Back in October of 2015 I got to visit the picturesque landscape of Cape Town, South Africa. The coastal cosmopolitan city hosted green mountain crests that overlooked the ocean, delicious Indian food, colorful houses painted in bright corals to highlight the direction to the downtown mosque— and lions, giraffes, cheetahs and gazelles only a short drive away. While I got to experience all of that and more in a trip that I’ll always cherish, I was brought there to visit a very different type of set outside of the city. Separate from the picturesque, lively and lush views of Cape Town, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter was filming post-apocalyptic zombie attacks in a fallen-apart warehouse, which ran totally counter to the beauty nearby. It was all dirt, soot and blood. And the stars wouldn’t like it any other way.
The Final Chapter is the sixth and “final” installment in the video-game-turned-film franchise. It continues to follow the survivors of an apocalyptic viral event that was purposefully implemented by an evil corporation. The survivors, led by Alice (Milla Jovovich), fight back against both the Umbrella corporation and their fallout zombie creations in an attempt to keep the human race from global extinction.
While on set we were shown zombie prosthetics, massive modified war vehicles, a decrepit warehouse that was lit by fire and also got to sit down with Jovovich and her co-stars, Ali Larter (a Resident Evil vet) and Ruby Rose (a newbie to the franchise, but not a newbie to the films and video games themselves) to discuss The Final Chapter. What they described was a return to the nasty glee of the original action-horror film from 2002. And in talking to both that film and the final film’s director, Paul W.S. Anderson, that’s exactly the effect that he wanted.
In addition to full interviews with Anderson and Jovovich, here are a few takeaways from our interviews. May Jovovich and Anderson (who are also married with children) feel completely at peace with how the franchise wraps up this winter. As peaceful as the fog that lifts off of Cape Town itself.
- Director Paul W.S. Anderson (Mortal Kombat) who has written and produced all six Resident Evil films (and directed four of them), suggested to producer Jeremy Bolt that they secure the rights in the late 90s. But it wasn’t financed by American companies. Sony came aboard after shooting had completed on the first Resident Evil film. “No one really wanted it; there wasn’t an expectation, there wasn’t a release date. When we were making it we didn’t even have an American deal for it, it wasn’t financed with American money,” Anderson remembered. “The whole movie was shot in Europe. We only did a deal with Sony towards the last shooting days of the movie. They didn’t see it until the first test screening in Burbank. And they had the rights, according to the contract, that they could put the movie straight to DVD if it didn’t score a certain threshold with the audience. So that was hugely stressful. It went from really stressful to really good in about five minutes when people started cheering [at the elevator decapitation].”
- Anderson noted that The Final Chapter will be much more similar to the first film than the sequels. “There’s some really good, dark stuff going on in this movie, darker than the others,” Anderson said. “I feel like the first Resident Evil was kind of a dark, unpleasant movie which is what the first audience responded to. I don’t know whether I got soft over the years or not, but we’ve gone back to the cruel sadism of the first movie. And I think that will be a nice surprise for people, that it’s kind of back in the original form that the franchise launched with.”
- After auditioning for Anderson, Ruby Rose told him that the laser scene in the 2002 film, where a body falls apart in chunks after being sliced by a laser and holding place for just a second, that “that scene scarred me for years of my life” when she first saw it at 12 or 13. She believes that the comment intrigued Anderson, particularly since he was looking to go back to that scarring type of material.
- The secret to getting back to the source material was actually getting his wife and star of the franchise, Milla Jovovich, pregnant. Anderson said that this is the most time that he’s spent on a Resident Evil script and that he needed those extra nine months during her pregnancy. “There’s more story in it than any of the other movies,” Anderson said. “Things that will make you want to go back and see the first movie again and maybe watch the whole franchise again. And that’s why I’m glad I got the extra nine months to work on it. I think the screenplay is a lot better than the version we would have shot nine months ago.”
