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Paul W.S. Anderson and Milla Jovovich: A Marriage Built on Monsters

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The filmmaker Paul W. S. Anderson has directed Milla Jovovich in at least 4 movies within the apocalyptic “Resident Evil” franchise, and written two more she starred in. That’s along with directing her in “Monster Hunter” (2020) and a 2011 version of “The Three Musketeers.”

But what might sound like a series of genre nightmares is actually a dream arrangement: Anderson and Jovovich are married, with three children. A shared love of visual storytelling — often in the shape of Jovovich destroying monsters in Anderson’s postindustrial wastelands — has energized them during a 20-odd-year collaboration, which began with “Resident Evil” (2002), an adaptation of a video game that each had played. (A separate “Resident Evil” series is now on Netflix.)

On a recent video call, I spoke with the cheery couple about their partnership: Jovovich, 46, from Los Angeles, having recently wrapped “Breathe,” a dystopian thriller; Anderson, 57, from Krakow, Poland, where he’s in preproduction on their next project, “Within the Lost Lands,” based on a brief story by George R. R. Martin. The family business continues with their daughter Ever Anderson, who stars as Wendy in David Lowery’s forthcoming “Peter Pan & Wendy.” This interview has been condensed and edited.

How did you first meet?

PAUL W.S. ANDERSON We were going into Pinewood Studios [outside London] to begin production on “Event Horizon,” and so they were tearing down these really cool-looking sets for “The Fifth Element” [starring Jovovich] that had just finished shooting. Our paths almost crossed there. After which we were at a premiere together, individually.

MILLA JOVOVICH A premiere?

ANDERSON Yeah! A Drew Barrymore movie. “Never Been Kissed.”

JOVOVICH I can never imagine you watching a rom-com like that! That’s hilarious.

ANDERSON I used to be obviously drawn for another excuse, since you were there. Then I finally met Milla officially for the primary time in 2000, right before we did “Resident Evil.” She was sitting on the steps outside my office. I assumed she was the coolest-looking woman on the planet. And I had just seen this really cool truck parked on the road outside — and it was her truck.

What was it like giving notes in your first movie together?

JOVOVICH Oh, my God, it was a disaster. I had read for a certain version of the movie, and I got the brand new rewrite the night before I needed to go to Berlin [to shoot]. Paul had just about written me out of the movie. I used to be the damsel in distress that Michelle Rodriguez was saving continuously — the “Look out! Behind you!” girl. So by the point I got to the hotel, Paul’s very sweet producing partner was there with flowers, and I grabbed the flowers and said, “I need to see Paul in my room inside the hour. There won’t be any script readings within the morning!” Then I quickly modified, did my makeup, placed on a extremely low-cut top and met for some script revisions. [Laughs] He said, “What’s the issue?” I said, “OK, let’s start: Page 1!”

Do you’re employed together in any respect on writing the stories now?

JOVOVICH Paul is the author, I just ask questions, trying to know where my character matches in. He does the heavy lifting, and I are available and put a kink within the works occasionally.

ANDERSON But that’s a hugely necessary a part of the method, and Milla’s really good on script. I remember on “Resident Evil: Afterlife” [2010], I’d written the script, and Milla was like, “It’s just missing something. It needs some signature motion scene where I do something, some form of aerial combat. And I had a dream last night: I used to be jumping down an elevator shaft.” And I assumed, oh, my God, that’s an incredible idea. I went away and did a giant rewrite. And “Resident Evil: Afterlife” opens with this needle-dive sequence, where it’s on this underground skyscraper. She was right!

What do you’re feeling are one another’s strengths when it comes to filming motion?

JOVOVICH Paul is the motion master. It made lots of sense once I discovered that he was the Dungeon Master [as a kid] because you might have to have that imagination to direct five nerds playing Dungeons & Dragons for 18 hours at a time. And he still does it with our youngsters now. It’s a lot fun. I’ve all the time been fascinated by the best way Paul’s mind works, since you’re the nicest guy, but in your head you’ve got these horrifying, disgusting visions and fantasies.

ANDERSON Monsters from the id!

JOVOVICH Who knows what would have happened when you couldn’t take it out in your movies? You’d be having this conversation from prison.

Milla, your mother was an actor. Was that an influence for you?

JOVOVICH My mother was a movie star in the previous Soviet Union. We defected in 1981 or something to America, my parents literally ranging from zero. My mom tried to show me what she knew to assist us get a leg up in a latest country. So for me, acting was probably not a alternative. It was more of a necessity. I feel like perhaps a part of the explanation it’s so hard for me to observe myself onscreen is because I never truly had that belief in myself that I could possibly be nearly as good as her. But I don’t resent my mom for it; now I’m really grateful for it, because with my very own daughter [Ever Anderson], I feel like I actually nurtured her talent.

Paul, were there filmmakers which have inspired you?

ANDERSON The Scott brothers were an enormous inspiration, because Ridley and Tony got here from the north of England as well. It was shipbuilding and coal mining, and by the point I used to be a child, it was all industrial decay and unemployment.

Is the commercial decay a key to all of the postapocalyptic landscapes in these movies?

JOVOVICH Paul is the king of commercial decay. My mom all the time complains. [Russian accent] “Why you never put her in evening gown and make beautiful, glamorous hair. At all times dirty. At all times filthy. At all times blood. At all times horrible locations. Disgusting.” [Anderson laughs]

ANDERSON I remember going into the makeup trailer of “Resident Evil: Extinction” within the desert in Mexico [on a visit to the set of the 2007 film directed by Russell Mulcahy]. Milla’s in there and the makeup artist was just putting on a lot dirt. I’m like, that’s enough dirt! And you can see Milla was a little bit disgruntled. I see her outside a minute later, she’s chasing a truck around, since it’s kicking up all this dust. And she or he’s just attempting to get extra dirty!

JOVOVICH I’m telling you, nothing suits me higher than blood and mud.

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