“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, Kaya Scodelario talks about doing a bunch of research on her character Claire Redfield, the sibling dynamic in the movie, and how previous projects helped in this project.
1) “Resident Evil” has such a legacy in both films and the games, what is your relationship with it?
“My past relationship with “Resident Evil” began with the movies. I was born in 1992 so I was just a teenager when the movies started coming out and I really loved them because of how millennium they were.
They are just the most early 2000s thing ever, from the music to the colors to the speed of it all, it’s very flashy and crazy and I remember thinking God this is a real trip. I had a couple of boyfriends who I knew who had played the game as kids but never really in my kind of world until I began researching the role.
So, the first thing I did after reading the script was to buy a PS4 and to buy the game and I sat there with my husband and a glass of wine and I started to play. Very quickly I asked him to play while I watched, and very quickly he couldn’t handle it either and the two of us just went on YouTube and watched other people playing it because we got too terrified. I couldn’t believe how much of a narrative and an amazing story it really has, especially in the games.
They are so dense and interesting, so clever and horrifically terrifying that it’s kind of a no-brainer to make a horror movie around that.”
2) What was it like going into this film, knowing that the fanbase is so strong, especially with your character Claire Redfield.
“There’s a huge responsibility with it and something that I really respect. People have grown up with Claire, multiple generations even. And with that comes great responsibility.
I spoke long and hard with Johannes (Roberts – director) about how we could marry the two because they are different worlds. It is impossible to translate a game directly to screen as they are just different mediums, and there are certain things that won’t work. Little details for instance, like the hair, the ponytail, it’s so iconic, but on screen, under rain machines, it doesn’t look good. Any woman will tell you a wet ponytail is very sad. And so little things like that we had to evolve, but we really tried to keep the core of what the fans loved about the characters and the stories. There are little Easter Eggs in the background and things like the red jacket. We worked really hard on finding a jacket that represented the early versions of the games and also still looked good in a kind of 90s world.
I did a lot of research on the fan made Wikipedia pages out there about Claire, which are great and so detailed, down to her favorite food and favorite music and they come from people that really love her and love this world. So, I wanted to focus my attention and research on what the fans really loved and we could give them as almost a love letter to them, a thank you.”
3) When fans love a character who is iconic in the games, how do you as an actor translate that into an actual performance?
“I made a conscious effort to not watch any other live action versions of her. For me what is always the most important thing is the script in front of you because that is what you are going to be shooting on the day. So that’s where you should begin with. The source material is something that you use for research and to influence you, but the core of the project is going to be the script. Luckily the words were there and the nuances of her character were there, and I really love that she is introduced as this kind of badass street kid with moments of extreme vulnerability and trauma that come up in the film.
There’s a reason why she’s on this journey back to her hometown and so it was quite easy to kind of focus on when playing the stronger scenes, knowing that this is all stemming from a very intense childhood trauma that influences everything that she does.”
4) What’s lovely about Claire is even though she’s a strong heroine, she’s flawed and human. What was that like to play?
“Well luckily, I am a bit useless, so I allowed a bit of myself into it. You are right, Claire is not a superhero, she isn’t a robot, she is a young woman who had to learn things for herself. I made sure that there were jocular movements in her fighting.
The police force are very smooth when they are shooting their guns because they are very trained and elite, but Claire is messier, kind of a rough-and-ready version of that. I’m quite like that in life anyway, so I was able to inject a little bit of that into her.
With the guns we trained really hard with an amazing armorer who was incredibly safe and knew what he was doing and I perfected being able to handle a gun and hold the gun, feel the gun, and also allowed the moments to be instinctual and natural so if there is a zombie running towards you, you are going to be scared for a second. We allowed that messiness to form her as well.”
5) In “Resident Evil”, what is the relationship Claire has with her brother Chris (Robbie Amell)? They fall under different sides of the spectrum in terms of what they think of Raccoon City.
“I think we tried to portray quite a realistic representation of siblings in that when Claire returns home it isn’t this big beautiful emotional reunion, if anything they are quite salty with each other. There are definitely years of tension and drama and history that is quite difficult for them to navigate in the beginning, but slowly build on throughout the movie. Robbie and I worked very hard on that.
When they were in an orphanage as very young children, Chris was very protective of Claire, he took care of her, until an incident happened that he just didn’t believe her. And I think that really, really hurt her and that’s the reason why she left Raccoon City and the reason why it’s so difficult for her to come back and be around him at first because she has lost that trust in him.
There is one big scene where we are talking and trying to help each other but still picking on each other, a little bit petulant, like siblings do. And that is really fun to play because I don’t have siblings myself, so I really enjoyed the dynamic that we worked on.”
6) What was it like the first time the whole cast were together dressed as their characters?
“That day was also definitely the best day of shooting. For three months we only shot nights and it was only pitch black, freezing cold. But we had one day where we didn’t shoot nights. At the very end of the shoot, we had one daylight scene and it was the first time we had all been on set together.
