Heading to the big screen this weekend is the latest from Paul W.S. Anderson, Monster Hunter, which is his latest adaptation of a Capcom video game series. Earlier this week, Daily Dead had the opportunity to speak with Anderson about the project, and he discussed how his love for the game series fueled his desire to make the Monster Hunter movie, the challenges they faced while shooting on location, his experiences collaborating once again with his superstar wife, Milla Jovovich, and some of the films that influenced him while making his latest project.
Great to speak with you today, Paul, and I am extremely excited to speak with you about Monster Hunter. I was telling Milla earlier that I've been a big fan of your work for quite some time and your collaborations together, so I was really excited to see what you guys were going to do with this, and it is super-duper fun. It really had some fun fantasy, sci-fi, and adventure vibes. And the spider scenes were a totally nightmare scenario for me, and I'm going to need three pirate kitty movies to follow this up, too. So as soon as we're done, if you could get working on those, that would be awesome [laughs].
Paul W.S. Anderson: [Laughs]. You know, we tested the movie, and it went down very well. And one of the women in the focus group at the end, she didn't know anything about the game at all. We were asking them, "What was your favorite character?" And she said, "Oh, I love that dirty, sexy pirate kitty. We just thought that was so great. And that's what we all called him from then on—he was the dirty, sexy pirate kitty [laughs].
Well, obviously you're no stranger to taking on big video game worlds and adapting them for film. But I was just curious if there was something in particular about Monster Hunter and this world and these monsters that really appealed to you in terms of wanting to take this on?
Paul W.S. Anderson: Well, I played the video game 12 years ago in Tokyo, and at that point, Monster Hunter was very much a Japanese phenomenon, but it was relatively unknown here in the States. I had my first experience with the game, and I just felt like the combination of these giant, beautifully designed creatures and the epic landscapes through which they roamed, I could immediately see that this was a fantastic new world, that if I brought it to the screen, this is a world that I'm quite sure audiences would love to lose themselves in. I felt like they would love to discover it in the same way that I have discovered it, so that really became the start of my love affair with Monster Hunter.
There are a lot of great human characters in this movie, but the monsters are absolutely incredible, and they have personality to them as well. Can you discuss the process of developing these monsters for the screen and having to go through all these games and figuring out which ones made sense to include in this film?
Paul W.S. Anderson: One of the great things about the game is that it's not just the full landscapes with great-looking monsters. There's really a fully thought out, functioning ecosystem the creatures live in. The monsters are very much a part of the landscapes that they inhabit, and we really wanted to bring that to life, which is why we shot in real landscapes. We wanted to kind of repurpose these real landscapes that would add to the reality of the creatures. So, we went against the grain of most modern-day, big visual effects movies, in terms of shooting in studio backlot situations on green screen stages. We went out, and we found the most epic landscapes on Earth we could, and that's where we shot. And I think that really helped bring the creatures to life, because the animators, when they're animating these creatures, they're locking the creatures into real landscapes, real lens flare, real sun, real dust, a real environment.
In terms of the monsters we chose, obviously when you have 15 years of a great video game design to choose from, it was a three-pronged approach. There had to be certain fan favorites in there. For example, the Rathalos is very much the poster boy of the video game, and we worked very closely with the creators of the game, [Ryozo] Tsujimoto and [Kaname] Fujioka, the producer and director of the video game, because this is very much their world, to help choose which monsters would be in the movie, and then help bring them to life as accurately as possible.
So, the Rathalos was an easy choice. And also, I wanted one of my favorite creatures in there, which is the Nerscylla, which is from one of the earlier games. The strength of the Nerscylla for me is that I think it really accesses an almost primal fear that we all seem to be hardwired with, which is this fear of creepy-crawlies and spiders. I have a 10-month-old baby, and with Halloween just having passed, you can see already that she didn't like the spider decorations, so I think it's a fear that we're all born with. I think the Nerscylla taps into that, and even more so, because they're even more unpleasant than just a giant spider, because they have this alien exoskeleton. They're really nightmarish creatures, which I thought would function fabulously in the movie.
Then the choice of the other creatures was very much driven by the knowledge that we have to deliver five or six big action scenes with Milla and Tony [Jaa] fighting big monsters, and I didn't want scenes to become repetitious. I didn't want the first scene to work really well and then to have diminishing returns because it's just another big monster fight. So, in order to avoid that, each of these monster fights had to provide something completely different to the audience. Each creature had to have a different strength or a different weakness, which meant the fight in itself had to be constructed in a different way for Milla and Tony to bring these creatures down.
