“Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City” is currently screening in Malaysian cinemas. As mentioned in our movie review, this version harkens back to Paul W.S. Anderson and Milla Jovovich’s rendition of the film franchise rather than the original game’s creative roots.
In this interview, Robbie Amell talks about his character Chris Redfield’s storyline and his sibling dynamic with Kaya Scodelario’s Claire, favourite scene to shoot, scary zombies, and more.
1) As a fan of the “Resident Evil” games, what drew you to them in the first place?
“It is actually one of my earliest video game memories. I remember sitting in my basement playing Resident Evil and dogs jumping through the window and scaring the hell out of me. And I just thought that was pretty cool.”
2) What were the scares of “Resident Evil” left such an imprint on you?
“I am sure a lot of people, like myself, loved the jump scares and the anticipation and fear. It was the first game of its kind and it resembles going to a haunted house or going to an amusement park or watching a scary movie and I had never experienced that in video game form. So that fear and danger while knowing that you are not actually in any danger, you get the adrenaline, the rush, but you are sitting in the comfort of your own home.”
3) Being a fan, how hard did you chase after this role when you knew this film was being made?
“I legitimately had no idea this movie existed until my agent told me. I had a one year old at the time and it was COVID and my wife and I just got back from Toronto and we were just living in our own little bubble. My agent phoned me and said hey, I’ve been talking to “Resident Evil” about you. I am going to send you the script. If you like it, we will set up a Zoom with the director. And I told him, set up the Zoom with the director. He’s like, you want to read it? I said, I do but I know the answer is yes.
So, I read the script, and then I sat down for an hour on Zoom and just geeked out over the games. I could see what a fan Johannes (Roberts – director) was and how passionate he was about this world, bringing it to life and making it a true adaptation of “Resident Evil” 1 and 2. Honestly, I would have done anything for the role.
At the end of the call, Johannes said, well, I would love to make this movie with you so we will be in touch. And he hung up and I was like, wait a second, is this role mine? I walked out and my wife is standing in the living room and I am like, I think I got it. It was just like one of those, right place, right time, right people involved. It was a dream come true for me.”
4) Even though Resident Evil has a set of parameters set up from the games, Johannes approached this film with a very collaborative and open approach. What was the experience like for you?
“Right from the beginning we were on the same page which was great. We both were huge fans of the games and talked about the way he was going to shoot it and the tone of the movie and the things that mattered the most to bring over from the game to the feature. Then other places where he would have to build out that connective tissue and get these characters’ backstories. I agree, it was super collaborative, but he was also the captain of the ship and he was the right person to do that. I knew the second I met with him that this was the guy who was going to make the “Resident Evil” adaptation that fans have been waiting for, the one that feels true to the games.
What he did that was so special was he took what everyone loves about the games and then he made the characters human beings and gave them flaws and made you care about them because at the end of the day if you don’t care about these characters, it doesn’t matter how much it looks like the video games, it’s just not going to matter.
Johannes was incredible and the detail is just unbelievable. Every day on set there was some new Easter Egg or a new thing that made me go, oh my God, this is so much like the game. And then he put together such a great cast that I think really embodied the characters from the games and I think people are going to be super excited to see them brought to life.”
5) To then go into fitting and wear all of Chris Redfield’s gear, what was your first day like when all of that stuff was on you?
“It was unbelievable. The green Vietnam flak jacket. We tried on a few other vests and then we went to that one and it was kind of like, well, how could we not do this? This is just perfect. It’s iconic. It works the second I put it on.”
6) What about the first day you walked onto set?
“The first real day was walking into the Spencer Mansion. That front entrance way that you run through a thousand times playing the game, it looked so spot on and it was one of those surreal moments that I’ll never forget. I was back to my childhood playing the game, I’m just living it now. Everybody was so passionate and were such fans of “Resident Evil”, it just felt like we were making something special.”
7) How did you approach playing Chris, especially since the character has such a strong fanbase playing him in the games?
“I’m one of those fans! I had grown up playing the games. I’ve continued to play the games because I am still a gamer. I know this world better than most things that I read or auditioned for. It helps that I kind of look like the human being version of Chris Redfield.
Before I read the script, I knew that with video game adaptations, there’s that fine line to give the fans what they want but also make something fresh and something exciting for them to see. And I think Johannes did such a great job of that with the script.
In the games, Chris is a little bit flat. He’s a small-town super cop, by the books and punches boulders. I couldn’t really fit that into the movie anywhere. But the nice thing about this version in the movie is you meet him and he has flaws and he has regrets about how he’s handled things with his sister and he doesn’t have a great relationship with his old mentor Birkin (Neal McDonough) either.
Things aren’t amazing for him and he’s in this town that is falling apart. I think that that just makes him more of a complete human being than in the video games and it gives people something to reflect themselves and see themselves in. From an acting standpoint, that’s more interesting to play than a super soldier.
The nice thing was I always knew that the action scenes would come and that it would be fun to watch Chris fight the zombies as a badass, but getting there, from a character standpoint, was where I was going to be able to do things my own.”
8) Why do you think Chris drunk the Raccoon City Kool Aid and yet his sister Claire (Kaya Scodelario) returns convinced something is wrong with this town?
“I think as the older brother, Chris probably didn’t think that Claire was serious about her conspiracies and he just kind of brushed them aside. When she actually left, he is filled with regret mixed with anger, because not only does he regret how he handled things, but there’s also that anger of her leaving and abandoning him.
Chris tries to wrestle and come to terms with his childhood and forgive himself and also forgive Claire. After she leaves, he doesn’t have anyone anywhere else and he doesn’t have anywhere else to go. I think whether he drank the Kool Aid or whether he was just lying to himself, pretending everything was fine and slowly growing more unhappy over time, I think a lot of people can relate to that; it’s just getting stuck in this rut in this one place. And leaving sounds easy when you say it out loud but starting fresh somewhere with nothing is a big step for a lot of people.”
