SDCC 2010: Wentworth Miller Interview RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE; Plus Updates on STOKER and UNCLE CHARLIE

     August 3, 2010

Wentworth Miller is the latest actor to join the Resident Evil franchise. In the latest installment, Resident Evil: Afterlife, he plays Chris Redfield, brother to Claire (Ali Larter) and a character straight out fo the popular video games. Unfamiliar with the video game when he was cast, he made sure to do his research and see what the fan expectation was for the character, before developing the character for himself.

While at Comic-Con, Wentworth Miller spoke at a roundtable about being a fan of the genre and his excitement in joining such an internationally successful franchise. He also talked about the writing projects that he’s developing – a feature film called Stoker, that’s part horror film, part family drama and part psychological thriller, all wrapped in one, along with its prequel, Uncle Charlie. Check out what he had to say after the jump:

Question: What can you say about your role in this film?

Wentworth: I play Chris Redfield. He’s central to the video game from the beginning, but this is his introduction into the movie version of Resident Evil. It was a challenge preparing for the part because I felt like there were a lot of different things that I wanted to bounce. I wanted to do my research and see what the fan expectation might be, in respect to what was already out there, with the mythology and history. So, I did research online and went to fan sites and blogs, so that I could educate myself. Then, there was also what I bring to the table as an actor, naturally.  And then, there was also what Chris Redfield existed in Paul Anderson’s movie, specifically, because I have to make sense with his larger whole. I can’t be some sort of stand-alone. This thing is pretty far down the track, and my job is to jump on it and become a seamless part of that larger hole. I’d like to think, with all those varying components, I did my best.

Your character is the brother of Claire Redfield (Ali Larter)?

Wentworth: Exactly.

Then why didn’t she go back and get you in the last film?

Wentworth: That’s an excellent question. There is a reunion of sorts, between the two, in this movie. What I like about the Chris and Claire Redfield dynamic, and how it brings something new to the table and keeps the franchise fresh, is that they are siblings. It’s a family relationship. It’s something that people sitting in the audience can easily identify with. The movie has zombies and special effects up the wazoo. It’s like an amazing fireworks display, but at the same time, if you don’t care about the characters, when something horrible happens to them, it doesn’t really resonate, so it was important to flesh out the story and the characters and the relationships between Chris and Claire, for example, to give extra weight to the special effects smorgasbord.

Is there a lot of emphasis on your character’s backstory and what’s happened in the years leading up to this?

Wentworth: I think we tell you what you need to know, but for most of these characters, the emphasis is always present tense because there’s always the threat of a zombie around the next corner, as opposed to constantly looking over your shoulder. That’s the challenge of something like this. It is an action adventure movie, so it’s not about long, dramatic monologues and the characters sending their innermost thoughts. But, you do want to layer in a degree of that, so that when these characters are in jeopardy, it actually registers with the audience from the neck down, as opposed to just the neck up.

Do you think there’s any chance of a movie just about what your character went through when the outbreak started?

Wentworth: There’s a conversation that needs to be had with Paul Anderson.

Right now, zombies are one of the it things in pop culture. Why do you think zombies are such a great source for fiction?

Wentworth: I think there’s something about evil that is thoughtless and relentless and incredibly frightening because it can’t be reckoned with, reasoned with or stopped. That onslaught of terror speaks to our darkest fears that evil is coming for us and there’s nothing we can do.

Are you a gamer?

Wentworth: No. My family put a lot of emphasis on homework, so there weren’t too many comic books or video games for me, when I was growing up. This is my second childhood and my chance to get a do-over.

Did you play the video game as research for the role, or did you just take what was in the script?

Wentworth: It was a combination of both. I asked the producers to put together a montage of the most significant events from the video games, that related to my character’s personal history, so I could get where he came from. Watching a lot of that, what I was most struck by, at least in the earlier video games, was how bright-eyed and bushy-tailed he seemed, to a degree. He was definitely someone who was at the start of a horrific journey. When you meet him in the movie, he’s many miles down that road. He’s a very different person with a different vibe to him. I think there’s a lot more edge and darkness, and it’s nice to see the balance with the sibling dynamic because Claire’s presence brings out something a little bit more tender and vulnerable in a character that otherwise might be as rock hard as you sometimes see the character of Alice.

