the movie: Albert Wesker played by Shawn Roberts. Also, most of the action of the game takes place on a ship, and we had also planned to do the same with the film. The only thing I really had to polish was the imagery of the film in regards to the video game when I saw it finished and to make it more in line with what the audience will have in mind. I really believe that Resident Evil 5, the game, is fantastic and reinvented the video game franchise! This is the idea also with this new film — to reinvent the franchise.
EI: And what better way to reinvent a franchise but to use 3D…
PA: Right! This is indeed the perfect way to do it, because with 3D, it’s back to the basics of film-making! Because of the weight of the camera and using two cameras all the time, you can afford to film the same way and edit the same way, so it forces us to make longer and slower camera movements and it’s more majestic. Also, you won’t have quick jump-cuts one sees in action movies because you would vomit at the end. I think it looks beautiful, and it’s something you had never seen in a Resident Evil picture. Everything is pretty much shot on dolly and tracks and cranes. It’s a very fluid way of filming, and it gives a sense of continuity to the images you’re filming. It’s interesting for me to use 3D because, even though I have to be focused on depth and multi-layers of coverage, I feel like all my films have a 3D feeling — the feeling you’re in a ride and ready for adventure. Look at the scene, for example, in Event Horizon, of one of the characters walking down a long corridor. It feels like a ride, and it was actually inspired by the Back to the Future ride at Universal Studios. So I have always been aware of trying to film in a way where the audience is truly transported into the film, into another universe, and certainly the use of 3D emphasizes and helps with this process. I think you can 3Dimentionalize my movies with some tentacles coming at you or other gimmicks.
EI: Why didn’t you get back into the chair of the director before this Resident Evil?
PA: Conflict of schedule, as we say! It has been very difficult for me not to direct another Resident Evil before this one. For example, it was impossible for me to pass on the opportunity to work on Alien vs. Predator, but the studio, Fox, couldn’t wait, and even though we had the second Resident Evil in the works I had to just let it go. Same thing with Death Race, which was a passion project at Universal and took years to come together. So I had to do it and let Russell direct the last Resident Evil. But for this one, I made sure I was on the set as much as possible, and maybe this is where the urge to do this Resident Evil came from. I’m lucky right now that my next film, a remake of The Three Musketeers, is also financed by the same company, Constantin, behind the Resident Evil movies, so I can coordinate the shooting of both films back to back without any conflict.
EI: The Three Musketeers will also be in 3D, right?
PA: Yes! I’m a big 3D convert, and I don’t think I can go back to film in 2D ever! I think 3D is the way cinema should go for films to be made. I also believe 3D crosses the borders and is the best way to make and play with video games. It’s a great feeling, to be on the cutting edge of film-making and even be able to create new tools because you have to build special cranes and devices for these new 3D cameras. All the tools we now have, cranes and others, are built for light cameras, but you can’t do this in 3D so you have to re-think and re-create it all, and this is what passions me. I love building new stuff. For example, we even had to build a new way to carry these heavy cameras for an helicopter shot because they were so heavy that the copter had a problem to stabilize and film the beauty shots we needed.
EI: Were you a fan of the early 3D movies?
PA: For sure, I can say I saw the Space Hunters 3D, for example! I saw all these movies with the red and blue glasses, but I think they were all very gimmicky and with an obvious use of 3D with objects thrown at you. Now it’s a smarter and more in-depth use of 3D — a use of the negative and positive space, like James Cameron is explaining. Not only do you get objects coming at you, but you also dwell and fall into another universe like Alice in the rabbit hole, and this is truly amazing. Of course, we don’t have the budget of Avatar like James Cameron had, but I know you will be impressed with what we were able to achieve with this Resident Evil. Another 3D movie I adored was Caroline, and we used 3D at its best and within the budget limitation. I think this gives a real new dimension to the Resident Evil experience. It becomes a real thrilling ride, and you will feel part of it.
'Resident Evil: Afterlife' is in theaters now.