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Milla Jovovich on Alice and the 'Resident Evil' revolution


Since I can remember, the name Milla Jovovich has been imprinted on my mind. Her enchanting beauty and natural screen presence gives her an elusive star quality. It's her secret weapon, something that has won her many lead roles over her prolific film career from The Fifth Element to Resident Evil. Her enigmatic core and striking beauty has made her the teen crush of many, myself included.

So when the opportunity to do a Resident Evil: The Last Chapter set visit at Durbanville Quarry near Cape Town presented itself during the course of shooting the film in South Africa, I was there like a zombie horde. Watching Milla in The Fifth Element, I never imagined I'd have the chance of meeting and interviewing the star herself, renowned director Paul W.S. Anderson and a host of established and up-and-coming actors.

The sixth and final installment of the Resident Evil film series finds Alice and her friends betrayed by Albert Wesker as he summons the forces of Umbrella to launch a decisive blow against the apocalypse survivors. Being the most successful video game franchise, arguably the best, it seemed fitting that we get to grips with the shockwaves the film and character have sent across the globe since 2002.

After being told "I looked like a Resident Evil type" by our media liaison, I knew the stars were aligning for an epic set visit by night. The location was secretive and after meeting at a hotel and being bussed into a set that looked more like a circus, based on the number of tents and cars, we arrived just in time for breakfast. "Breakfast" because when you're shooting until 6am, you only start the day around 6pm... think of it as brainwashing. Armed with my digital recorder, pen, paper and press lanyard, we were plunged deep into a well-oiled film culture.

Joking about the sausages at the "breakfast" canteen with Fraser James, a delightful supporting actor, and watching zombies get churned out of the make up department, it wasn't long before our South African press contingent were transported to where the action was happening near a burnt out yellow school bus at the top of the quarry. After watching a few takes of the core cast in silence, possibly awe, we were escorted to our press quarters, a makeshift tent. We knew it was "makeshift" because it was a tent, it housed a table covered by an '80s style kitchen table cloth and felt somewhat cramped like an interrogation room replete with video camera and lighting. The cast arrived in our den literally by-the-numbers (they're each assigned numbers in the daily shot schedule) when they had a moment. The atmosphere was upbeat and while we saw Milla Jovovich performing, she was scheduled as our final interview, if time permitted.

Ali Larter was Grace Kelly demure and Timotei beautiful. Ruby Rose was ready to trail blaze into the future as if she was driving the Delorean in reverse. Iain Glen was Iain Glen. Eoin Macken and Fraser James were on the cusp of a bromance and brought the tent down with hilarity, while the handsome and winning William Levy oozed with personable charm and star quality. Aubrey Shelton and Milton Schorr represented the South African stalwarts, with Shelton regaling his war stories from the frontline and Schorr keeping himself surprisingly grounded for such a lofty and gentle giant.

Thankfully, despite her hectic shooting schedule, we were granted a 30 minute window to interview the headline act. It was after 1am and we were led to her luxury trailer, where she welcomed us like a gracious rock star, still in wardrobe and fairly relaxed with a beer bottle in the background. The trailer was big enough to fit all of us into the spacious lounge area, where we encircled her ready to fire off a few choice questions. Sitting opposite her, the whole experience seemed quite surreal... finally getting a chance to meet the enigmatic woman behind the lights.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Having been told how funny she is by almost all of the other cast members, we weren't disappointed as she poked fun at herself, delivering thoughtful answers and making us feel right at home. Having held back at interviews for most of the night, I was eagerly anticipating a gap to ask a question... maybe even two. Listening to Milla answer while wondering if I was ever going to blurt out my question in the thirty minute allotment was torture, but it had to be done. What followed was this free-flowing dialogue as my big question ramped up the interview and for about 15 minutes it felt like I was the only other person in the room. Meeting Milla Jovovich was a highlight of my film career and ended a night of perfect timing and good spirits that seemed almost too good to be true. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter opens in South Africa on 3 February, 2017.