What’s L.A. like in this Resident Evil?

Wentworth: It’s several years after the apocalyptic change, so it’s both a landscape that you do recognize and that you don’t. If you know Los Angeles, you’ll enjoy seeing what Paul and his crew were able to do to it. It’s funny, on that level, but it’s also pretty frightening.

Are there any specific landmarks that stand out?

Wentworth: Of course, I think the Hollywood sign plays its part, as it should. How could it not?

How was your transition of coming in and being the new guy, amongst a cast and crew that had already been together for awhile?

Wentworth: It was fairly seamless. They’re a great crew to work with and there’s obviously a significant and complex bedrock that Paul and Milla [Jovovich] have created together. Paul built the car, Milla is driving it and the rest of us are riding shotgun. It was just a chance to hop on board and enjoy the breeze in your hair.

Was it intimidating at all to join a franchise like this?

Wentworth: Not really. I was more excited than intimidated because it has this incredible international fan base, and I’ve been lucky enough to gain some fans all around the world, through other projects that I’ve done. So, this presented itself as a great way to stay in touch with those people.

Were you a fan of the films, or had you seen them prior to being cast?

Wentworth: They were on my radar, but I had never seen them. Once I got cast, I had to educate myself pretty rapidly.

Was there anything in particular that really stood out for you, when you immersed yourself in the background of the franchise?

Wentworth: It’s easy to watch the films and just enjoy them for the spectacle. I watched these movies, knowing that I was going to be playing a very specific character with a very specific agenda. For me, it was more about who Chris Redfield is and how he works in with the movie’s mythology.

Did you have a particular action sequence that you were excited about doing?

Wentworth: Oh, yeah. The tango between Chris, Claire and Wesker (Shawn Roberts), at the end of the movie, which was inspired directly by what you see in the video game, is great. It was very complex to choreograph. The cameras could see everything, so it challenged us to step up our game, in terms of selling these sequences to the audience.

Would you be interested in doing another gamer film?

Wentworth: Absolutely. My first gig in the business was a guest star on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so I’m neck deep in sci-fi. It’s been a very good genre to me.

Are you a fan of the horror genre?

Wentworth: Absolutely. I tend toward the more “classic” horror films, like Carrie, The Shining or Rosemary’s Baby, but I definitely love a little gore.

What’s next for you? Are you working on anything now?

Wentworth: I am working on a couple of writing gigs, actually.

Are you interested in doing more work behind the camera then?

Wentworth: I think I would be interested in exploring as many facets of the business as possible. As an actor, it’s been a tremendously satisfying road, but there’s only so much control you have over the story that you’re trying to tell. If you step into the writer’s shoes, the director’s shoes or somehow work your way into the editing room, you can actually affect the finished product in a much more definite way, so I find that very appealing.

What are the writing projects you’re working on?

Wentworth: There are two scripts. One is called Stoker and the other script is a prequel called Uncle Charlie. Right now, there are some amazing names being tossed around and a lot of incredibly talented people taking an interest, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that both get off the ground.

What is Stoker about?

Wentworth: It’s not easy to describe. It’s a horror film, a family drama and a psychological thriller, all wrapped up in one. The jumping off point is actually Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt. So, that’s where we begin, and then we take it in a very, very different direction.

You’re referencing Bram Stoker?

Wentworth: Yeah. I chose the name because it came front-loaded with obvious gothic connotations. It’s not about vampires. It was never meant to be about vampires. But, it is a horror story. A stoker is one who stokes, which also ties in nicely with the narrative.

Has there been any talk of any future Prison Break movies?

Wentworth: Not that I’ve heard. I feel as though we told the story we intended to tell. That’s something that’s very rare in television, that you’re allowed closure, and we were.

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