As he’s the protagonist in both the Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 4 video games, fans have been waiting for writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson to put Leon Scott Kennedy in the movies. So when he sat down to write the 5th installment, Anderson made sure to include a few of the characters that fans have always wanted to see: Leon Kennedy, Ada Wong, and Barry Burton. As Anderson told me a few months ago, “We really went out of our way to get people who looked as much like their characters as possible from the game…This actor Johann Urb, who I’m very excited to be working with, not only is he a really good actor but he looks like Leon Kennedy. I mean you put photographs of them side-by-side, it’s almost like he was manufactured by Capcom.” After seeing him in costume on the set of Resident Evil: Retribution last month, I agree.
During my group interview with Johann Urb he discussed how Leon gets introduced in the movie, the relationship between Ada and Leon, if he played the video games before arriving on set, his weapons, the action scenes, and a lot more. Hit the jump to either read or listen to what he had to say.
Before going any further, here’s the official synopsis from Retribution and the just released teaser trailer:
The Umbrella Corporation’s deadly T-virus continues to ravage the Earth, transforming the global population into legions of the flesh eating Undead. The human race’s last and only hope, ALICE (Milla Jovovich), awakens in the heart of Umbrella’s most clandestine operations facility and unveils more of her mysterious past as she delves further into the complex. Without a safe haven, Alice continues to hunt those responsible for the outbreak; a chase that takes her from Tokyo to New York, Washington, D.C. and Moscow, culminating in a mind-blowing revelation that will force her to rethink everything that she once thought to be true. Aided by newfound allies and familiar friends, Alice must fight to survive long enough to escape a hostile world on the brink of oblivion. The countdown has begun.
As usual, I’m offering two ways to get this interview: you can either click here for the audio, or the full transcript is below. Resident Evil: Retribution opens September 14.
Question: We saw you in that scene, where you were climbing out of the cockpit, and you turn around and have this look on your face. Can you talk about what you were thinking in that moment, what’s happening in the overall scheme?
Johann Urb: What was I thinking? I was like, ‘I wonder if that hot dog truck is still out there.’ I can hear those journalists eating my hot dogs. No, what I was thinking was probably, ‘What’s going on? What’s happening here?’ We were just turned over and shit hit the fan. I thought it was all good, and now there’s more trouble. Where’s Milla, so she can save me?’ (Laughter)
How does that big vehicle get turned over?
Urb: Am I allowed to talk about that? OK, (in an ominous voice) so we were driving in this snow storm, and you can’t see anything except the snow, and then, suddenly, a submarine comes. There we go.
How does your character get involved in Alice’s story line at this point? Where did he come from?
Urb: As far as I can tell, I’ve just been fending for myself, taking care of business, and banding with some people. Then, apparently what’s happened is Alice is in a bit of trouble. Wesker needs somebody who, what’s the word… is smart enough and strong enough to go in and save Alice. Leon is the first thought that comes to mind, obviously.
Is Ada a part of your crew then? Ada and Leon have a history.
Urb: In the game, yeah, definitely. You know, the way that I imagine it, is that we sort of had this romance that never really happened. It’s kind of like Mulder and Scully in X-Files. You’re waiting for it to happen, but it never does. Maybe in the next one, I’m hoping.
It sounds to me that there might be a potential Leon movie spin-off.
Urb: I don’t know about just a movie. A franchise? (Laughter) A TV series, movies, toys, you name it. I’m down. You know, this character is just so much fun to play, and these guys are really, really great. It’s a great group of people, and I’m having a blast, for sure.
Sony made a Resident Evil CGI feature film. I went to see it at the Egyptian in Hollywood, and when the Leon cartoon character came on the screen, every girl gasped. If that’s the reaction all the girls have to a cartoon character…
Urb: They’re going to be so disappointed (Laughter). How can I live up to this cartoon character? I don’t know.
There’s a lot riding on you, man.
Urb: Yeah, I don’t know. We’ll see. Hopefully the fans will like it and enjoy it.
Did you consult the game before you started filming? Did you go out and play the games?