- Jovovich said that—after seeing Michelle Rodriguez and Sienna Guillory get the biggest action set pieces in the first two Resident Evil films—she asked for Alice to get more big action scenes for the rest of the series. “I was adamant that [Paul] remember The Fifth Element; you can’t take away my action scenes!” Jovovich said. “From the third film onward he pretty much knew that I would be pretty angry if he didn’t [write] me some great action scenes.”
- Not only did Jovovich get more action scenes for the third installment onward, but her Alice also received some telekinetic powers via viral exposure in the third film. Bolt says her powers will be softened in The Final Chapter. Jovovich is on board with the regression, saying, “I think the problem with having powers is that you become invincible and then why should people really care? It was something that Paul was thinking about a lot—to try to bring Alice back to where she was in the first two movies where she was just a bad ass.”
- Co-star Ali Larter thinks that Jovovich doesn’t get enough credit for her early 21st century zombie-ass-kicking ways. “There’s so much being talked about in the press about women finally being in Marvel and the progress they’re making and it’s like Milla has already been doing that,” Larter noted. “Noow there are more female leads that are showing up in genre and people are thinking,
“Oh it’s really happening” when Hunger Games comes out. But Milla was one of the first ones, if not the first one, in this new wave. And what’s great about our character’s relationship from Resident Evil: Extinction onward is that we’re not in competition. In so many films if you have two female leads there always has to be problems between them. It’s such a genuine part of this franchise that that conflict isn’t necessary. [Alice and Claire] are two strong women that will do whatever they have to do to survive and at the end of the day they got each other’s back.”
- The events of The Final Chapter will take place three weeks after when Retribution ended.
- Jovovich and Anderson’s first child, Ever Gabo Anderson, plays The Red Queen, the hologram image of a young girl who sees all that happens in The Hive.
- This Red Queen will be quite different than Queens of the past, however, since Anderson is using more of Ever’s personality than previous holograms received—including her own voice. “All the other Red Queens have been really robotic and I think that Paul really had an attachment to her because it wasn’t his kid. When you love your kid and you love their idiosyncrasies, the more he thought about it he said, I am not going to change her voice,” Jovovich said. “All the other Red Queens had an adult dub their voice and she has this childlike mannerism [that Paul is keeping]—so it is going to be really interesting because this is the final chapter and it’s going to get real.
- This Red Queen will also have more dialogue than any other character in the film, so get used to hearing Ever’s voice!
- The circular nature of the film will see Alice returning to The Hive. “What you discover there are things that Milla was trying to do in the first movie and she thought she succeeded but you actually didn’t,” Anderson said. “So you get back to the first film, the location of the first film, and she tries to put things right and do what she should have done at the very beginning.”
- Anderson said that The Final Chapter will also reveal “what the Umbrella Corporation has really been doing, what the truth behind the T-virus is, what the truth behind some of the characters are. So it’s revealing a lot.”
- Jovovich will play a 90-year old version of Alice at some point during The Final Chapter. And the effects will be done via makeup and will not be computer generated.
- Rose plays the new character of Abigail, a mechanic and sculptor who can make weapons and she, like Claire, becomes Alice’s “right hand man.”
- Known for her distinct haircut and full length arm tattoos, Rose reveals that her character originally was conceived to have dreadlocks but it was “too strange a look.” She did however get to conceptualize Abigail’s primitive tattoos, deciding that all tattoos would be hand done in the apocalypse, so she created a new one for her warrior character.
- Anderson shot on 2D cameras for the first time in years because he wanted to get into tighter spaces that allowed him to get “gritty and dirty.” He especially desired to get “more terrifying and realistic than the last film.” By focusing on more “tight, claustrophobic spaces”, the action and tension is closer to the actors, the zombies and it also allowed him to scout locations for shooting rather than shooting on a big sound stage that could allow for 3D cameras to move on a dolly.
- In addition to using 2D cameras, The Final Chapter will also feature no slow motion, says, Jovovich. The real-time quality will make the fights look more balletic and fast—even Cirque de Soleil-like, noted Jovovich. The star also frequently referenced an “upside-down fight” that she think will be the big standout from the sixth film.