Set Visit Interview: Special Effects Maestro Paul Jones Talks Zombies, Lickers and More for Resident Evil: Retribution
For Special Make-up Effects Designer and Supervisor Paul Jones, Resident Evil movies have become his life. He's been working on the series since 2004's Apocalypse, for which he designed the flick's 'big baddie'- Nemesis.
For the latest installment writer/director Paul Anderson has been keeping Jones busy more on the zombie front than anything, and during our recent set visit in Toronto, Dread Central caught up with the man behind the monsters to see what he's got planned for fans this time around, learn more about his yearning for additional creatures in the Resident Evil franchise and hear how the zombie design has evolved along with the undead in the series.
Check out the highlights from Jones' interview below, and make sure to keep it tuned here for more on Resident Evil: Retribution closer to the film's September 14th release date.
Q: So has this film been more non-stop action for you?
A: For me, definitely. Someone just came up to me and was like, 'You're doing so many less zombies than the last one.' No, actually, we've done more, except we're doing them in clumps of 20 at a time instead of (scenes where we need) 127 at a time. We've been doing a lot more of the same thing, really.
Q: The zombies are a bit more evolved this time; how has that informed your make-up design?
A: Well, it's always fun working with Paul because he has very specific ideas, so that makes my job easier but also harder at the same because I know exactly what I'm building, but I have to build it exactly how he wants it. That's always fun. But this has been a different kind of deal because the last movie was very stylized, and this one is going for more realism. The zombies on motorcycles, the action dictates what they'll look like because you've got zombies doing stuff you normally wouldn't see a zombie do.
I'm not even calling them zombies anymore; I'm calling them 'infected.' When you say 'zombie,' you're talking about someone who has been brought back from the dead. With these Russian zombies it's not the case. They've been infected, so they've mutated. They've been affected by the T-virus - it's the Las Plagas virus actually - which is why they're different. So, again, everything is enhanced with them. We still aesthetically made them look dead, but their actions are almost super-human.
Q: So it's a scaled-back look?
A: No, we took it further. I'm a huge fan of Romero's Day of the Dead. I think those make-ups look realistic but also extremely stylized, so I really wanted to do my own version of that. And we raised the aesthetic of it a little bit because they're firing rocket launchers and jumping over trucks, so the way they're going to be seen in this, the make-up has to be done accordingly, and their eyes are glowing red as well.
Q: What are some of the creatures we can expect to see?
A: Thankfully, the Lickers are all CGI on this, but I had to build some practical stand-ins. There's (a picture of) a hand floating around the Internet, and we built those and some other pieces to help the CG guys out. One of the biggest builds I've had besides the zombies have been the cocoons, which are a new invention of Paul's that fit along the game. It helped the story elements. We trapped the little girl in the film, and Milla has to rescue her, so we had to create these cocoons which are like egg pods – we're not really sure why they're there, but they help move the story along and from an aesthetic point of view it was really fun. They had to look egg-ish and like a Licker because they come from the Licker, but they're their own entity really.
Q: Can you talk about the cyber-scanning you're doing?
A: Yeah, obviously when we have a crowd of zombies, we can't do them all. What they do is huddle a crowd of zombies and then shoot them against a green screen. You also have certain elements like a zombie falling off of a building or crushed by a tank, for instance, but I'm not saying that happens in this movie. But when you cyber-scan someone as a zombie, it creates this 3D element which the CG guys can then animate. We bring a person in, put them in make-up, costume, everything, and they stand there and are captured in three dimensions, and now, instead of creating a zombie from scratch, you have that element there and you can animate it.
You can also duplicate them as well and give them all separate actions so if you have a crowd scene with hundreds of zombies, it's much easier to do this and duplicate them. You can customize each one in fact. A good percentage of our days has been doing the make-up and taking them off to the CG guys so they can get a reference.
Q: We interviewed Michelle Rodriguez while she was wearing a cyber-scanning suit. What did you have to do on her?
A: We actually did a make-up for Michelle on this one. I don't want to give it away.
Q: Zombie make-up?
A: Not quite, not quite. But something to make her look cool.
Q: When she injects the Las Plagas parasite into her bloodstream?
A: Not quite. I'm not saying anything. But I did get to work with her, which was cool especially for two of my make-up guys because they're huge fans. They were like, 'Why is she here? She died in the first film?' But this is kind of a cool story, bringing back some old faces. It was great to see Oded (Fehr) again, too; it's been a nice reunion.
Q: Are you doing anything here that is tantamount to the Nemesis in part 2? Any 'guy in suit' action?
A: Unfortunately, no. I've been giving Paul a lot of shit about it because I did the Axe Man and the dogs on the last one; there was a lot of variation. This has been a simple show but a harder show in terms of constant flow from us. There are three different types of zombies: the newly created human undead, the Russians – Las Plagas, plus we have a scene in Tokyo, and we have a different look for those guys, too. So we've been jumping back and forth. I told Paul that with the next film he has to write a big creature for me. He's been happy with the cocoons in this one, but next time he owes me a creature suit.
Written and directed by Paul Anderson, Re5ident Evil: Retribution stars Milla Jovovich, Boris Kodjoe, Li Bingbing, Kevin Durand, Shawn Roberts, Michelle Rodriguez, Sienna Guillory, Johann Urb, and Colin Salmon. Look for Re5ident Evil: Retribution in theatres on September 14, 2012 from Screen Gems.
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