Paul W.S. Anderson is nothing if not prolific. He's directed three films in three years, including "Resident Evil: Retribution" and the franchise's last entry, "Afterlife." He is married to the franchise's leading lady, Milla Jovovich, and with every new "RE" movie, he raises the stakes. The last one was in 3D, and this one is too, but it also spans the globe, having shot in several different high-profile locations. Additionally, this time around several familiar faces, including Michelle Rodriguez and Oded Fehr, return to action, even though their characters were killed the last time we saw them. Anderson is hoping to make a sixth "RE" film, too, which would wrap up a second trilogy, making it easily the most successful video game film franchise of all time. He spoke with journalists about "Resident Evil: Retribution," which is due to be released in September, at this year's Comic-Con.
RELATED: Remember to read all these Resident Evil: Retribution Interviews as well!
Upcoming-Movies.com: Another year, another Comic-Con, right? Do you get to enjoy the event at all?
Paul W.S. Anderson: No. I fly in and do nonstop press stuff and then fly out. You know, I started coming to Comic-Con many years ago, just as a fan. I'd pay to come here, and that was back in the day when it was comics and I was a big comic book fan. And now, of course, you go on the floor and people like finding where the comics are, they're kind off in a little corner by the restrooms. It's amazing how it's changed.
What comics are you into?
Paul W.S. Anderson: Oh my goodness, I mean I had a huge collection of like "X-Men" and "Wolverine" and you know, "Watchmen." I was a huge fan of all the usual stuff. Nothing controversial. No "My Little Pony" comic books, sorry. And of course being English I was a big fan of – I don't know if you know "Viz" – it's very English. It's very extreme. Roger Mellie the man on the telly. It's hysterical. He was based on a – I'm from a town called New Castle, up on Tyne, up North of England – and it was based on the local news reporter who is the big local celebrity. He did the evening news. What no one knew about him is he just swore, so they based this character on him and he's just like foul mouthed, like horrible – anyway, this comic book "Viz" is full of foul-mouthed horrible comic book characters. It's like a twist on every kind of like regular comic book.
When you started the series did you ever map out in your head five or six or more, or do you always go each time as you go?
Paul W.S. Anderson: Are you kidding? I mean, there's no way when we did the first movie I predicted we'd be here at the fifth film, I mean, no way. You know, I would have had to have a time machine to go forward in time and go, are you fucking kidding me, really? And then I would think I was in some kind of total recall kind of false fantasy. No, for a movie franchise to run to five films – with the same people in front of the cameras and the same people behind the cameras – I mean, that's pretty unheard of. I'm obviously incredibly happy and proud about it, but there is no way I could have predicted that when we were in Berlin shooting the first movie without a U.S. distribution deal. I mean, nobody wanted the movie the first time around. There wasn't a single American studio that wanted to finance the film, so we financed the movie independently outside of American. Sony only did a print and advertising deal on the first film, so if we hadn't scored above a certain threshold on the first test screening, they were going to put the movie straight to DVD. So to go from those little beginnings to the fifth movie in a very successful franchise -- I don't think I could have predicted that.
Well, anywhere along the way did you get an idea, say like after two, that hey I can start mapping out several more?
Paul W.S. Anderson: When the first movie became a success I definitely had in mind the idea that we could do a trilogy of films with the first movie being like a prequel to the very first video game and the second movie taking place during the timeline of the video games and the third movie being like a post script to the world of video games.
Then we just had so much fun making the movies and the audience seemed to continue growing for them that then, you know, the subject came up of continuing the franchise and maybe doing another trilogy. So again, certainly when we approached number four it was with the idea that we might do another three, but you know in movies, everything is on a movie by movie basis in reality. You can talk about planning out a trilogy but guess what, if your first movie is "The Golden Compass," you know as good as those other books are, you're not going to make them.
My approach has always been to pour all of my energy and all of my attention into the movie I'm making right now and not worry too much about what's coming down the pipe. Because if you don't get this one right and you don't make this one work and you don't make an audience really like it, there won't be another one.
When you start up on these, is it sort of like going back to something that is familiar or is everyone kind of like gearing up for another new adventure?
