Set Visit Interview: Paul W.S. Anderson Talks Resident Evil: Retribution, the Future of the Franchise and More
During Dread Central's recent set visit in Toronto for Screen Gems' upcoming sequel, Resident Evil: Retribution, we had the opportunity to sit down and chat with the mastermind behind it all- writer/director/producer Paul W.S. Anderson, who is once again back at the helm for the latest sequel in the hugely popular and fan-driven Resident Evil series.
Between takes on the wintry CineSpace soundstage that was dressed to resemble the frozen tundra of Russia, Anderson discussed with us his ten-year dedication to the Resident Evil films, how closely Retribution mirrors the RE video game storylines, future plans for the franchise and so much more.
Check out the highlights of our interview with Anderson during our recent set visit, and make sure to check back soon for more from the set of Resident Evil: Retribution. For Anderson's update on the Death Race franchise that we previously reported on, you can check that out here!
Q: You’ve always been an integral part of the Resident Evil franchise, having written all of the episodes. But now you are directing back-to-back episodes as opposed to handing them off to another director. So what is keeping you excited?
A: That hasn’t changed. I’ve always been really excited about it and it was always a painful decision not to direct the two episodes that I didn’t direct. If I had been given my druthers, I would have done Apocalypse and Extinction. At the time, it was kind of conflicts with other studios, movies, and other commitments. It is not like this is…movies are not an art form where you get to kind of sit in your art gallery and paint, you know? You don’t do that. You’re spending a lot of somebody else’s money. Like I said, given my druthers, I would have directed every single one of them. So I am just happy to have been able to do the last one and this one.
Q: Can you talk about how your work with 3D has changed after doing both The Three Musketeers and the last film in 3D?
A: I think we have just become more adventurous with each movie. I mean, taking the cameras out on location a lot more. Obviously, not here because we are not going to go out onto the pack ice. It has got nothing to do with 3D. We are trying to become more adventurous with it I think. You know, more location work, more camera movement, and more aggressive camera movement. I think the camera work on this is pretty aggressive for 3D. I think people’s tolerance for what they can watch in 3D is obviously becoming stronger. So we probably have more kind of muscular camera moves in this one.
Q: The ending of the fourth film was a climatic ending. We have heard that this one starts with a flashback. What was your motivation for sort of not jumping right into the action?
A: This one starts basically with the pay off from the last one. So we are start on the deck of the Arcadia. So it is kind of like a direct continuation of that.
Q: So are the flashbacks a little bit further?
A: I can’t…(laughs). I can’t tell you about the flashbacks.
Q: Can you talk about the decision of bringing in Barry, Ada, and Leon?
A: That was kind of fan-driven. All of the fans were pretty vocal about how these were the characters that they really wanted to see. We really tried to cast actors who kind of brought those characters to life as close to the video game as possible. You have no idea how difficult it is to find someone with Leon Kennedy’s hair. It is just not the easiest thing in the world. He has to be manly and has to have these long bangs. Geez, could they have made it more difficult for us? But I’m very happy with the actors that we have.
Q: How do you know the characters that the fans want?
A: Basically from being on the internet and going to…I do a lot of press and I go to a lot of…I have a very close and open dialogue with Capcom, who have their own Resident Evil forums as well. So it is kind of through a lot of communication.
Q: Are you finding it more difficult to draw some inspiration from the game besides the characters? Because you are bringing in Las Plagas zombies in this one…
A: Not really. There is such a wealth of stuff in the games. So for Las Plagas we are going back to Resident Evil 4 and there are elements of Resident Evil 5 in this. We have a big car chase that I am very excited about because in Resident Evil 5 there was this awesome kind of hummer, motorbike, heavy machine gun battle with rocket launchers. I am like, “This is so great.” So we have kind of taken inspiration from that. I think there is so much cool stuff in the games and I think it will be a long time before we ran out.
Q: We have heard from some of the cast that when you were writing this one you were thinking of a 5th and 6th film and that there was almost talk of you guys filming them back to back.
A: We definitely…there was an earlier discussion about that, but then we just decided to focus on this movie. But if it is that we make another one, I do know where it would go. It would obviously be great to kind of make two full trilogies and then just bring everything to an end.
Q: That is the thing. Your significant other was mentioning that she can only play the character for so long. In your mind is the 6th film the finale?
A: Definitely. Unless, of course, no one goes to see this one. Then this one would be the finale, just maybe not a very satisfying one. (laughs)
Q: Do you see yourself continuing beyond with your involvement and with Milla’s involvement by maybe producing?
A: I have always said that we really take the movies one movie at a time because we put so much effort into them. While I have an idea of where I would like the franchise to go, it really is a movie by movie thing for us. I think quite often filmmakers kind of think so much about what the franchise will be and sometimes can neglect to put their efforts into the movie that they are actually making. So, for us, it is 150% of effort into this one entity right now.
Q: How do you feel that the style of action is different? What is your directorial approach and what are some of the choices you are making to make this one stand out apart from the rest?
A: Like I said, the camera work for 3D is very aggressive. The action is just different for a Resident Evil movie anyway; it’s not different from the games. Like I said, we have taken a lot of inspiration from action sequences in the games. But to do car chases in 3D with cars, motorbikes, and kind of lots of…because the Las Plagas undead can obviously use weaponry. That is a whole new aspect that hasn’t been in the movie franchise before. So that has been pretty exciting.
Q: I want to ask about the visual tone of the movie and not the action or the violence. What is the overall look and the color scheme? Is there a certain palette that you are going for that is unique?
A: It is kind of like it is an epic undead movie. It really is a globe crossing thing. We have physically shot in Washington D.C., Red Square, and Shibuya in Tokyo. We’re obviously recreating snow and ice sequences, but we have actually gone out in the snow and ice as well. So it really has a globe crossing feel to it and each one of these different places we have tried to kind of invest with a different feel. So I am excited about the snow and ice obviously because as you can probably see with Ada laying in the red dress against the crisp white snow and the black umbrella – it is very, very graphic novel-y. So that is very stark.
But then the Red Square sequence is completely different. It’s all at night and very gritty. So the idea was to kind of make the movie like a kind of nightmare where you tumble from one bad dream to another but can’t quite wake up. So each part of the dream feels very different but also very unpleasant. We have really tried to…it is almost like the visual look of three or four different films packed into one movie, deliberately so because each scenario you go from is radically different from the next, both in the way we shot it and also in the way we lit it. So it has been drive Glen, our DP, crazy. Normally you get a DP and you set one look for a movie, and every two weeks it is completely different.
Q: With all of the different looks, globetrotting, and the non-linear narrative is there a unifying theme that you are leaning on specifically to kind of bring that all together?
A: It’s hard for me to explain what that is without giving away the plot twists and the movie, but yes. I think it really has some cool twists in it. They are kind of inspired by the video game, but I think it should be a very surprising narrative. I’m excited to put the whole thing together. And I’m super excited to be working with returning actors from the franchise as well. That has been one of the really fun things – to bring back Michelle (Rodriguez), Colin (Salmon) and Oded (Fehr) back. Not just to work with them as people because they are nice people, but to also have those familiar faces in the franchise I think is really exciting.