By the time “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” is released Jan. 17 in the U.S., Milla Jovovich, the star of the franchise, will have been chiseling away at her masterful international action heroine role, Alice, for more than 15 years.
“I feel like Alice has grown so much,” Jovovich says. “It’s so interesting to be able to go back and play the same character over and over. You’re definitely molding this person. But you have to let them breathe. It can’t just be you trying to infuse yourself into them all the time.” Milla, now a mother of two small children pauses thoughtfully, before adding, “You’re raising them in a way … just like a child.”
But if the idea of a strong female action star feels familiar or commonplace in 2016 it certainly wasn’t that way when Jovovich was starting out. She had to look far and wide to find a role model. “Now it’s so normal for women to be in action films but for me, Sigourney Weaver was pretty much the only female action hero of the 1980s.”
Jovovich, who moved to the U.S. from the Ukraine at age 5, started acting early, and would have probably been best remembered for her girl-next-door part in cult classic, “Dazed and Confused,” were it not for her casting in Luc Besson’s sci-fi-actioner “The Fifth Element,” as the inimitable Leeloo.
“It was something that really opened up a whole new horizon for me in terms of what I was capable of,” she says. “When I got through with ‘The Fifth Element’ I felt a bit like a superhero. I’d just come off being Leeloo for more than half a year of my life. I definitely didn’t want it to end. I think it very much pointed me in the direction my career would end up taking.”
Working on the “Resident Evil” franchise, Jovovich learned how to handle a gun and discovered she’s a very sharp shot in addition to becoming adept at using the Filipino Kali sticks and Nepalese kukris.
“By the third film you could pretty much put any weapon in my hand, and with a little bit of practice, I was going to be pretty good at it, because I really loved it,” she says.
Even now, Jovovich says, she’ll be out taking the dogs for a walk, when she’ll pick up a stick and start twirling it, practicing her technique. After almost two decades, perhaps it’s hard to know where Jovovich ends and Alice begins.
As for “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” being the final chapter, Jovovich remains coy.
“I know that every movie we’ve made has been made as if it was the last,” she says. “We’ve never rested on our laurels. I think that’s why every film in the franchise has had its own unique feeling and can stand on its own.”