The third in Capone's RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE interview series brings us writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson!!!
Published at: Sept. 8, 2010, 7:35 a.m. CST by Capone
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here, with the third of four interviews with the folks behind the upcoming RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE. I've already posted a pair of lovely discussions with Wentworth Miller and Ali Larter, who play the brother and sister team of Chris and Claire Redfield. But today, I have someone a bit different to present to you.
Few steadily working directors have as much of a…um…following among the Ain't It Cool News talkbackers than Paul W.S. Anderson. You guys really seem to admire and respect him, uh huh. And weirdly enough, he's never agreed to do an interview with anyone from our site until now. Go figure. But I'll give the guy credit, he sat down and addressed not only the film he was there to talk about, but also his reputation among the geek army. The reason for our chat was his latest film as writer-director-producer, RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE, only the second in the series that Anderson has actually directed (he also did the first).
I still think one of his best works is his first feature, 1994's SHOPPING, which he followed up with such film as MORTAL KOMBAT, EVENT HORIZON, SOLDIER, ALIEN VS. PREDATOR, and 2008's mostly entertaining DEATH RACE. We ran out of time before I got a question out about his next film, a retelling of THE THREE MUSKETEERS, starring his wife and RESIDENT EVIL partner in crime Milla Jovovich, Mads Mikkelsen, Orlando Bloom, Ray Stevenson, Logan Lerman, Matthew Macfadyen, and Christoph Waltz as Cardinal Richelieu. Great cast, and I'm sure Anderson will focus largely on the literary roots of Alexandre Dumas' novel and not so much on the action. Okay, who am I kidding?
The first thing that strikes you when you meet Anderson is how young he looks, so much so that it's almost impossible to believe he's 45. And then when you realize that his passion and exuberance about everything he talks about makes him seem even younger, you might actually get angry at life. He gets so excited when he's talking that he spends a lot of time starting and stopping and backtracking on what he's saying, which may read as slightly strange in a transcription. And while I don't think we'll be pen pals or anything like that in the coming years, I genuinely enjoyed our conversation and his honestly about people's reaction to his work. Enjoy my talk with Paul W.S. Anderson, which was delayed slightly when a man began talking to him just as we were set to start our interview.
Paul W.S. Anderson: That was Jason Statham’s agent.
Capone: Ah, okay.
PA: Got to be nice. [laughs]
Capone: That’s right. I had an interview about a year and a half ago with Jason Isaacs, who obviously you know pretty well…
PA: Oh, yeah. I love him.
Capone: This wasn’t going to be my original first question, but since it’s come up a couple of times, they say you just have this endless supply of optimism, even when things don’t go right. When you're making a movie or when the response isn’t what you'd like it to be, you just have this great supply of optimism and you just want to push forward and move onto the next thing. Does that sound like you?
PA: Yeah, that sounds like me, absolutely yeah.
PA: All I ever wanted to be was a movie maker and that’s the only job I ever wanted ever since I was a kid, and I figure “I have the best job in the world and I’m so lucky to be doing it.” That’s where my enthusiasm comes from. I love making movies, and they are hard things to make, and it’s hard to make a really good movie and you have to try really, really hard, and usually circumstances don’t all line up. It’s hard to make the perfect film in a perfect way, so movie making is dealing with problems, and you’ve got to be able to do that. That’s my job.
Capone: You have kept your hands very deep in this franchise, even when you weren't directing it. Why was this the time to come back as a director?
PA: There were two reasons. One is a very basic reason, which is I really missed directing RESIDENT EVIL movies. I had the best fun making the first one and I wrote and produced the second and the third ones, but I missed the fun of directing one and I missed the fun of working with Milla [Jovovich] and I wanted to have that experience again. So that was one motivating factor, and the other was “if you are going to do another RESIDENT EVIL movie, why?” “Why are people going to come see another RESIDENT EVIL movie?”
Capone: Anytime you go beyond three, you’ve got to really have a reason.
PA: Right. “Why?” and my answer was, we are going to make the biggest and the best RESIDENT EVIL ever and we are not just going to make it in the usual way. We are going to step up the gear. If the franchise is going to continue, it needs to step up it’s game. It’s no secret, I’m a huge admirer of James Cameron, and we kind of looked at what he did with the TERMINATOR franchise where if you look at the difference between T2 and T1, you know, T2 is the same actors, it’s the same story, it’s the same franchise, but he stepped his game up. He made it a more epic movie, and I thought, “That’s what we have to do with RESIDENT EVIL, we have to make an epic RESIDENT EVIL movie,” and 3D was part of that, but also making it a more globetrotting movie was part of that. We shot in Tokyo, we shot in Alaska, we shot in Hollywood, and we shot in Canada. We went all over the place shooting the movie to give it a really epic scale, and I thought I was the right filmmaker with the right skill set to be able to pull that movie off.