You're like a revolutionary. If you look at the male-dominated film and video game industry over the last decade, how would you say you've shaped and influenced them?

Gosh, I wish I thought like you. I'd probably be a much more confident, like an "eff you" kind of person... like "I influence people!". To be honest, when we made the first Resident Evil it was so much about the passion for the game and I think that word keeps coming up in conversation. To me, having a passion for something is like the Holy Grail and finding a passion for something is the antidote for everything... being a happy, healthy, inspired person.

I do feel that when things are done with that kind of enthusiasm and passion, people respond. I've always said that no matter what you do, when you do it with honesty, you will always find an audience. It's when you're not sure about something that other people sort of go "uh, I don't know". I played the game with my little brother and that's how I found a way to connect with him on his level and spend time with him in a way he liked. It's like let's go to the zoo, let's do this, let's do that... but I knew that what he really wanted to do was just stay home and play Resident Evil. You've got to figure out ways to get him out the house, but then the evening would come and you know... let's play. Then suddenly it's four hours later and we've been playing and I'm like "Oh my God, I'm addicted to this game".

"...when the critics love something, at least for us, it's a recipe for disaster."

I came into the film before it turned into a franchise as a fan of the game. Michelle Rodriguez and Paul were big fans of the game... so you have this core team that love the source material and I think that's so important because it's not just another Hollywood video game adaptation that's going nowhere because the people are just doing it to earn a buck or just because whatever... it's a big action movie. It's that kind of honesty going on, it's not like anyone got paid to make the first movie, we were just all doing an independent European action horror flick. It was fun for us and exciting to be a part of the Resident Evil world, and zombies, and the undead and stuff. The movie was number one, it didn't do that amazingly in the cinema but it got really great reviews from the people who watched it. They did all the tests and we were reading the sheets the next day and the kids loved it. You know the critics hated it, but when the critics love something... at least for us, it's a recipe for disaster. The people loved it and they ended up buying it on DVD and watching it over and over.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

A couple of years later they approached us to make a second one, which was shocking to me because I thought once we did it, that was it... move on. Then it was number 2, okay why not. People seemed to love it and I'd never done something like that before. I never thought that we'd be making a number 6. Even when we made number 3, when we were done I thought that was it. We never did a three picture deal or anything like that and even when Paul wrote number 3, it was very out of the blue.

"I really feel like I have all these apocalyptic existential thoughts going on in my head."

He just got inspired, wrote a new script and took it to the studio and they were like "let's do it". It was never something that had to be forced out of him. You have this creative flow about the franchise that was very natural and organic in that sense. I think maybe that's a huge part of what you're talking about. It's not so much something that I think about... we want to have fun and a good time making these movies and as long as we're having a good time making these movies and as long as we're excited about it, it translates well to people.

I think you've opened the door though, because you've got an allure but you've also got a physicality that translates really well to screen... you're one of the few actresses that can pull off this kind of role. I can't think of five other actresses that could do what you've done with Resident Evil. I'm talking about how you've opened the door for that strong sort of female lead character in an action movie. There are so many hybrid copies that have come after Resident Evil started the revolution...

When I did The Fifth Element it was really a study in belief and it opened up a door for me that I never knew existed for me as an actress. To really completely believe in what you're doing and sell this idea of something that's totally alien, strange and from another world. I think I fell in love with that aspect of acting. So for me, when I play Alice, I really feel it. I really feel like I have all these apocalyptic existential thoughts going on in my head. It's a really great place for me to channel them all. The things I think about on my own keep me up at night sometimes, it's awful. And poor Paul... "what do you think's going to happen?" "I don't know. Gotta be ready for whatever it is... we've got to be ready." Plus it's a lot of fun and you've got to sell it and buy it all at the same time.

"...let's go get a Starbucks and kill some zombies."

