Though their partnership officially began in 2001, in a strange way the relationship between Paul W.S. Anderson and Constantin started with his first pic, “Shopping,” in 1994. The film caused controversy in his native U.K. over its violent dystopian style, which didn’t do Anderson any good at home, but brought him and his producer Jeremy Bolt to Hollywood to adapt the videogame Mortal Kombat, kicking off its franchise.
” ‘Shopping’ showed a lot of action and youthful rebellion,” Bolt says. “It got quite a bit of attention and showed a desire to make American-style movies.”
Some years later, Anderson bumped into Bernd Eichinger, then head of Constantin, who had seen “Shopping” at a German film festival and was impressed.
“I’d made a small British art movie, but I wanted a spectacular opening because I wanted it to be cinematic at a time when I felt British cinema wasn’t,” Anderson says. “And we’d run out of money so I spent my entire director’s fee to do all these helicopter shots. And the first time I met Bernd, he said, ‘As soon as I saw those helicopter shots at the start of your movie, I knew you were a filmmaker I wanted to work with.’ ”
As the ink was drying on the contract, Anderson had become obsessed with a videogame called Resident Evil, and was eager to adapt it for the bigscreen. He and Bolt inquired about the rights only to find that they had been sold two years earlier. To Constantin.
“It was a very happy coincidence all around,” says Anderson. “As (our shingle) Impact, we had just done a joint-venture deal with them, they had a property that they had been developing unsuccessfully, and I came in with passion and energy to breathe new life into it. So it was off to the races.”
Today the partnership has proven successful. The 3D “Resident Evil: Afterlife” was Constantin’s first global No. 1 movie, and “Three Musketeers,” also a 3D film, is the biggest movie they’ve ever made. Anderson is about to shoot the fifth “Resident Evil” in 3D and his next project, “Pompeii,” also in 3D, expects to be even bigger.
But with “Three Musketeers,” Anderson is already toning down the violence in favor of action and hoping to reach a wider family-friendly audience.
“In the past we’ve been quite successful in hitting boys and men, and we want to expand that market now and appeal to women as well,” Bolt says.
While not yet ready to announce, Anderson and Bolt say they are developing a number of projects with Anderson concentrating on directing maybe one large-scale film per year and Bolt looking to produce additional films through the company.
“We’re looking at branded high-end genre projects,” Bolt says, “movies that I can elevate to feel like A-movies, but have some brand awareness. Now Paul may not want to do a horror film again or a straight action movie again, so that might be an area where we might work with another director. And I would like to work with some younger directors who would benefit from Paul’s experience — having him as producer.
“Our desire is obviously to build Impact with Constantin,” Bolt adds, “and to increase Constantin’s success and sustain it. Because in my experience, just on the basis of development, they’re very filmmaker-friendly and there is a family atmosphere.”
Anderson agrees. “The thing I like about working with Constantin is, and any film director would appreciate this, I deal with Martin Moszkowicz, Robert Kulzer and that’s it. There’s just the four of us and if we all like something, we go for it. There’s no one to stop us and there’s no one to hold us back, and that allows us to work really fast.
“In terms of the relationship with Constantin,” he concludes, “by the time I finish ‘Pompeii,’ I will have finished four straight movies with the same creative team, the same distributor — that’s a hell of a run, even if you don’t figure in the other four ‘Resident Evil’ movies and all the other films we made together. So I feel very fortunate to be in that relationship.
“One of the best things that ever happened to me was Bernd Eichinger seeing my movie.”