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Though he's been acting for over a decade, and has a significant side career going as a screenwriter, Wentworth Miller is still indelibly associated with a single role: crusading brother Michael Scofield on Prison Break. That may be about to change, though, as Miller takes on his first major role in a feature film, playing Chris Redfield in Resident Evil: Afterlife. Though Chris is a major character in the video game series he's making his first appearance in the movies after four films, reuniting with his sister Claire (Ali Larter) and teaming up with her and Milla Jovovich's Alice on their journey to take down the Umbrella Corporation.
I caught up with Miller at a roundtable interview at this year's Comic Con, where we pestered him for details about jumping on to a franchise like Resident Evil, familiarizing himself with the franchise's history after never playing video games, and why you ought to care about their characters even with all the crazy action going on around them. Read it all below. Resident Evil opens September 10.
Tell us about your role in the film.
Well, I'm playing Chris Redfield. Obviously he's central to the video game from the beginning, but this is his introduction into the movie version of Resident Evil It was a challenge preparing for the part. I wanted to do my research and see what the fan expectation might be, and respect what was already out there in terms of mythology and history. This thing is pretty far down the track, and my job is to jump on and become a seamless part of that larger whole. I like to think that with all of those varying influences, I did my best.
If you're Claire's brother, why didn't she come back and get you in the last movie?
That's an excellent question. There is a reunion of sorts between the two in this movie. What I like about the Chris and Claire Redfield dynamic, and what I think bring something new to the table, is that they are siblings. It's a family relationship. It's something people sitting in the audience can easily identify with. The movie was special effects and zombies out the wazoo, it's an amazing fireworks display. At the same time, if you don't care about the characters, then when something horrible happens to them, it doesn't really resonate. So it was important to flesh out the characters and the relationship between Chris and Claire, for example, to give extra weight to the special effects smorgasbord.
Zombies are an it thing in pop culture right now. Why do you think the zombie is such a great source for fiction and horror?
I think there's something about evil that is thoughtless and relentless that is incredibly frightening, because it can't be reckoned with or reasoned with or stopped. That onslaught of terror, I think, speaks to our darkest fears, that evil is coming for us and there's nothing we can do.
When you become part of something like this, do you go back to the video game for background, or do you treat the movie by itself?
It was a combination of both. I asked the producers to put together a montage of the most significant events from the video games that related to my characters' personal history, so I could get where he came from. I was struck by how, at least in the earlier video games, how bright-eyed and bushy-tailed he seemed. Someone who is at the start of a horrific journey. When you meet him in the movie, he's many miles down that road. He's a very different person with a different vibe to him.
How was the transition being the new guy amongst this cast and crew?
It was fairly seamless. They're a great crew to work with, and there's obviously a significant and complex bedrock that Paul and Milla have created together. Paul built the car, Milla's driving it, and the rest of us are riding shotgun. It was just a chance to hop onboard and enjoy the breeze in your hair.
Was there a particular action sequence you were really excited about shooting?
Oh yeah. The tango between Chris, Claire and Wesker at the end of the movie was inspired directly by what you see in the video game. It's incredibly difficult and complex to choreograph, because you have three people going at it at the same time, but really satisfying to shoot. I think it will be maybe one of the highlights of the movie.
Did the shooting in 3D provide any specific challenges in that sequence?
Yeah, it's a lot harder to cheat the audience in 3D. The camera, it's basically as if it can see around corners. If you throw a punch at someone's face and you don't connect, and of course you never would because it's choreographed-- they can see that. They can see the miss. It challenges us to step up our game and sell these sequences to the audience.