Paul W.S. Anderson: It's a bit of both. There is a familiarity. I've been working with the same crew for a little while and a lot of the cast I'm obviously very familiar with, which is great, and it has that very kind of family feeling, you know. They're very good actors, but also really nice people to hang around, you know, like Michelle [Rodriguez] and Oded [Fehr] and Boris [Kodjoe] and Milla obviously. It's nice to work with the same crew as well, because since we did "Resident Evil: Afterlife," I've worked with the same crew, who I think I would say without a doubt, are the most experienced 3D crew in the world. We've done three movies in three years. Three live-action 3D movies shot in the correct way, which is, I think, you should do 3D, which is to originate the material in 3D. We've also done -- in between "Three Musketeers" and this movie -- we did a huge Cinemark commercial, again in 3D. It was all time lapsed and we built rigs for it. It's good to go back with that crew, they're very talented, but also they really know 3D. I think that's a real advantage, because you hear lots of nightmare stories about people start to shoot their first 3D movie and you get two set-ups a day and they don't really work and you know, we hit the ground running, because of that familiarity. I think the 3D is very strong because of that as well. We are making more and more 3D stuff and I think each one looks better because we learn things.
So what would you say this new movie is like? Each one is sort of a little different, but you try to do different things for yourself not to get bored as well, and you have everything mapped out, but what did you do differently in this one?
Paul W.S. Anderson: I've always felt that for a franchise to kind of grow it needs to evolve and change and you should never really go back and do the same thing again. Obviously, elements have to be the same. I've always tried to basically make a different kind of movie. You know, in my mind, the first "Resident Evil" was very much a haunted house movie. It took place in one environment. It was very contained. It was the kind of classic haunted house horror story.
The second movie became much more of an action film. We had the whole city to play with. There was a ticking clock and they only had one night to get out of the city, we had more money so we could have more action in the film, which was great. So we went from the kind of classic haunted house movie to a more expensive action movie. The third movie was very much a road movie. I mean, that convoy was constantly on the move. The fourth movie was a siege movie because they were stuck in that prison and they were under siege for the whole film. And this movie is very much a kind of global epic. I wanted to make the first kind of post apocalyptic epic movie. Jokingly, if David Lean made a zombie movie, he would make this one. That was kind of like what I would say in production meetings, as a joke obviously, but also to point people in the direction of the kind of film I wanted to make. I wanted to take "Resident Evil" and really elevate the franchise to an epic level. That involved shooting in locations around the world. We shot in Tokyo, Moscow, Washington D.C. and Times Square in New York. You know, we really tried to open up the scale of the movie and also the scale of the sequences.
The other thing that has happened since you started is that video games have become more culturally respectable.
Paul W.S. Anderson: The movies have definitely been successful. Video games have definitely become more profitable and certainly more people play them than ever. I don't think that's necessarily helped them turn into movies. They were big back when I made "Mortal Kombat." I mean, "Mortal Kombat" was a sensation, but so was "Street Fighter" and "Double Dragon" was a very successful game that didn't make successful movies. You know the success rate on video game movies is very low. More often than not they fail and sometimes they flame out in a spectacular fashion. There is going to be no sequel "Prince of Persia," no sequel to "Doom," no sequel to "Max Payne," no sequel to "Hitman." The list goes on and on. I think it's still as hard as ever to translate a video game into a movie. I think it's always been a tricky thing to do and I don't think it's gotten any easier because as video games have become more the audience that play them become more sophisticated as well and demand even more from the movies that you might make of them.
Zombies weren't as big when you did the first "Resident Evil," but now they're enormous Why do you think we're seeing them become so popular?
Paul W.S. Anderson: Well, I remember as a teenage going to see like the last big cycle of zombie films and at least in England, they were big. I mean, the "Dawn of the Dead" movies were big movies in the same way that vampire movies had their time and then they went away again. Zombie films tap into something really primal like all good fears. I think it's kind of a primal fear. We all have the same kind of dreams, you know, dreams of falling but also dreams of being chased. It's that common dream, something's chasing you but you don't really know what it is but you can't get away from it and it doesn't really go that fast, it's always following you. That's the undead. And also kind of a fear of lack of your personality and kind of being absorbed into this collective mess, I mean that's what the undead represent right, which I think for an American audience really resurrects because America is based on the idea of individuality and that's exactly what the undead are not. American fear of communism is exactly the kind of fear the undead in a way.