Because of COVID and the pandemic, we couldn’t do the normal things, like go to dinners and bond and have read throughs. We were kept quite separate and only really got to see the people that were in our scenes with us.
But this last day, we all stood in a row together and suddenly it felt like we were the “Power Rangers” or something. And that’s the core of what is amazing about acting. It’s playing pretend and being kids again. There is this inner child in you thinking, oh my God, this is so cool, we are actually the characters from “Resident Evil”. It was amazing to see Hannah (John-Kamen) dressed as Jill Valentine, standing next to these other iconic characters who have come to life in front of you. So that was by far the best day of shooting.”
7) What was that like for you to go on these sets after seeing them in the games or in drawings?
“It was great, it was a really great gift, because a lot of times, even on big movies, a lot of the sets are CGI and they can be digitally put in afterwards. But to get actual real practical buildings to walk in and out of, that is such a gift to any actor, especially with this movie. We are really working to make sure the tension is right and the atmosphere is a character in itself.
For example, the orphanage was a real abandoned boy’s school and it was creepy as hell, it was like you can’t recreate that, that is a real part of the energy of the building. And there were actually abandoned beds still there and shoes and things that as an actor, it’s such a gift to be able to rely on. It just makes it very, very easy to feel freaked out when you are in a super creepy place and it’s three o’clock in the morning.”
8) Were there any creepy moments on set?
“I was worried more that there would be any real ghosts that may have been there, I think we were the scary ones. Going to the toilet was the most surreal thing on any job I have ever done before, because you are always trying to find a Port-a-Potty and there was a queue of zombies waiting outside it to go in, a very bizarre job sometimes.”
9) What was it like to work with a collaborative director like Johannes Roberts?
“It was really, really helpful. It’s a shame that it is a rarity but it really is. Johannes isn’t a master and commander, he isn’t trying to control everyone, we aren’t puppets to him. We are collaborators and creating something together. He allowed me to have a lot of say and a lot of details that a lot of other directors wouldn’t have. We worked together closely on the costumes, on the hair and makeup, on dialogue. Sometimes people forget that even though we are making movies, we are not saving the world. The work environment should be fair and it should be equal and collaborative. Usually that begins and ends with the director and he was very, very open to making us feel a part of it in a way that we enjoyed going to work every day. And so, we are able to make better work.”
10) Because you’ve worked on other films that were very physical (“Maze Runner”, “Crawl”), how was the “Resident Evil” shoot compared to them? Did working on those films allow you to experience things easier on this one?
Of course, “Maze Runner” taught me that cardio is super important and that’s something that I hated before. So shooting any movie physically takes a lot out of you. As I have gotten more mature, I have focused on keeping healthy and fit between jobs, so that when the jobs come along it’s not so much of a stretch to get there.
And “Crawl” really, really helped me learn that film can be agony and to never complain. “Crawl” took me to the deepest, darkest depths of pain as an actor and misery. I am very proud of it and it was really cool, but it was the worst time of my life. But it’s kind of great that the bar was set so high, so that with something like “Resident Evil”, I know that I can handle and enjoy it.
I really love throwing myself in. I am one of those actors who wants to do it all themselves and wants to learn and wants to make it look as real as possible. I don’t sit in my trailer and do my nails; I am on set all the time and I am eager to get involved. So, Johannes really let me do as much physically as would be safe.
11) I love the fact that probably ten years ago you probably would never have thought that you would have this varied acting career that included being an action star.
“It’s been very strange. It definitely wasn’t a conscious decision. I started in very indie, English character roles and playing a lot of mental health parts and very low budget in muddy fields in the North of England. And then somehow, Wes Ball, the director of “Maze Runner” had seen me in “Skins” and I don’t really know why, but thought I was right for Teresa. That started the ball rolling in the States with action movies. And I’ve just really enjoyed and loved it. Most of my friends find it quite shocking because they know that I am not like that in real life at all. I am a “I’ll have a pint in the pub” kind of girl. But for some reason, Hollywood likes it, so I am grateful and I will keep doing it.”
12) Do you have any battle scars from this film?
“I didn’t on this one. My battle scar is that I never want to go through a Canadian winter ever again. I love Canada, Canadians are great, but my God that is a cold country, I have never been so cold in my life. Yeah, I am afraid of the nighttime and cold and zombies forever now.”\
13) Did you book a shoot that is all daytime after this film?
“I’m petitioning for the second “Resident Evil” movie to be shot in Hawaii. I think that makes the most sense.”
14) Because the previous “Resident Evil” films were such massive successes, what was it like for you to be part of the series?
“I think we are just being very respectful of the other movies in that they were great and they were of their time, but what we are doing is different. We are rooted in horror and we are rooted in trying to give the fans something that they will remember from the games that will really take them back to that version of storytelling and that atmosphere and that feeling.
But we are very grateful that they both coexist and we have these awesome action movies alongside our slightly darker horror movies. The whole universe of “Resident Evil” fans can enjoy all of it and they are the reason that we are here and get to make these movies. As long as they still want this, we are going to give it to them.”