Capone: The opinions on 3D right now are about as varied as they get. Is it more exciting for you to show this here today and a little nerve-wracking than any of the other films you've brought here?
PA: It’s funny, when we were talking about gong 3D, I had seen all of the 3D movies made when they came out. I went to go see them in the 80s; I went to go see them in the 90s.
Capone: Same here.
PA: And I always loved the idea of 3D, but I thought it was a concept where the technology had not caught up with how good the concept was. It was a great idea, if any of the technology could catch up, and then when Cameron very kindly screened a chunk of AVATAR for us over a year ago, two things became very clear. One was he was making an amazing movie, but the other was he had cracked 3D. And with the camera system that he built for it, he was capturing 3D images on a scale and on a level and of a quality that I had never seen before, and that’s when I said, “You know what? We should go 3D and we need to use this camera system to shoot with, because it’s the best that’s out there.” Like anything associated with James Cameron, it’s high end. I mean, he builds his own camera rigs. Everything is high end and it’s expensive, right?
PA: And so I had to convince the studio to pay for it, because there are cheaper ways to do it. We could shoot a 2D movie and we could convert it. It’s cheaper and it’s easier and it’s safer, because when you shoot 3D the cameras are bigger and you shoot slower and you need more light, so it takes longer, so everything is more expensive. So I had to persuade the studio to part with more money, but they were happy to do it, because they believed in the vision of making a bigger and a better RESIDENT EVIL, and my feeling is if we are going to do 3D, we have to do the best 3D available and that’s the Cameron Pace rigs and doing it properly, shooting it in 3D.
Also, I feel as a filmmaker, you have a responsibility. If you are asking an audience member to pay a premium price for a 3D ticket, you have to deliver a premium product, and I think this is the right way to deliver that product. I always refer to the conversions, as “Two-and-a-half D.” [laughs] It’s beyond 2D, but it’s not really 3D. Or it’s kind of like, you can drink a great bottle of Dom Perignon and you can brink a bottle of Thunderbird, right? They're both doing to get you drunk, but I know which is a better experience.
PA: So we decided to go this 3D route and shoot real 3D and commit to that and all of the expense and the extra complexity that that entailed. You know, it’s funny, we wrapped RESIDENT EVIL in December of last year and it was like people were like “Oh, it’s a 3D movie? That’s interesting,” but it was no big deal, right? And then AVATAR was released, and then January 1, suddenly Hollywood was like “Have you seen how much money this thing is making? 3D for everything!” and suddenly everything had to be 3D. We were already 3D and we had been slowly kind of working our way, making our 3D movie and actually it’s going to be the first, real live-action 3D movie to come out since AVATAR.
PA: That’s just a fact. All of the other live action movies have been conversions, and I think people will see what a real 3D movie looks. We did a foreign press junket down in Cancun recently, and from the press reaction there, the people were coming up and it was like “Wow, now I understand what 3D is supposed to look like. I didn’t really get it before, because I would take my glasses off, because I didn’t really like it, or it kind of looked a bit funky” I think the difference between shooting in 3D and what people have seen--CLASH OF THE TITANS for example--it’s like night and day and I’m very proud of the job we have done and I’m very proud of the way the movie looks and hand on my heart I can say it’s the biggest and the best RESIDENT EVIL yet and the 3D, it rocks. It rocks, and I think people will, as audiences become more educated, I think they are going to know the difference between real 3D and fake 3D, and I think in five years time, I don’t think anyone is going to be dimensionalizing, because I think all of the big quality films are going to go shoot 3D.
PA: I understand why it’s happening now, because people have a pipeline that they want to fill. But you see like PIRATES is going real 3D. They are shooting 3D. Scorcese’s movie [HUGO CABRET] is 3D. I think the filmmakers who care about their movies are going real 3D.
Capone: Yeah. I don’t know if you were here yesterday, but the footage they showed from DRIVE ANGRY, the Patrick Lummier film--he did MY BLOODY VALENTINE last year--basically car chases and wrecks in 3D, and he shot it in 3D. It even says on the poster “DRIVE ANGRY, SHOT IN 3D” in almost as big letters, and it looked awesome. I’m really excited to see what you’ve got to show today.
PA: The clip we are showing was all shot in the rain, or a lot of it is, and rain looks fantastic in 3D. Any particular matter looks very good in 3D, like rain, smoke, underwater looks good, so there’s no surprise RESIDENT EVIL has lots of rain, smoke, and underwater. But as a post-process if you wanted to do that, you would have to rotoscope around every single rain drop, which is impossible. You can’t do it, so that sequence would never look the same in a post-production process. Also, I don’t understand, with 3D and when you dimensionalize something, you are taking important creative choices about your film and you are giving those choices either to a computer program or to a rotoscope artist in India, and I don’t understand filmmakers who want to sacrifice that level of creativity and control over their product.