If I'm not buying it for myself, then I know we've got to do it again. It's about finding that comfort zone where you believe yourself and what's going on. Sometimes it doesn't happen. Like in number 2, I was really confused about who Alice really was. In number 1 she was this innocent person and then number 2 came along and I was like "I'm just going to be myself and I'm going to play this really natural" and I played it like me. Like who I am right now in this room with that voice... that nasal "hey everybody" and I'm like "come on guys, let's go, watch out" and real. When I saw, I don't even think I watched dailies back then, I was very like oh you know, natural. When I went to do ADR and I saw part of the movie and heard that, I was so mortified because it was so not what it needed to be.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Alice was still percolating at that point and there was a bridge that needed to happen from number 1 to the next chapter. She now had all this knowledge and she was different to who she was in the beginning and I completely missed it as an actor. So I was watching it thinking "oh my god, this is a f**king disaster" like what am I going to do? She sounds like an LA chick, like "let's go get a Starbucks and kill some zombies". I realised that I had to change her voice. So I called Paul and said "this is a disaster, I sound awful... I have to redo the whole movie, like everything". So I dubbed my entire performance and I went from "hey guys" to "HEY" and the voice is here.

"I'm just going to be like Dirty Harriet."

I did everything in that voice, which was coming from my gut, which is not my normal voice. I was acting natural, it wasn't like I was overdoing stuff, I was just being myself. So visually it was fine, but when you opened your ears it was a disaster. So we changed everything and it just clicked in my head. So I was like "Wow, there she is!", the voice and attitude matches and that ADR session was the birth in my head of Alice. In number 3, I just ran with that... it was like the female Clint Eastwood. I'm just going to be like Dirty Harriet, but I also thought it'd be nice for girls to have their own Clint Eastwood, like guys have that, girls have Alice to relate to on that level, like a... tough lady.

"There's an innocence that's always been there about Alice."

It's funny because I have a lot of female fans that come from these very oppressive, conservative countries and are from families that don't respect them or a very old-fashioned. "You inspired me to stand up for myself, I come from this family that are upset that they didn't have a son and I hated myself growing up and then I saw your movies and then I knew I could do anything." It's so amazing to know that you affected some amazing, incredible young person that way and helped them find their feet and learn to run. It's so important to have that in their life, to have these role models, idealistic figures that you can relate to in your imagination to comfort you and make you feel like that in your personal own world, you're like that.

I think what's special about Alice is that she's tough, but she's still got that femininity to her. She doesn't lose that in the process...

It's funny that you should say that because I was saying "tough lady", but she's not just a tough lady. There's an innocence that's always been there about her. She's super tough but then there's another part of her that's really inexperienced. She doesn't really have a boyfriend, she doesn't really know how to be normal with people. She's not the kind of person who's going to do a barbecue and invite people you know, cook dinner in the kitchen or have a normal conversation. She's never really experienced love, there's a lot of really interesting elements to her that I think about all the time and they're kind of sad you know.

 
Adam Croasdell on 'Hatchet Hour'


Adam Croasdell in Hatchet HourAdam Croasdell is a multi-talented and versatile international actor, who was born in Zimbabwe, studied in South Africa and has worked extensively in Britain and the United States. Having started his career performing opposite the likes of Helen Mirren and the late Alan Rickman at the Royal National Theatre, he moved into television with roles in Peak Practice, The Chase, EastEnders, Supernatural, Nikita, Body of Proof, Once Upon A Time and NCIS.

He's also known for his voice work, which includes: Middle Earth - Shadow of Mordor and Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV and has performed in films such as Werewolf: The Beast Among Us, The Prince & Me 3 and Extraction. Croasdell's most recent role sees him playing "Izzy", a confrontational stand up comic, who tries to uncover a dangerous plot in Hatchet Hour.

How did you get involved in this film?

