On 23 October 2015, Channel24 visited the set of the final Resident Evil film and had a chill chat with Milla Jovovich in her trailer. More than a year later the film is being released and Herman Eloff can finally give us a glimpse into the underworld of this science fiction action-horror film franchise.
Cape Town - A zombie walks past the table. He has a coffee in his hand. A few seconds later another one goes past clutching a plate of eggs and toast.
It might be well after 17:00 on this October night, but for the extras on the set of Resident Evil: The Final Chapter the day is only just starting and it's breakfast time.
Just outside Cape Town nestled in-between a quarry and a forest of blue-gum trees a whole different post-apocalyptic world exists. A village of tents and trailers form a lair where some of Hollywood’s biggest stars roam among a largely South African crew.
In one of the luxury trailers is Milla Jovovich. Alice.
As night begins to fall, a convoy of vehicles with tinted windows pull up to the waiting area. The media and zombies get herded into them before they depart onto a bumpy dirt road that weaves past a giant pit filled with water.
Two massive gates are pushed open and in front of us, lit up by the headlights of our car, is the barely visible world of Resident Evil. Smoke billows from a burnt car underneath massive cranes towering out over pitch black boulders.
Around another corner a zombie-resistant armed vehicle that looks like some kind of military hybrid on steroids is parked.
At the top of the quarry the vehicles come to a halt and we get out. A burnt-out school bus rests right at the edge where a cliff has formed.
As the smoke clears the silhouette of a woman becomes visible. She’s clutching what looks like a machine gun in her hands. A bright light flashes and her face briefly becomes visible. It’s her. The big green eyes undoubtedly belong to the heroine of this action-horror film franchise.
AFTER MIDNIGHT, A BEER AND SLIPPERS
We’re allowed to watch filming of the intense scene from a safe distance. Cellphones and cameras are banned from set, which means we can’t document anything we’re seeing unfold in front of us. The surreal doom-laden world from the film is hauntingly spread out in front of us.
Under a cloak of smoke and darkness, Hollywood is doing its magic on South African soil. Gun shots. Zombie screams. Flashes of light. Running. Smoke. Darkness. The night drags on as the same scene unfolds over-and-over again, like a déjà vu that just doesn’t want to go away.
It’s well after midnight when Milla finally finishes her dramatic scenes. She wipes her hand over her face which is covered in dirt, soot and blood before disappearing into a luxury trailer parked nearby. Its sleek and modern features look out of place in its ruinous surroundings.
She must be exhausted by now. There’s no way she’ll be up for an interview after killing a bunch of zombies for hours on end. But then an unexpected announcement: “Milla will see you now. In her trailer”.
I had, at most, bargained for quick chat in one of the tents, and never expected a 29 minute and 39 second interview in the star’s very own trailer.
“I really appreciate you taking the time to do this. I know you’ve had a long night,” I apologise whilst feeling guilty for intruding into her personal space like this. I’ve done a few interviews with big stars before and I can definitely say it’s unprecedented to get this kind of access.
“Don’t be silly. It’s actually been a short night in comparison to others we’ve had,” Milla reassures me. She’s still in costume. Her hair and face covered in dirt and there’s a fake cut on her cheek. It would be super-intimidating if it wasn’t for the fact that she’s wearing a pair of fluffy slippers whilst clutching a beer in her right hand. “We’ve been on nights for a couple of weeks now. It’s been really tough on the crew. Especially the guys doing the heavy lifting,” she adds diverting the attention away from herself and praising the crew that works behind-the-scenes.
Talk to anyone on set and they’ll share stories of the great interactions they’ve had with her. While sitting in front of her, I for the first time get what they mean when they say Milla is no Hollywood diva.
“It’s been amazing filming in South Africa. To be honest I’m really impressed with Cape Town and how beautiful it is here, and the crew is so sweet and everyone has just been lovely and even the food is amazing. I mean it’s really an ideal place to film.
“It’s funny because LA is very much like Cape Town. We’ve got the beach and the mountains and it’s very close to nature. So it reminds me a lot of Los Angeles. You could really compare Cape Town to LA in a lot of ways,” Milla says. She’s been staying in Camps Bay with her director-husband Paul W. S. Anderson and their two daughters while filming in the country.
In 2001, Milla was cast as Alice, the protagonist of the film. Ever since then she’s been kicking ass in 6 films in the franchise including this final chapter.
“We’ve been doing this for almost 15 years and we’ve built up quite a family in the franchise. It really is a family affair now. It’s going to be tough to say goodbye to this feeling that we’ve created on set. I’m sure you’ve seen it’s a really fun set to be on. Everybody is really sweet and nobody has attitude or anything like that,” Milla says as her husband Paul walks in to grab a Red Bull from the fridge.
“Hey! We’re having a party in your trailer,” she jokingly yells at Paul before continuing with the interview.
ON WORKING WITH HER DAUGHTER ON SET
On what to expect of everyone’s favourite female heroine in the final instalment, Milla says: “It’s actually a very exciting movie for Alice’s story because you really get to see many different facets to her personality. In this one particularly you’ll be able to see Alice as a 90-year-old woman and Alice as a child. So that’s going to be really fun.”
“I’ll have to go through like four hours of prosthetics. That won’t be fun,” she jokes. “The team will be amazing at getting me to look really old. For younger Alice my daughter will be playing me as a child. So it’s pretty much shrinking me down without any special effects,” she quips.