Capone: I can imagine cinematographers would be insulted by some of the choices that might get made.
PA: That’s the thing. That’s what I realized after 20 years of movie making. When I shot this movie, I felt like it was my first film again.
Capone: I was going to ask if you had kind of a learning curve with it.
PA: Yeah. I felt like I was shooting my first movie again, which is very exciting. I had to relearn filmmaking, because you frame it up and you put the 3D glasses on and you look at it and you go “Wow, this is how I would have framed it for 2D, but this doesn’t really work now.” You frame differently. You move the camera in a different way. We are really the first movie to ever edit 3D, because the Avid software came out one week before we started shooting, so we edited in 3D, so in the cutting room you would wear the 3D glasses. Even Cameron when he was doing AVATAR, he would edit 2D and then he would watch a projection of the 3D, and then he’d go back and change it, because it plays differently in 3D than it plays to 2D, which again makes a mockery of taking a 2D movie and dimensionalizing it. So in many ways, the movie is really on the cutting edge of 3D.
Capone: When I was talking to Jason Isaacs about you, I asked him about his relationship with you, and he did say, “Yeah, he gets picked on a lot on the internet for some reason.” Do you feel like maybe you get picked on maybe more than some other people or more than you deserve? You must be aware of it to a certain degree.
PA: Listen, there was a like from UNFORGIVEN where Clint Eastwood says, “Deserves got nothing to do with it.”
PA: It is what it is, and I think if you work in… I’ve almost exclusively working in genre filmmaking, right? And genre fans are very passionate. You are pro or con. They are very passionate, and so you get a lot of stuff written about you--good stuff and bad stuff and if people don’t like you, they really don’t like you, and they are very vocal about it. But you have to look at the bigger picture, which is for my movies to work or not work, like the last RESIDENT EVIL theatrically made $150 million worldwide, which if every movie ticket cost $10 dollars--which it doesn’t, they are cheaper than that--that’s 15 million people that went to go see the movie worldwide. Now, what am I going to care more about, 15 million people who pay their money to go see a film or a few hundred people who vocally express their opinions on the internet? I would love to be loved by everybody, but if that’s not going to happen, “C'est la vie.”
I do passionately care what the fans think of the movie, but I care in way where I go to the cinema and I watch it play with people watching it and I see their reactions. That, to me, is my validation as a filmmaker. I’m not a review-driven filmmaker. I see the audiences and that’s what I love about watching movies with American audiences, they are very vocal about what they think and if they like it, they cheer and they clap and if they hate it, they boo and they throw things at the screen [laughs], which for an Englishman--people don’t watch movies like that in England. They kind of watch them in a stone silence and then they leave and you don’t know “Did they like it? Did they hate it?” You have no idea what their reaction to it was, and then they talk about it afterwards. I remember my first American filmgoing experience in Times Square, and I went to go see TOTAL RECALL.
Capone: There you go.
PA: And, oh my word! And the point where Arnold has discovered Sharon Stone is a spy, and she tries to kill him and he’s got her banged to rights. She says, “You wouldn’t kill me, would you? I’m your wife.” These two women stand up beside me and start going, “Kill the bitch! Shoot her. Shoot her in the head!” I’m just this quiet Englishman going “My goodness” and then when he shoots her, he goes [In a perfect Arnold imitation] “Consider this a divorce,” you could not hear the next scene, literally the next scene went by and I couldn’t hear anything anyone was saying, because the whole audience was like “Waaah!” For me, that’s what I make my movies for, like when I go see the reaction people had to certain scenes in DEATH RACE or the reaction people have to the RESIDENT EVIL movies, that’s what it’s all about. I’m a populist filmmaker and I’m making it for a popular audience.
I come from a generation of British filmmakers where there were really no populist filmmakers in the UK when I was growing up. It as all very intense art house, all period movies, so my generation never got movies made for them, so that was kind of a radical thing coming out of cinema in Britain, to be a populist filmmaker.
Capone: Yeah. I remember seeing SHOPPING in the theaters in America. I love that movie.
PA: Oh good. They are re-releasing it on DVD any second now.
Capone: Really? Did you do anything new with it?
PA: Yeah, I did a commentary for it.
Capone: Okay, cool.
PA: Which I had never done before, and I’m trying to find some storyboards in my garage somewhere.
Capone: Paul, thank you for talking to us and being so candid. There may be a couple people who say nice things about you that never have before. Brace yourself.
PA: Yeah, baby! Great meeting you.
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