Earlier this week, film enthusiast and writer Kory Davis held a special 15th anniversary screening for Paul W.S. Anderson’s Resident Evil, which was perfectly timed to coincide with the home entertainment release of the last installment in the franchise, The Final Chapter. Before the packed event got underway, Daily Dead had the chance to chat briefly with both Anderson, as well as producer Jeremy Bolt, who has collaborated with the director on numerous projects over the last few decades.
The duo talked about being a part of the Resident Evil cinematic universe for about the last 15 years, and they also discussed another project that’s celebrating an anniversary in 2017, the horror/sci-fi epic Event Horizon, which has gained traction among genre fans since it was first released in 1997.
Great to speak with you, Jeremy. You guys have been on this journey where you’ve been able to start something with the original Resident Evil movie and now, five sequels later, you were there at the finish line. That doesn't always happen in this business. How much does it mean for you to now finally have the resolution to this entire franchise and be a part of it for more than 15 years now?
Jeremy Bolt: I feel very lucky. I feel I've been through a few wars, but, to still be here, basically I feel grateful and lucky. It all came together for us. The stars and the planets aligned. In this business you do have some luck and we didn't mess it up, so I'm excited to get on to the next venture.
Paul, when you first came into the Resident Evil world, this concept of dystopia-themed entertainment was in a much different place than it is these days. So I'm curious if your perspective on these stories has shifted at all over the last decade and a half?
Paul W.S. Anderson: I felt that what the Resident Evil video game was about was way ahead of the curve. I thought it was talking about things that people weren't paying any attention to: this idea of corporate malfeasance and the fact that the government isn't probably looking after your best interests. These were things that the Japanese in the game picked up on, before Enron kind of blew up and everyone went, "Wait a second, maybe the government and big corporations don't necessarily have our best interests at heart." And I think that's something that resonates with people, which is why the Umbrella Corporation’s always been an important part of the mythology of the movies.
And while people talk about Resident Evil being zombie movies, for me, they’re more about Alice's struggle with the Umbrella Corporation. It's the struggle of the individual against the big machine. And when Milla [Jovovich] crawls out of that hole in the ground at the start of The Final Chapter, she's in a shattered, devastated Washington D.C., which struck a chord with a lot of people for various reasons.
While we’ve seen some strides over the last few years, we don’t get many female-led franchises, especially when it comes to action films. Had you known at the time the risks you guys were taking with Resident Evil, and do you feel vindicated now after being able to achieve such great success with Milla at the forefront?
Paul W.S. Anderson: I do. But, yeah, it wasn't acceptable in Hollywood cinema, in studio films, at the time. Obviously, there are exceptions to the rule, because there was Ellen Ripley in the Alien movies, but when I first came to Hollywood to make Mortal Kombat, back in the day, there was this rule that females in action movies don't work, and that American studios didn't want to make one. But the first Resident Evil movie was made outside of America, outside of the studio system, so it was very much an independent movie.
And in Europe, the idea of having a woman at the forefront of this kind of film was a lot more acceptable, so we ran with it. We had no American investment in the first film, so we did what we wanted, and it was a big hit. So at that point, we were lobbed in, in that direction.
Jeremy, I know you've worked with Paul now for many, many years, and you guys have another anniversary coming up this year for Event Horizon, which was a really tough production for you guys to all get through. How much did going through an experience like that, making that huge horror science fiction epic, prepare you to start working on the very first Resident Evil movie?
Jeremy Bolt: The experience of Event Horizon was a great training ground for Resident Evil, because it made us very appreciative of the success we found, that all came from so many people's hard work. We both really grew up on Event Horizon. We were very young when we made that film. It was a huge movie for someone to make at my age—I think I was 28 or something, and Paul was maybe 29. It was a bit of a baptism of fire, and it gave us the maturity to be able to manage what we were given with Resident Evil.
Is it cool to see how fans have continued to discover and embrace Event Horizon after 20 years, even if things didn't necessarily go the way you guys wanted to when it was originally released?
Jeremy Bolt: It's very cool. On a personal level, there's a sense of satisfaction, because I knew it was good. I knew it was damn good, and Paul was on fire. I mean, literally. The creativity from him was pretty astonishing. The reception—well, I can't explain that. It is what it is. But it's extremely gratifying that people have discovered it, and like it, and that it's referenced quite a lot now. There are so many great movies that receive critical pannings and then become classics. It's really nice to be in that bunch, to be honest.
Paul, now that you’re looking towards a future without Resident Evil, what’s next for you?
Paul W.S. Anderson: I'm doing Monster Hunter, which is an adaptation of another video game. It's one about all these cool monsters, so I'm staying in my wheelhouse. Not making any romantic comedies in a hurry, that’s for sure [laughs]. But I would one day like to go back to what I did with Event Horizon and do another kind of straight, terrifying horror movie. I would like to do something again, but I haven't quite found the project yet, but I'm definitely looking.