Milla and her husband Paul have two children together, Ever Gabo Anderson (now 9 years old but 7 during filming) and baby Dashiel Edan Anderson (1 year old). Filming of the final Resident Evil movie was temporary postponed when Milla found out she was pregnant with Dashiel.
“It’s amazing because our daughter really just has a shine towards acting. She has a real passion for it. It feels like she turned seven and suddenly she’s just so mature. The way she speaks and the things she talks about. She said she wanted to be on a TV show and be on Disney. So we told her that she would have to take acting classes and she asked that we get her into an acting class.
“So we got her into an acting class in LA and she’s just incredible. I mean I know that’s like a typical thing for a mother to say, but I’m very realistic with her. She’s tried other things, like singing and dancing, but with this she just exploded on the screen. It was amazing.
“She’s super-comfortable and natural. As a mom I felt relieved that my daughter really found her calling. She’s so real and so comfortable with being herself and having such a great time doing it. I started really young but I never had such a great time doing it when I was young. It was something my mom wanted me to do and I felt it was something my mom did really well. For me it was always work, where for her it’s not work.
“It’s really just a lot of fun doing it and she has a great time doing it. She doesn’t want to do drama though. She wants to do comedy. She wants to be Lucille Ball. She loves Lucy. She can quote from I love Lucy since she was five.”
During interviews with the rest of the cast members a topic that came up over and over again was Milla’s great sense of humour.
“Listen I love to laugh and I love to make people laugh…” she says when I ask her about the fact that everyone praised her comedy skills. “But I don’t think anyone wants to pay to see me be funny. Unfortunately.
“I’m very grateful to have had the career I have. Is it what I thought I would have when I was a kid? No. I can just hear my mom going: ‘Who would have thought you would end up here?’” she laughs.
ON GETTING INVOLVED IN THE RESIDENT EVIL FRANCHISE
“I played the game with my younger brother, Marco, and that’s how I found a connection with him in a way that he liked. Suddenly it’s like four hours later and we’ve been playing and I’m like oh my god I’m addicted to this game. So I came into the film as a fan of the game. A lot of other people that are also working on the film were also fans of the game.
“So you have this core team that love the source material and I think that is so important, because it’s not just another Hollywood video game adaptation that’s going nowhere because the people are just doing it to make a buck. With this team however there’s a real honesty.
“The first movie wasn’t even about getting paid. We were just doing an independent European action-horror flick and it was fun for us and exciting to be part of the Resident Evil world and zombies and the undead.
“The movie was number one but I don’t think it did really great in cinemas, but then it got really great reviews from the people who watched it. The kids loved it. The critics hated it. The people loved it and ended up buying it on DVD and watching it over and over and a couple of years later they approached us to make a second one which was shocking to me because I thought once we did it, that was it. Move on. Then it was like, okay, number two. Why not?
“But I never thought we would be making a number six. We have a good time making these movies and as long as we’re having fun and we’re excited about it, it will translate onto the screen.”
The Resident Evil films, inspired by the video game, centres on the fictional Umbrella Corporation, which acts as the main antagonist in the series. Umbrella Corp. is a bio-engineering pharmaceutical company that creates bio-weapons and was responsible for the zombie apocalypse, which occurred after the corporation's T-virus infected the Earth's population.
Milla plays the role of protagonist Alice, an original character created for the films, who was once a security operative working for Umbrella and becomes an enemy of the corporation.
ON LITERALLY FINDING ALICE’S VOICE
“In the second film I was really confused about who Alice was. In the first film she was this really innocent person and then number two comes along and I’m like ‘I’m just going to be myself and play this really natural’ and I played it like me. Like who I am right now in this room with that voice. Like nasal.
“Then when I went to do ADR (Automated dialogue replacement) and saw part of the movie and heard that voice I was so mortified because it was so not what it needed to be and Alice was still percolating at that point because there was some kind of bridge that had to happen from number one to the next. I had completely missed it, you know, as an actor.
“I’m watching this and I’m thinking this is a fucking disaster. What am I going to do? She sounds like, you know, an LA chick, like ‘let’s go get a Starbucks and kill some zombies’,” she mocks.
“And then I realised I have to change her voice and I called Paul and said this is a disaster. I sound awful. I have to redo the whole movie. Like everything. And I dubbed my entire performance,” she explains as she demonstrates how she went from a high pitch nasal voice, to a deeper lower sound.
“And then it clicked. The voice and everything just fit in together. That was the birth of Alice for me. That’s when I realised who she was. During that ADR session. So in number three I just ran with that. It was like the female Clint Eastwood. I’m just going to be Dirty Harriet. I also thought it would be nice for girls to have their own Clint Eastwood. Guys have that and girls have Alice in a way to relate to. A tough lady with a certain amount of innocence.
“I have a lot of female fans that come from these very repressive countries or might have families that don’t respect them or are very old fashioned and Alice really inspires them. When you get the feedback about how she influences them, that’s so amazing to know that you affected a young person in such a way. She helped them find their feet. It’s so important to have those role models in your life.”
Late that night after the interview I made the trip back home to Cape Town, having just met one of the nicest people who just so happens to be a big Hollywood star. I wanted to share the news with the world, but I couldn’t. I’d have to wait until 2017 until I could finally reveal to everyone what it was like to meet Milla Jovovich in real life and what a funny, kind and humble person she really is and just how much she loves what she does.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter opens in South African cinemas on Friday, 3 February.
(Copyright: Channel24. Images supplied)