Capone begins a series of RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE interviews with Wentworth Miller (who plays Chris Redfield)!!!
Published at: Sept. 6, 2010, 8:49 p.m. CST by Capone
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
I'm about to launch four straight days of interviews with the creative team behind RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE (leading up to its release this Friday), all of which I conducted at San Diego Comic-Con in July. This group included some of the nicest and best-looking bunch of folks I've ever been around in my life, and I appreciate that they took the time out to chat. Considering that I've never been particularly outspoken about my feelings on this franchise (I like the first film and am, at best, neutral on the second and third installments), I was surprised to be tapped to do these interviews, but there you go.
I have a very clear memory of the first time I saw Wentworth Miller on screen. He was playing a younger version of Anthony Hopkins in Robert Bention's THE HUMAN STAIN. That same year he had a juicy role in the first UNDERWORLD movie, and two years after that he grabbed the lead role in the Fox series "Prison Break," which I was a big fan of and watched until the bitter end. His role as Chris Redfield (brother to Ali Larter's Claire Redfield) in RESIDENT EVIL is a character a lot of fans of the videogame series have been waiting for quite some time to see join the films, and the part marks Miller's first film role since "Prison Break." He's a soft-spoken man who is exceedingly polite, careful with his word choice, and ultimately was a lot of fun to chat with once he got warmed up. So please enjoy whispery charms of Wentworth Miller…
Capone: Hi, Wentworth.
Wentworth Miller: Hey, there.
Capone: It’s great to meet you.
WM: It’s nice to meet you too. Have a seat, please.
Capone: I’ve watched every episode of "Prison Break." I just wanted to say that right off the bat. I love that show. William Fichtner was here yesterday, actually.
WM: Is that right?
Capone: Yeah, for DRIVE ANGRY. It was a thrill to meet him as well.
WM: Bill is great. Bill is really great.
Capone: So you are kind of stepping into this long-running franchise as the new kid on the block here. Everything is well established; everyone knows each other. What is that like?
WM: I know. A train is barreling down the tracks, and I’ve got to like jump on and maintain my balance.
Capone: And this is like the biggest one they have done.
WM: Yeah, I think that’s what appealed to me when I first got the script and was talking to Paul [W.S. Anderson] about the possibility of playing the character, I went and rented all of the movies, because I hadn’t seen a single one of them, and it was clear to me that they were investing more heavily in every installment of the franchise--more time, more money, more imagination, more effect, more people involved, better technology. It was getting better and better as opposed to a lot of franchises where they hit you hard the first time, figure they’ve got the audience hooked, and then kind of slack off on 2, 3, and 4. It’s the law of diminishing returns. So I thought the 4th one was going to be in 3D and I had already heard about we were using some of the same technology that James Cameron used for AVATAR.
Capone: The same cameras event, yeah, he exact cameras.
WM: Exactly. I thought, “That’s something I want to be a part of,” because I’m not an actor who geeks out on the technical at all, but I do think it’s important to stay educated and stay abreast if you can. It’s certainly where the business is headed.
Capone: You say you don’t geek out on the technology, but do you geek out on certain movies? Like are there certain genre films that you grew up liking?
WM: Oh yeah. Horror movies, family dramas,. I’ve always been more interested in story than I am in the gadgetry or using it to tell a particular story, and that’s what I liked about RESIDENT EVIL is that it seemed to offer, on the one hand, split-head zombie dogs and on the other you’ve got characters, you’ve got relationships--particularly Chris and Claire Redfield, that sibling bond. The chance to slip in moments and beats in and around the zombie warfare was a challenge, but I think also it deepens the experience, because if you don’t care about the characters on screen, if you are not asked to care, then you won’t, and when something horrible happens to them, it doesn’t make an impact.
Capone: Talk a little bit about just that bother sister relationship, because I know it’s pretty aggressive in the beginning. Ali [Larter] told me it’s pretty ugly at the beginning. Just tell me about how you guys worked that out and talked about it.
