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Last December, the producers of RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE granted FANGORIA exclusive access to the Toronto set of the fourth chapter in their action/horror franchise, derived from the best-selling Capcom video games. For 10 weeks, right up to AFTERLIFE’s September 10 release from Screen Gems, Fangoria.com is presenting a series of one-on-one interviews with the movie’s cast and crew.
Written and directed by film series originator Paul W.S. Anderson, AFTERLIFE once again stars Milla Jovovich as mysterious heroine Alice, who teams with a small group of postapocalyptic survivors in a world overrun with zombies, monsters and agents of the nefarious Umbrella Corporation. For more on the movie, start tracking back through our previous articles here.
Today we talk with star Shawn Roberts, no stranger to zombie-bashing action, having appeared in the George A. Romero movies LAND OF THE DEAD and DIARY OF THE DEAD. He’s notched other good-guy stints fighting werewolves (SKINWALKERS), vampires (BLOOD ANGELS) and demons (a guest spot on last season’s SUPERNATURAL) and recently shared the screen with the biggest monster of them all, Mel Gibson in EDGE OF DARKNESS. AFTERLIFE finds Roberts playing his first full-on villain, the T-virus-superpowered Albert Wesker, the ubiquitous (from the games, at least) Umbrella chairman destined for a punishing smackdown with our heroic protagonist Alice. Fango interviews the bicep-bulging Roberts in his trailer.
FANGORIA: Is this the first time you’ve played a bad guy?
SHAWN ROBERTS: Yeah, yeah. Bad guys are always the most fun, and this guy’s very bad. Definitely the first time on such a scale.
FANG: Is there anything you took from RESIDENT EVIL 5 or the other games to play Wesker?
ROBERTS: Well, absolutely. That was the thing right from the get-go, that we were going to take a lot of cues from RESIDENT EVIL 5. Albert Wesker is—I’ve been told—the favorite character among gamers. So as soon as I heard that the movie was going to be done, I thought, “Great, this gives me a perfect excuse to buy a new video game.” There was no sort of pressure of coming in and taking over someone else’s role or anything like that, so that was good. It’s been fun.
FANG: What goes into your interpretation of Wesker?
ROBERTS: It’s all about control. In his mannerisms, there’s no wasted movement or energy. It all comes into play on set.
FANG: Tell me about your fight scenes. You have one major showstopper, right?
ROBERTS: Yeah, which we took right from the video game. There’s video interplay with the game. We did it shot for shot just like in the game. We have the camera moving in through the fight as it’s going on, shot at like 200 frames a second in super slow-mo. It was awesome. And to have a couple of days to shoot a fight scene has been unheard of thus far in my career. It was certainly a luxury to be able to say, “OK, well, we’re going to do it, and we’re going to do it right.” It’s not just a matter of getting it done, it’s getting it done right. So we took the time and had a few days of rehearsals. Once we got on stage, a lot of it happened hand-to-hand with Wentworth Miller and Ali Larter’s characters. And they were game-on to go through it and run it. A lot of their blocks are skin-on-skin, so there was a lot of contact, but they were game to fully give themselves over to the fight.
The same with Milla—she is the movie, she is RESIDENT EVIL, and you really see it the moment Paul yells “Action.” There is a huge turnover from the warm, loving mother that she is now to the bad-ass character we’ve all grown to love in the series. So watching her do her transformation, and seeing how involved and enthusiastic she is in all of the actual actor action…it just breeds enthusiasm throughout the rest of the cast. It’s pretty exciting, and to be able to do it in 3-D and with this magnitude…it’s something.
FANG: Has the 3-D presented any challenges to you as a performer?
ROBERTS: No challenges, opportunities. There’s a lot of technical stuff that happens and that actors have nothing to do with, but the one thing that is essential is that they find their focus at the beginning of the shot, so there’s no sort of walking around getting into your zone and whatnot. You stand on your mark—we got our focus? OK, now everybody’s ready. The camera has minimal movement since it’s very particular in its focus, but it’s all right there. We all sort of know the world and where we have to move and what our freedoms are. But one of the nice things that Paul’s either doing subconsciously or intentionally is that the symmetry is always perfect. So that’s nice, being about to go back and watch the playback. It’s always awe-inspiring sitting behind the 3-D monitors and instantly seeing how perfect each shot ends up being.
FANG: What about some of the other FX setpieces you’re involved in? Bits and pieces of you get blown off and regenerated.
ROBERTS: Everything from swallowing a sawed-off, double-barrel shotgun and letting it discharge, to a jet smashing into the side of a mountain. You think it would destroy somebody, but not Wesker. Last week we shot the result of the plane crash. I spent six hours in prosthetics getting made up all well-done and crispy. It just looked so cool by the time the makeup was finished; time flew by because I was just sort of watching this magic happen in the mirror. I wish I would’ve set up a time-lapse camera; it was pretty cool. We have lots of actual setpieces or prosthetics that have been built that perhaps later might be recreated with CGI. Even my two undead dogs; we’ve finally had the real dogs built up [with makeup] that everyone was wishing were the fake dogs. And then I got the contact lenses, of course—the trademark contacts.
FANG: Are you a RESIDENT EVIL fan?
ROBERTS: I am! It was so good to be able to tell my friends and family, “Guess what? I’m doing a RESIDENT EVIL movie,” and to hear the excitement. I was a fan of the games since they came out—you know, 8 years old in a friend’s basement, not wanting to go further because it’s so creepy and you don’t know what’s coming. And then the movies came out, and [the filmmakers] did such a good job with them that they were everything a dude wants in a movie. And when I heard that this one was coming, I certainly started to get excited.
FANG: Having come from a career of beating up or running from zombies, was it tough for the casting people to accept you as a bad guy?
ROBERTS: No. That was one of the things—when I first heard about the project, it was the Chris Redfield role that they were looking at, so I wanted to make sure I got in. I got there and did it, and then it wasn’t until I heard that Wentworth had accepted the role that I heard about the Wesker character. So I started going back and re-dressing. I was in Vancouver so I had to make a tape, and it wasn’t until I was literally in the studio and got the sides and did half of the audition with sunglasses on that it just started to bubble and grow in my stomach. I was like, “Oh my goodness, I know this feeling,” and when that happens, it’s always a good thing. It starts to sing to you and really resonate. It was pretty easy to step into these movies.
FANG: Before you go, tell me about this sci-fi movie you did with director Ron Oliver called BLACK RAIN.
ROBERTS: What’s to say? It’s a great movie. Just trying to save some innocent plants and animals from…whatever.
Stop back next week for an interview with RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE producer Don Carmody. And check out FANGORIA #296 (on sale this month), featuring an all-different AFTERLIFE set-visit article.
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