I knew the director, Judy Naidoo, from my time studying drama at Wits University in Johannesburg. We lost touch for a long time but a couple of years ago I happened to be in a bookstore in Heathrow airport on my way to LA and I heard a voice behind me saying, “Adam? Is that you?” It was Judy.

We ended up having a long talk about where we were at in our lives and what we were doing. At the end of it Judy said she was mounting this film called Hatchet Hour and that she thought she had a part for me in it. We spent several months discussing the project and my character - Izzy - over Skype, and, after doing some rewrites together, got him to a place that resonated strongly with me. Then I jumped right in.

Have you done stand-up comedy before?

No, I had never done stand-up before. It’s a very specific, very specialized talent and I have huge respect for comedians who do it. In my case, I decided at a particular point in my preparation that I wasn’t going to make Izzy a stand-up who goes only for the laughs, but a guy who is quite dark and cynical; more a satirist and a social-commentator. Izzy is a guy who is intelligent and not afraid to make people feel uncomfortable with his observations.

How did you prepare for the role of “Izzy” and where did you take inspiration?

Preparing for Izzy was a multi-faceted process. Firstly, the look for me was very important. I wanted him to feel like he comes from a difficult background and has the scars to prove it. I started growing my hair and beard out and used a nutritionist to lose weight. I worked with the very talented costume and make-up departments, and designed tattoos for him, which sent out a very particular message that speaks to where he’s come from.

Also, I walked around Johannesburg looking like this and interacted with people a lot to gauge their reaction, which proved pretty interesting at times. One of the other influences I used was to dig into the work of the late Bill Hicks, who was a tortured, brilliant man. In my work in the UK and in America, I tend to play a lot of characters who operate on the peripherals of society. Izzy is no exception.

Your South African accent sounds quite natural, I see you were born in Zimbabwe, can you tell us a bit about your upbringing?

Yes, I was born in Zimbabwe and lived there until the age of 13 at which point my parents sent me to boarding school in South Africa. I lived in SA until I was 22, and afterwards I headed out to the UK to work and later onto Los Angeles, which is where I live now.

What was the most grueling aspect of shooting ‘Hatchet Hour’?

The Braamfontein winter! When discussing the project with Judy, she talked about setting Hatchet Hour against the steel grey tones of a Johannesburg winter - which, incidentally Tom Marais - our Director Of Photography - captured beautifully. But starting work on the project, I had forgotten just how cold those Jozi winters can be. Bitter. We did a lot of work in the Magistrates Court and prisons downtown, and it was like operating inside a refrigerator. The endless summer that is LA has made me soft!

Hatchet Hour - Adam Croasdell

You’ve been described as “the love child of Robert Downey Jr. and Hugh Jackman” in this performance (by me)… which actors do you admire or see as role models?

Well that’s a huge compliment. They’re two of my favourite actors. I often get told that I look like those guys. In fact, one trip I was returning to California and as I was waiting in the Customs line at LAX, one of the Homeland Security officers came up to me and said, “Hey, you’re that guy. The guy from the movies.” I said, “Which guy from the movies?” and he said, “You know; the guy with the claws - Wolverine!” I should have just nodded and he would’ve fast-tracked me.

I’m a huge fan of Downey Jr. for his wit and intelligence, and of Jackman who’s completely multi-talented. Other actor role-models for me are Brando, Newman, Streep, Ruffalo, DiCaprio, Sarandon and Brand. Not only great performers, but people who use their platform to make the world a better place.

What was it like playing opposite Erica and Petronella?

Fantastic. Two very beautiful, very talented actresses. Erica is a big star in Afrikaans-language films and Petronella has her own, large following too as a black South African actress. I play Petronella’s boyfriend in the film and I have a deep, love/hate relationship with Erica’s character. It was great to see these two women come together to play best friends in a story that transcends the issues of race in South Africa, in what is now an international, award-winning film.

How do you think audiences will respond to this film?