WM: There were a lot of conversations to be had, because the fact is it’s first and foremost an action adventure movie and then it’s our job to layer in that character stuff in and around these larger sequences and moments. So we have to be kind of imaginative about it, kind of clever about it, and what I came up with was that Claire Redfield is clearly someone who is capable of taking care of herself, however, as her older brother, there is something in me that constantly doubts that. So whenever she’s in jeopardy my heart is in my throat and I step in in ways that she may not appreciate and might even resent as one might resent an over-protective older brother figure.
Capone: Right. With 3D , I've heard there's a bit more choreography involved in making sure that you throw an elbow or an arm toward the camera. Did you find that you had to do more of that, be more aware of where you were swinging things?
WM: Absolutely. I think a bit more choreography is actually required in the medium, because the cameras can tell a cheat. It’s like they can see around a corner, so when you are throwing a punch and you don’t actually connect with the person’s face, the camera sees that. So it becomes that much more important to step up your game in terms of how you sell these sequences to an audience.
Capone: Did that restrict you in any way, or did you just embed that into what you were doing as part of the acting?
WM: I think it was the latter. I made it my job to adapt as best as possible to this particular set of circumstances, as opposed to trying to force the circumstances to adapt to me.
Capone: That would not have worked.
WM: I've tried that before; it doesn’t work.
Capone: We talked about the very beginning with you sort of stepping into this established family of creative people. Was that tough getting used to that, or did they want to make sure that you felt like you were a part of it early on?
WM: It was a fairly seamless transition, I have to say. I was very lucky in that. First of all, I’m working with total professionals. Second of all, Paul is on set, Milla is on set. If you want to understand the RESIDENT EVIL franchise, those are the two people. The bedrock is walking around next to me. They are there for questions or concerns. Paul created the car and Milla’s driving it, while the rest of us get to ride shotgun. That’s a thrill.
Capone: You mentioned earlier about how horror was something you grew up liking, do you remember anything specific that you really took to?
WM: Sure. Movies like THE SHINING, CARRIE, and ROSEMARY’S BABY, movies that are about horror, scares, supernatural, ghosts…
Capone: But also a strong psychological element to those, as well.
WM: Yes, but there’s still “meat on the bone” or something there for you to chew on. It’s really about characters. You can watch the movie THE SHINING and dismiss the idea that it’s about the ghosts or the supernatural and say “This is a movie about an alcoholic who falls off the wagon,” or “a writer suffering from writer’s block,” or “a family who is crazy because of cabin fever.” You can divorce it from more of the kind of fantastical elements and just consider it a straight-up family drama if you want too. Those are the sorts of things that appeal to me, and I think those are the elements that make those movies timeless and relatable.
Capone: You said earlier that you went out and rented the other three RESIDENT EVIL films before you took the job. What did you think of them?
WM: Well, I knew of them and I certainly remember the trailer for number three, I remember seeing it in theaters.
Capone: The Vegas skyline?
WM: Exactly, so that made an impression. I remember being intrigued by the arc of Alice as a character especially and how well Milla does that arc. I was intrigued by what I mentioned before, the increased commitment to each level of the movie. Each installment was better than the one that came before and there’s something about zombies that appeals, quite obviously, that idea of this irrational terror that cannot be reckoned with, like an unstoppable wave, like a tsunami of the undead is terrifying and speaks to our darkest, deepest childhood fears.
Capone: I read a quote somewhere where you are talking about your appearances in those two Mariah Carey videos, and how you got more on-the-street recognition from those than you did from anything that had come before that. Brett Ratner [who directed the videos and was a creator on "Prison Break"] obviously played a huge part of many facets of your career, how does that experience sit with you today?
WM: Oh, it was a good time. I enjoyed being a part of that. I had no idea that the songs would do as well as they did and that the videos would do as well as they did, but I tell people that those two videos played a part in the launching of "Prison Break." Yeah, I was grateful then and I’m grateful now.
Capone: Alright then. Thank you. It was great to meet you.
Capone: Are you excited to see the footage?
WM: I really am. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.
Capone: You too.
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