9) How fun was it when your fellow actors all showed up in character as a group?
“The first day that we all worked together, we did the helicopter scene. And just everyone hopping out of the helicopter and running into the woods towards the exterior of the Spencer Mansion. And I mean we have got the STARS helicopter and then everybody is hopping in and hopping out. It’s straight out of the game. We are in the middle of nowhere going through the woods and we have the exterior facade of the Spencer Mansion. That was the kind of pinch me moment where it was like, this is so sick.”
10) There is an amazingly tense sequence in the film where Chris is trapped in the Spencer Mansion with only a partially working flashlight, surrounded by zombies. Can you break down that extremely scary scene especially knowing that Johannes is a big fan of long shots?
“Thank you, it was my favorite to shoot. I talked to Johannes after I read the scene in the script and it was like this sounds really awesome. He explained that it was only going to be lit by muzzle flash and we are only going to see snippets of the zombies coming after you. He wanted the scene to be very visceral and very real. So, I spent a full day with the stunt coordinator and ten stunt players dressed as zombies and we just rehearsed and choreographed this fight from start to finish and we shot it as a oner a bunch of times. We ended up doing snippets of coverage throughout but that fight scene was me and stunt doubles ripping through in one take and it was awesome. It was kind of like a John Wick moment for me and I loved it.”
11) The production designers were leaving all these little gems for the fans to catch while watching the film, did you find any of them while on set?
“The fight scene in the dining hall has the picture behind me on the wall where in the game if you press X on it, it says, “two knights fighting” and I was like “are you serious? This is so cool.”
The attention to detail of Easter Eggs was something that surprised me. I mean it was something that I hoped for, but it still surprised me. Honestly a bunch of these ideas came from the crew who are just really invested in the project and care about what they are doing and are excited about making this true to the games. In the laboratory they had red, blue, and green herbs where I was like this is so obvious but at the same time good for you guys for actually doing this. I took a picture of it. Fans of the games are going to lose their minds and they are not going to catch everything on watch one. You can watch two, three times and you will find something new. The sets are unbelievable, I mean Johannes asked Capcom for the blueprints for the police station and the Spencer Mansion, they are unbelievable.”
12) The looks of the zombies get crazier and crazier.
“That was the thing. It was scary at first, and then one of them would be drinking a coke and that’s not really scary. But it was great. What was really beneficial to us were most of the zombies were stuntmen and women and so you could get more aggressive and not worry about hurting another actor. You could really stage these interactions so that it felt real and dangerous and authentic and where nobody was pulling any punches.
It’s definitely less scary to make a horror movie than it is to watch one. When you are just there, you are surrounded by a ton of people, it’s not as dark as it looks on screen. And someone yells cut and everyone is like are you good, are you okay, let’s go again. Everybody is just worried about one another.”
13) Kaya mentioned that she only had one day of daytime shoot during the whole period, was that the same experience for you?
“I would say it was half and half. Most of the daytime shoots were just interiors that we put covers over windows to shoot day for night. But it wasn’t atrocious night shoots for three months, everyone was still able to live some semblance of a normal life. I had a one-year-old at home so I had to keep up some kind of normalcy.”
14) How was working on “Resident Evil” different from other films you’ve been on?
“I have never worked with this level of special effects makeup before. I think the practical side of things on this movie were so great and it just works so much better than visual effects. Obviously when you want something bigger you need visual effects because it would be crazy to try and make an animatronic Birkin stage three zombie. I thought the practical side of things was really impressive and that was really cool to watch.”
15) There are a couple of sequences which pay tribute to the game. Can you talk about some of your favorites?
“One of the first zombies I encountered is the zombie in the white coat. That turn over his shoulder, that’s pulled straight from the game and it works so well. I think the nice thing was in the game when you are playing “Resident Evil” you know there are zombies, so you are not that scared in the first one, you are more like oh cool. And the difference is in the movie, Chris doesn’t know there are zombies, Aiken (Chad Rook) doesn’t know there are zombies, when this thing turns around, it’s like what the hell is this, what is going on?
There are a million things running through your mind and then the Chris Redfield side of things kicks in and it’s like okay, action, which is just fun to play with as an actor, is getting to have those natural reactions and then lean into the character and give people what they know and love from the video games.”
16) What was it like to see your colleagues play out these characters that you know so well from the games?
“It was awesome. I mean the big thing was Johannes just knows the story and the game so well. He casts people who are innately like those characters. Hannah (John-Kamen) is a total badass and is perfect for Jill Valentine, Avan (Jogia) is just awesome and has that sense of humor that you kind of need with Leon. Kaya is incredible, Tom (Hopper) is a big scary dude when he wants to be, which is great for Wesker because he should be this guy who becomes pretty villainous throughout this franchise. I just think that Johannes did such a great job of casting that everybody was just already kind of ready for those characters.”
17) The previous “Resident Evil” movies has created such a legacy. What do you hope this version will accomplish for the fans?
“I am a big fan of the prior movies, I think Milla Jovovich is amazing. I have seen every single one of them. I think what’s really cool about our movie is that it is a totally different, true adaptation of “Resident Evil” 1 and 2 games. It’s just something new and something different. It can exist at the same time, but it is its own thing. As a gamer, I am really excited about bringing the video games to life and I think that it is the adaptation that fans of the games have been waiting for. At the end of the day, these things are subjective and some people will love ours and some people will love the other ones more or some people will love both and just kind of take in as much “Resident Evil” things as they can because it’s a great franchise. And I am kind of in that boat, I like both.”