I hope that they love it. It’s a moody thriller with edgy, eccentric characters. It’s shot beautifully by Tom Marais (iNumber Number) and has a twisted plot and a great score. A great evening of cinema.

What was it like working with Judy Naidoo?

Exciting and also very challenging at times. Judy has a great sense of purpose about her projects. She’s one of the only film directors that I’ve worked with who has managed to build almost 2 weeks of rehearsal into the process prior to shooting, which is unheard of, but which for an actor is an absolute gift. Her talent is for fusing sometimes very disparate elements into a unified whole; Indian influences in the score whilst the audience looks at quintessentially African landscapes; comedy and violence intermingling; empowerment and disempowerment revolving around one another. She has put so much of herself into this film through every stage of the process. It’s hard not to admire that.

Are you planning on visiting South Africa again?

Africa is in my blood. South Africa’s under my skin. I’ll be back.

 
Erica Wessels on 'Hatchet Hour'


Erica Wessels is a rising South African star, best known for Alles Wat Mal Is, Primeval and My Father's War. Her latest role in Hatchet Hour, which opens 4 November, sees her playing Isabelle Sudlow, a ruthless, go-getting lawyer who finds herself in a tricky situation when she kills her gardener by mistake and scrambles to cover it up with the help of a friend.

Hatchet Hour - Erica Wessels

How did you get involved in this film?

Judy Naidoo phoned me about a year and a half before we started shooting. She had heard of me through someone in the industry and wanted to chat and organize a Skype meeting. At first, I didn't think anything would come of it, but eventually she set up auditions in Joburg and I happen to be up here, so it worked out well. I'm not sure if she even saw other actresses for Belle, so I was pretty lucky that she so envisioned me in this role. I got the job and the rest is history.

Do you know anyone like Isabelle Sudlow?

No I don't. I know people with certain traits of hers, but as a full person no.

Did you enjoy playing a blonde for a while, and more importantly a psycho?

In terms of the blonde, I loved having such a radical transformation as an actress. It's the stuff we dream about. It also really helps when forming the character, because physically you feel like the job is half way there. You feel very 'other' and yet ironically, you now have to find the truth of the character within yourself, find links, connections, needs and a deep love and empathy for yourself as the character. It was pretty scary playing a psycho sometimes. But people and behaviour is what fascinates me so the way Belle rationalizes her behaviour; I found upsetting, yet profoundly interesting. I never saw her as a psycho, just a woman who has become lost in competition, fears failure more than anything, and in essence, desires praise and acceptance from her father more than anything.

How did you prepare for the role and where did you get inspiration?

I chatted to a couple of friends who are attorneys about the technical details and their experiences. I hung out with a bunch of lawyers for an afternoon. Trying to catch on the energy and general nature of determined goal-driven lawyers. I read up about people who isolate themselves and refuse to see vulnerability as a healthy life decision. I created a whole back story for Belle. And then I always read my script over and over. There are lots of clues on every page.

What was the most grueling aspect of this project?

About 50% of the shoot happened at night, which gets incredibly draining and demanding in a physical sense.

What was it like playing opposite Petronella and Adam?

We had loads of fun and the couple of rehearsal days also really helped in regards to connection and freedom once we got to set.

Did you keep anything of Isabelle's or what would you have wanted to keep?

I bought a couple of her designer outfits from Glynnis our wardrobe HOD. I have never understood 'power dressing' as I do now. Belle made me feel like an ice queen mixed with a lioness on heels.

How do you think audiences will respond?

I think people are going to like it. It's gritty and funny with a dark and twisted edge, yet hilarious and upsetting at the same time. Definitely a genre South Africa hasn't seen enough.

What was it like working with Judy?

Judy has a very clear idea of what she wants, yet she always gave me freedom to play around and find the truth of the moment for myself. I respect her determination to create an interesting and surprising film. Hopefully we will work together again.

