Milla Jovovich Says Video Game Movies Have To Work For Everyone, Not Just Fans
Milla Jovovich is the queen of video game movies. From Resident Evil to Monster Hunter, she’s back.
They’re a fickle thing. Mortal Kombat was a recent success among a small crop of wins, but Hollywood’s hellbent mission on making games work for the big screen often leaves much to be desired. However, the Resident Evil franchise sticks out as an exception to the rule.
From the monumental success of Paul WS Anderson’s first film, several sequels affirmed Jovovich as one of the world’s most recognisable action stars. Five years after the series came to an end, the married star and director are back with Monster Hunter, an adaptation of CAPCOM’s games set against a punishing, immersive desert backdrop.
Ahead of the film’s long-awaited release this week, we spoke to Jovovich about playing Monster Hunter, being synonymous with video game movies, and how filmmakers can beat the infamous curse.
UNILAD: Have you ever played Monster Hunter?
Milla: I have! Are you kidding? It was awesome because… after becoming a parent, it’s hard to find time to play video games. But because of the nature of my work, I actually got to play it as ‘research’ for my character. It gave me a great excuse when my 10-year-old would come and say, ‘Mom, you don’t let me play video games and you’ve been playing for hours!’ And I’m like, ‘Honey, it’s work… not because I’m enjoying myself at all, I’m researching!’
Of course, I’m having so much fun being able to play video games again. Especially this game; it’s so immersive and it’s such a beautiful ecosystem and gorgeous world you’re thrown into. Sometimes, I would just avoid the monsters and just try and walk around the forest and the desert, collecting things and making potions and just enjoying looking around and experiencing it.
UNILAD: Particularly with Resident Evil, you’re likely seen as the face of video game movies. How does that feel?
Milla: For me, even as a kid I was always looking for magical doorways into other worlds, and reading sci-fi and fantasy books. That was my way of escaping. Then, you know, growing up in the 80s, I’d never really seen women in action films until I saw Sigourney Weaver in Aliens. It really made me go, ‘Wow! I wanna do that! I could do that too, I could go into space and kill aliens and I’m strong too!’ It was so inspiring, you know?
I feel like when The Fifth Element came around, it was really a moment for me where I thought, wow, these are opportunities that I have to actually live in these books that I read, to go into these other worlds, to imagine these other universes, to be superhuman and have magic powers and all the things I’d loved growing up… I was able to sort of do in the movies. So, it’s definitely been incredible to be able to live out those fantasies in my real life through these roles and films.
UNILAD: You’ve had a really varied career. You mentioned The Fifth Element, but there’s also the likes of Joan of Arc and The Fourth Kind, which I really like, but have you always wanted to be an action hero?
Milla: I went through my life never really knowing so much what I wanted to do, because acting was something my mom did. Being immigrants in America, my mom just taught me what she knew. I never really got a chance to choose for myself what I wanted to do. So, I think when I did The Fifth Element, it sort of answered some escapist quality in myself that wanted to go to these other places.
After I did that movie, it was only a matter of time before I wanted to do something extraordinary again. Obviously, Joan of Arc was one of those types of experiences. But, I also loved playing Resident Evil with my little brother when I was younger. When I found out the movie was being made, I really jumped at the chance to audition for it and try and get the part.
I wanted to experience fighting again and taking on that position of being a powerful woman on screen. It made me feel the characters from the books I read. I guess it was natural in a sense to be attracted to those kind of roles, for me.
UNILAD: You’re formidable in stunt work, but what was it like to work with someone like Tony Jaa on Monster Hunter?
Milla: It was incredibly humbling to work with Tony. He really is a real-life superhero. I bring a lot of experience to action films, I’ve been doing it for over 20 years, but I need wires. I need movie magic to help me be the persona of these characters, to be able to sell all of these incredible moves. I need help! Tony doesn’t need any of that, this is what he does in everyday life. You’ll be talking to him, he’s excited, he does a backflip. He’s extraordinary.
When doing stunt rehearsals with him, watching him do these incredible kicks and twirls over and over again without wires, without any help, it was just mind-boggling and incredible to watch someone who’s a master of their craft.
UNILAD: What do you think is important when bringing a video game movie to the screen?
Milla: I guess what I’ve learned through the movies that I’ve made and from just working with Paul and his philosophy of it, you have to make a fine line between pleasing the fans who’ve devoted many hours and have so much love for the games themselves and have spent so much time playing them.
But you also have to make movies for people who’ve never played the games as well, and who aren’t gamers who want to enjoy them as well. If you make movies just for the fans, it’s difficult because people who know nothing of the properties feel kind of isolated. They’re not gonna know what’s going on. I think Paul’s been really smart in that the characters written for me weren’t part of the games, they were sort of the audience’s way into the world.
Milla: I am the audience in a sense, I’m seeing it all for the first time. I think that’s important because people want to discover these worlds. I know with something like Resident Evil, a lot of people have come up to me and said, ‘Wow, I never played the game before but after I saw the movies, I started playing the games.’ I think it’s important to be inclusive, not just for fans but people who don’t know anything about it.
The fact is, you have to capture the spirit of something, or you just play the video game. You don’t need to make a movie that is literally like the video game. There’s a lot of people who don’t like playing video games [laughs]. If you wanna make a movie, you need a story there, you need a protagonist, you need to bring life to it as well.
What Paul did so well was he captured the immersive feel of the game. I think of us filming in these incredible locations that were so extreme and so difficult to work with. But at the same time, the only element in Monster Hunter that’s not real is the monsters. Everything else was practically done, filmed on real locations, everything was a practical effect. That really grounds the movie.
Milla: So many movies are done in a studio, on a green screen. That’s spectacular and amazing in its own right, but giving this movie, the new world a sense of reality not only made it immersive for the audience, but immersive for us as actors as well.
We were having to survive these places, we were hundreds of miles away from human habitation, battling giant spiders and creepy crawlies in our tents, having to walk half a mile for the Porta Potty, walking through sound. It was 50°C during the day and below zero at night. Everybody suffered. At the end, Tony Jaa and I literally had sunburnt eyeballs which I never even knew was a thing. After four days of having completely bloodshot eyes, I looked it up and found you can actually sunburn your eyeballs. It was unbelievable.
UNILAD: Are you in anyway involved in the new Resident Evil projects?
Milla: No, I know as much as you do about it. I just know they’re rebooting it in some fashion. Listen, it’s an amazing world, it’s a great game, I’m not surprised they want to continue the franchise.
Monster Hunter will hit UK cinemas on June 18.
If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]