So the Diablos, for example, is the major creature that lives under the ground that can just suddenly pop up and reacts to vibration. The Nerscylla is the only creature that hides in the darkness and won't come into the light. The Apceros are the only creature where there's a huge, big herd of them, so that we could do that stampede scene. The Rathalos is the first flying creature that you meet, and we build up to that. So, each creature has its own strengths and weaknesses, and that really dictated the action scenes, and the action scenes themselves dictated the force of the creatures.
You've worked with Milla many, many times already, but I was curious if there was something different about your experiences collaborating on this film versus the other collaborations that you guys have had together in the past?
Paul W.S. Anderson: Just the experience of shooting this movie was completely different. This is the first time, because I'd made the decision that I wanted to go out and shoot reality, we went out and we found some of the most exceptional otherworldly landscapes that we could find on Earth. But the problem with those landscapes, of course, is that they were all incredibly remote. So logistically, the shooting of them was quite complex. We were hundreds and hundreds of miles away from the nearest habitation in each of these places. So quite often, the crew and the cast were living in these tent villages that we were renting, where there just wasn't anything. We had to dig a well to provide water. There was no Internet, there was no cellphone reception. During the day, the temperature would be 50 degrees centigrade, and that's like 120 Fahrenheit.
Then as soon as the sun set, the temperatures would go below freezing. Big sandstorms would come up and try and blow all the tents away, and then you'd have all the big, hairy spiders and scorpions and snakes that would harass everybody. So, you realize why no one lives in these places. They looked amazing, but they were very inhospitable. Shooting in that manner was something I'd never really done before, and it really bonded everyone together in the most fabulous way, I have to say. And all of the cast were just terrific. They really rose to the occasion, and there were no prima donnas. Everybody knuckled down and just did a great job.
I think because we were all kind of against the elements, for the actors, it bonded them, which was great for Milla's team, like T.I. and Meagan Good. They all felt like they were at war together. Also, I think it was easy for them to imagine that they'd been transported to this otherworldly landscape, because they really had, and Milla really rose to the occasion, I have to say. Because when you have someone who's as dedicated as she is at the center of your movie, she's so good at making everyone else enthused. It doesn't matter if everyone had a bad night's sleep because their tent was blown away. When you have someone like Milla at the center of your set, it just raises everybody's spirits, which was amazing.
She wanted to be in amazing shape for the movie, too, so she started training nine months before we started shooting and she continued that regime even while we were shooting. Even when we were in the middle of nowhere, she'd be getting up at 3:00 in the morning to work out for an hour and a half before going into hair and makeup. And then halfway through the day, she somehow produced all of these vegetable pancakes that she'd made somehow. And I'm like, "Where did you get the time to cook as well?" I mean, she really was superhuman and just did such a great job.
You mentioned Tony, and I really enjoyed his performance here. I loved the back and forth between The Hunter and Artemis in this movie, because so much of it is unspoken, because there's the language barrier between them. And yet, what they're experiencing and what they're communicating between each other is very universal. In a lot of ways, it really reminded me of all those old westerns I grew up watching. I don't even know if that makes sense, but there was just something really fun about the back and forth between them, where their differences became their commonalities.
Paul W.S. Anderson: I'm glad you mentioned westerns, because that was a big influence on this film. Also, another big inspiration for me were some movies from the '60s, like John Boorman's Hell in the Pacific, where Toshiro Mifune and Lee Marvin are trapped on a desert island together, and they start off initially as enemies that don't speak the same language. But they realize that in order to survive and escape, they need to learn how to work together. And in doing so, they build a friendship. And that for me is the core of the movie. It's the message of the video game, too.
The video game also puts great emphasis on collaboration in order to bring down these big creatures, and that's very important to the movie as well. At the heart of the movie is a pretty simple message, which is people who are from different countries, different cultures, speaking different words, have to learn how to work together for the greater good. And I think that's a pretty cool message to have in the times we live in. Because even before COVID, it felt like we're living in increasingly divisive times, where people want to close themselves off from other people's opinions. And I don't think that's a healthy way to be. I think that as a civilization, we need to learn how to work together for the greater good, and if you have to beat giant monsters, that's exactly what it needs to be.
Check here to catch up on Heather Wixson's previous coverage of Monster Hunter, including her review of the film!