 
Top Ten Movies with... Robby Collins


Robby Collins is a rising star in the world of stand up comedy, having played to the biggest comedy audiences in South Africa, opening for Marc Lottering, Eugene Khoza and Trevor Noah. A natural born performer, he tried to be "normal" from a young age growing up in Newlands East, Durban before moving from Sydenham to Wentworth and then Musgrace in Kwazulu-Natal. Struggling with dyslexia in a rigid education system pushed him to follow in his sister's footsteps, where he found he preferred the stage more than school work, writing his first comedy skit at 15. He finally dropped out of school in Grade 11 after his teacher discovered he was in a local play and quipped he was "a better actor than a student".

His parents didn't make a big deal about him dropping out of school, but were concerned about his bigger plan. Collins has had a wide range of jobs from working in a call centre and handing out flyers to minding children and fixing cars. The lanky comedian kept himself motivated by reading biographies, in which he found many people's careers only really started at the age of 35. His mom has only attended a few of his shows and while supportive, his dad still insists it isn't a real job... but Collins isn't fazed.

Engaging with people and making them laugh from the stage at school, helped define his life's path as he moved from acting on the Durban theatre circuit to becoming a fully fledged stand-up comedian. He integrates his life's journey into his material, drawing from his human experiences and leveraging his believable stage presence. He's appeared at The Heavy Weight Comedy Jam and Blacks Only. His prolific touring with Trevor Noah's Daywalker show and being repeatedly selected as an opening act by top SA talent, lead to his well-deserved nomination for breakthrough act of the year at the Comic Choice Awards.

Collins performed his own show That Bushman's Crazy, which won an award at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. He likes to tell real human stories instead of using stereotypes and prefers to avoid the "whole black and white thing". He also steers clear of religious jokes because his mom was once a nun and he was an altar boy. While the charismatic entertainer has shifted his focus to comedy, he's also acted in TV shows Scandal, Rhythm City and worked as a writer and performer for Laugh Out Loud and LNN. He's developed a loyal following and wants to continue fine-tuning his acting talent and eventually write and direct.

"My worst movie... anything Leon Schuster has done."

I can't watch movies without...

- ...snacks.

Which famous people share your birthday?

- Freddy Prince Jr. and this other guy Yunus. He sold drugs in Durban. (8 March)

What is the first film you remember watching?

- Oliver Twist, but The Lion King was the first film I saw in the cinema.

What's the worst movie you've ever seen?

- My worst movie... anything Leon Schuster has done.

Which movies have made you tearful?

- The Awakenings and whenever Jackie Chan speaks english in Rush Hour.

Who is the most famous movie star you've ever met?

- Laurence Fishburne, but he just looked like he's from Eldorado Park.

What's your favourite movie line?

- "You talkin' to me?" ~ Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver

Who would you choose to play you in your biopic?

- Jaden Smith. That's only because I want to meet his dad.

If you could produce a movie, what would it be about?

- I'd love to do a remake of Oliver Twist. The story is so universal.

Finally, your top ten movies of all-time...

- City of God ...it’s one of the most original stories.

- Ed Wood ...it’s a reminder of how great Johhny Depp was.

- Flowers of War ...the suspense is amazing.

- Coming to America ...I just remember laughing as a kid.

- Aladdin ...nothing better than an old school Disney movie.

- Rocky ...it's got to be the most inspirational movie ever

- Oliver Twist ...no need to explain.

- The Little Rascals ...childhood favourite

- Carlito's Way ...it's the softer side of scarface

- iNumber Number ...because it was a great local film. Not only good for South Africa standards but world standards.

Top Ten Movies with... is a people series on SPL!NG, featuring a host of celebrities ranging from up-and-coming to established personalities from all industries including, but not limited to: Internet, Radio, TV, Film, Music, Art and Entrepreneurs. It's a chance to discover who they are, find out where they're at and to get a fun inside look at their taste in movies.

 
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