You might fancy yourself a Resident Evil fan, but producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi has literally been there from the very beginning. When Capcom’s first horror/survival game burst onto the scene back in 1996, he was one of the programmers working on the game under co-creator/director Shinji Mikami. Over the years, he’s been a producer on some of the franchise’s biggest titles across various media from video games, to live-action features, to CG-animated movies. Hiroyuki Kobayashi’s latest contribution comes with the new release Resident Evil: Vendetta, which will play in theaters for one night only on Monday, June 19th before being available on digital release Tuesday, June 20th; the Blu-ray/DVD release comes July 18th.
In advance of the animated action-horror film’s release, I had a chance to talk with Hiroyuki Kobayashi about his experience of working in the franchise for over 20 years and where he sees it going in the future. Fans can expect more CG-animated movies in the future as well as a rebooted live-action movie series that will stick with the action-horror tone of the blockbuster films by Paul W.S. Anderson and starring Milla Jovovich. And if you find yourself in Japan, you might even be able to check out Hiroyuki Kobayashi’s work in a Resident Evil-inspired stage play!
Note: The interview was facilitated with the aid of a translator.
Having been a programmer on the original game, what’s it like for you personally to see the franchise still evolving and thriving more than 20 years later?
Hiroyuki Kobayashi: I feel that the game itself, from the getgo, there were so many great aspects of entertainment, including action and horror, and also the mysterious Umbrella, the puzzle part of the game. That was great. Now, every project—not just the games but also the films—every character who appeared in the games do age and has a history. It’s very personal.
Were you involved with the latest video game release and its virtual reality component?
Hiroyuki Kobayashi: I’m not actually in charge of games anymore. I do films, including CG films and live-action films, and also theater, the stage show.
A Resident Evil stage show?
Hiroyuki Kobayashi: Yeah, so there were three of them in Japan already. Starting in 2015 in the fall season, we’ve been doing a stage show of Resident Evil every year, once a year, pretty much.
Any plans to bring that overseas?
Hiroyuki Kobayashi: I really want to do it, but at this time, we don’t have any plans for that. Actually, Rebecca showed up in our first stage show as a professor in a university, so the setup for her character was from that, we got that into Vendetta.
As Supervising Producer, what exactly were your responsibilities on Resident Evil: Vendetta?
Hiroyuki Kobayashi: I’m the producer at Capcom, so I had to make sure that the world of the game is depicted in the film itself. That was my main responsibility.
What went into the decision to bring Chris Redfield and Leon Kennedy together with Rebecca Chambers?
Hiroyuki Kobayashi: I wanted to have Leon as the main character, and then production said that they wanted more horror. Chris is more deeply related to the horror side of the game, so we decided to have Leon and Chris appear as the main characters in this film, the third installment of the CG films.
Personally, I really wanted to have Rebecca because she hasn’t appeared in the games in a while, so I wanted to have her. And the production side also requested of me … that we really wanted a female character, as well. I decided that it would be Rebecca.
Do you have a favorite hero, villain, or monster who hasn’t appeared in the movies yet?
Hiroyuki Kobayashi: So there are a lot! Jill Valentine, Barry Barton, Albert Wesker, these are all characters who haven’t appeared in the films, so these are three of the ones I like.
Were there any ideas for the original story that didn’t make it into the final film?
Hiroyuki Kobayashi: From the original script, we actually didn’t cut any of the scenes. Several lines of the characters, we kind of cut them shorter, but all the scenes made it in.
Were there any ideas from this film that lend themselves to a sequel?
Hiroyuki Kobayashi: Maybe not a sequel, but of course we will have more CG versions of Resident Evil feature films, but not limited to a sequel to Vendetta.
I was really impressed with both the animation and the action/choreography in this movie. Were there any sequences that you’re particularly proud of?
Hiroyuki Kobayashi: The director, Takanori Tsujimoto, does more live-action films and Kensuke Sonomura, who does the action part of Tsujimoto’s film, it was their combination that made these fighting scenes really beautiful.
Do you prefer more of an action slant or more of a horror film? What did you like about the balance of two in this movie?
Hiroyuki Kobayashi: Yeah, totally action. I really like action. All the producers of the film liked more horror and I myself liked action, so we made sure the balance was good for both sides.
Are you involved in the reboot of the live-action movie series?
Hiroyuki Kobayashi: I’ve been a producer of the live-action films and I will be working as a producer for the future ones, too.
Do you know if there are plans for Paul W.S. Anderson or Milla Jovovich to return in any capacity?
Hiroyuki Kobayashi: We will be getting a new director and also the cast members are going to change, too, but I’m looking forward to doing it. I can’t tease any characters because nothing has been decided yet. No script, no storyline, no director, no cast members.
What about the tone of the films?
Hiroyuki Kobayashi: I personally like Paul W.S. Anderson’s [direction] on the live-action [films]. Stuff like that, I would like to see more action.
Any plans for a Devil May Cry, Dino Crisis, or Sengoku Basara adaptations in the future?
Hiroyuki Kobayashi: I’d love to do that, any of them, but I can’t answer that.
Do you have any other upcoming projects you’d like to tease?
Hiroyuki Kobayashi: The only thing I can tell you is about something that’s already out in the public. Resident Evil 2, a remade version, the game, will be out from Capcom soon.