Urb: No, but I did watch quite a few things on YouTube, people have put together these clips and things. I watched some of those YouTube clips and it was super cool. I had no idea, when I read for this part. I kind of figured, you know, this is movie #5, and they’re bringing in a new character. I actually didn’t know.
Is there anything you gained from watching those clips from the video games?
Urb: Yeah, a little bit. You know, mannerisms, seeing how he reacts and how he talks. He doesn’t have a high-pitched voice. I feel like he talks how I naturally talk, which is kind of slower. It matches, so it wasn’t a big, huge thing for me to switch into. But, I could be totally wrong.
Urb: Yeah. Everybody has a different opinion.
Can you talk about the gun you have right there, and the kind of action you see in the movie?
Urb: You know, this gun is actually used very little. I’ve got this guy right here (pulls out another gun, I think?) It’s a .45 tactical. It’s got a laser and a flashlight and everything. But, most of the time, I’m actually firing off my Sig (Sig Sauer, I’m guessing?) machine gun, which I don’t have here on me right now. I named her Sheila, and we get along very well. She’s a beauty. When I first got here, I had the option of testing out a couple of different weapons, and she was just like… it was like cutting butter. It was beautiful. I will miss her dearly.
Do you have much hand-to-hand combat in this? Do you get to use that beast of a knife you have there?
Urb: I’m actually a little upset about this, because I had a really cool knife fight scene, that they have unfortunately removed, because we are so behind schedule, I think, that they had to take it out. It was bad-ass. I don’t know if you guys can talk to anybody, to put it back in, but…
Who was it with?
Urb: The guy I was fighting was this 300-something-pound giant zombie, pure muscle. It was a great fight. As of right now, I’m not using it (the knife). We’re talking about possibly using it in the end sequence, if the other one is truly, truly out, and if not, I don’t know. There is some hand-to-hand combat though, yes. Very little, but yes. I wish there was more, because I immensely enjoy it.
Urb: Besides this end sequence coming up here? There is a lot. One of the big ones is when we’re in Red Square in Moscow. We have these zombies coming at us, and these aren’t just regular ones. They’re firing weapons and bazookas. There’s a ton of them. At one point, we run out of bullets, and I have to take some of them out, hand-to-hand, which is fun. Then there’s a big action sequence in the car, when we’re in the Rolls Royce and firing out the window. We have the zombies on motorbikes chasing us, then we have the big Lickers. I love that name. They have Uber-Lickers, Super-Uber-Lickers, they’re all coming at us. There’s a lot of fun action stuff.
Can you talk a bit about the 3D and working with Paul and the 3D cameras?
Urb: This is my first 3D experience. I talked to Paul about it a little bit, just to find out the difference and stuff. It looks really great. It’s funny because I wear glasses, normally, so when I look at the screen, it’s all blurry and you’re supposed to put on the 3D glasses. I didn’t realize that at first, and I thought it was just all blurry because I wasn’t wearing glasses. He’s like, ‘Oh no, it’s 3D!’ I feel like it adds so much, especially in action stuff. I feel like you’re really much more in it and involved. It’s cool, way cool.
How much screen time do you get with Kevin Durand? My video game knowledge may be off, but I don’t think Barry and Leon get together or fight together in the games at all.
Urb: I don’t know about the games, but here, we’re basically partners in crime, or on this mission. It’s basically a best friend type of deal, we’re super close. What a great guy, man. He’s awesome. We had so much fun working together. Also, working with Kevin and Boris, it’s the first time I feel there are actually people towering over me. I’m the little guy now. It was great.
Urb: He does have a beard. I wish he was here still. He’s such a pleasure to work with. What a great guy, and a great actor.
We’ve heard from some of the other actors, that they auditioned, and they were cast very soon afterwards. Was it like that for you?
Urb: It was, yeah. I came up here to screen test, I think, on a Friday. By Monday I knew, so it was quick.
A lot of times, when people book a gig, they’ll buy themselves a present. Did you buy anything when you booked it?
Urb: Yeah, I did.
What did you buy?
Urb: I bought myself a trip to Thailand for a month, where I’m going to right after I’m done filming.
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