Inquirer Super

Milla Jovovich is killing it

By: Ruel S. De Vera

Believe it or not, Milla Jovovich is slaying it like never before—and slaying more things than ever before, except in her new movie, “Monster Hunter,” she’s slaying, you know, monsters instead of zombies. You may have gotten used to Jovovich slaughtering zombies because she’s been doing just that as Alice in the six “Resident Evil” movies since 2002. She is now that recognizable strong female action lead who can carry not just a movie but an entire franchise by herself, something audiences haven’t seen since the 1980s when Sigourney Weaver and Linda Hamilton were wasting Xenomorphs and T-800s.

And yet Jovovich, now 45, got her controversial start in Hollywood by being one of the youngest actors around. Born in the Ukranian capital of Kiev, Jovovich’s family decamped to Los Angeles when she was 5. Her otherworldly looks got her a modeling contract by the time she was 12. She shocked audiences by appearing nude in “Return to the Blue Lagoon” when she was 15. Yet she really stole the scenes as the alien messiah Leeloo in Luc Besson’s 1997 sci-fi passion project “The Fifth Element.” Since then, she’s played everyone from St. Joan of Arc to “Zoolander” baddie Katinka Ingaborgovina.

But it was when her future husband Paul W.S. Anderson cast her as the lead in the first “Resident Evil” movie that she became a worldwide box-office draw.

Now, Jovovich takes the lead again in another movie directed by her husband—one also based on a successful Capcom video game. “Monster Hunter” begins with a unit of Army Rangers led by Jovovich’s Lt. Natalie Artemis finding themselves in a strange world populated by monsters. Only with the help of a fierce warrior she calls Hunter (“Ong Bak” star and elite martial artist Tony Jaa) can Artemis hope to survive, dice up some Black Diablos and get back to her world. Jovovich spoke to Super in a telephone interview about what may be the start of a whole new killer franchise for her. Here are excerpts:

Milla Jovovich is Lt. Natalie Artemis in “Monster Hunter.”

You just finished a six-movie franchise built on a video game. What attracted you to start what may be another multimovie franchise built on another famous video game?

You know, I’m married to the man. You know, it’s hard to say no when your husband brings you something and says I wrote this for you. But to be honest, I did roll my eyes and said “Paul, we just finished ‘Resident Evil.’ I’ve been killing zombies for 15 years and now you want me to hunt monsters.” And it was like, “Trust me just read it, I think you’re gonna love it.” And listen, I have to say I really love the character he wrote for me. I have family on both sides from the military, and I’ve always had such a fascination with everything that had to do with the military. I’d always watch documentaries and whenever I talked to my grandparents, I would always ask them about their experiences in the military. My grandmother was a nurse in World War II. My grandparents and great grandparents on my father’s side were at war for generations. It’s something that’s in my blood so to be able to play a soldier, and on top of it a female Army Ranger, was an opportunity I definitely didn’t want to miss.

Tony Jaa, Milla Jovovich and director Paul W.S Anderson discuss a scene.

You started your career as a model and as a dramatic actress doing a lot of ingenue rules. Now, you’re playing badass roles and really action-oriented strong female leads. Did you see yourself at the beginning ever playing these roles? How important do you think it is to be carrying franchises by yourself as a strong female lead?

I guess it’s not something that I ever planned but I have to say, growing up in the ’80s, there just weren’t very many women playing the leads in action movies. I remember being a little girl and seeing “Aliens” with Sigourney Weaver for the first time and just being so inspired by that and being like, “Yes, I want to be her and I could be her. I want to go to space I want to kill aliens, I want to save the world.” And [I remember] definitely feeling disappointed that there weren’t more movies where, as a little girl, could feel inspired like that. Especially because as a child, I was always so fascinated with sci-fi and fantasy and I was always really inspired by magic. I was always looking for magical doorways to go into and different alternate universes to go into. I feel like that was so much a part of me growing up. When I did “The Fifth Element,” it really hit me how exciting it was for me because I felt like here was my magical doorway that I had been looking for my whole life, here was a place where I could be a superhero, where I could save the world, where I could learn martial arts and fly in the air and do all these amazing things. I guess once I did that movie, I really wanted to do that again. And I was a big fan of “Resident Evil” the video game. I played it so much when I was younger. When I found out they were making the movie, I really wanted to audition for it because I wanted to feel that excitement again of going into these crazy universes and doing these extraordinary things.

The Hunter (Tony Jaa) in action

You’re anything but a damsel in distress in your recent movies but you have also done the occasional dramatic movie. You are much better known now not as an action lead but do you see yourself doing more diverse roles in the future?

Listen, I’m open to anything. You know, I love doing what I do. We’ll see where the opportunities take me. For the moment, being a mother and making movies with my husband has just been all that I’ve had time to do.

You are one of the most recognizable actresses, period, regardless of the genre. What does that feel like?

For me, making these movies is really so fun and definitely answered all those things that I wanted to do when I was a little girl. It’s wonderful to be able to have a job where you can live in these fantastical worlds and see through the eyes of these extraordinary characters. I just love it so much. It’s been such an exciting career.

I thought it was a very smart thing to alter the beginning of the movie because by the end of the movie Lt. Artemis really looks like a character out of the video game. Your character does a great job of letting the audience feel like a player in the game.

That’s exactly what we wanted. No, that’s what Paul wanted. He wanted the audience to be able to see the “Monster Hunter” world for the first time through my eyes, as someone who had never experienced it before.

What do you want viewers to take with them after watching “Monster Hunter?”

I mean, number one, I want people to have a great time. I think it’s so important right now, especially because we’re going through a pandemic. It’s been such a difficult year for everyone in the world. I think it’s important for people to be able to escape and just immerse themselves in something different and something fun and something adventurous and I think this movie does all of that. I just want people to have an amazing time watching it and be able to escape for a few hours.

“Monster Hunter” will be opening in Philippine cinemas soon.