behind the scenes from computer game to film
Resident Evil is a bonus for Independent filmmakers world-wide. The Independent Constantin Film beat out any fierce Hollywood competition for the film rights because Capcom, the world's leading computer game manufacture, knew that "when we make decisions, we make them fast, because there aren't a hundred other executives to consult," says Producer Bernd Eichinger.
The inspiration for the film was sparked off when Eichinger caught people in his office playing the Resident Evil game. He could instantly see its potential as a film.
"I've always wanted to make a really scary movie," says producer Bernd Eichinger of Constantin Film. " It wasn't gory or too violent - just completely terrifying to play - and I knew if we could transfer that quality to the screen we would be on to a real winner."
There was good enough reason for Eichinger to be fascinated by the world of Resident Evil.
In 1979 Constantin had distributed Dawn of the Dead, cult director George Romero's most successful film in Germany, and Eichinger knew there was an audience out there eager for a return to such a terrifying pop culture fantasy world.
Once the decision had been made to pursue the film rights to the game, overtures were made to Capcom, the world's leading computer games manufacturer. Produced and created by Shinji Mikami and creatively masterminded by Yoshiki Okamoto, the game series is comprised of Resident Evil (1996), Resident Evil 2 (1998), Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (1998) and Resident Evil - Code: Veronica (2000). To date the award-winning blockbuster series has sold more than 16 million units world-wide and grossed over $600 million.
Eichinger continues, "We went to Capcom's headquarters in Japan to show the company that we got what the game was about and that we were capable of making a big international movie from their successful game. I promised them we would take their concept seriously and consult them on a regular basis. Capcom responded with equal promptness and we were granted the film rights in 1997."
After securing the Resident Evil film rights, Eichinger then set about turning one of the world's most popular video games into an exciting, thrilling and frightening movie-going experience.
"The problem was always going to be how to get film audiences to experience the terror of an interactive game without being able to use the interactive element. The answer lay in not imitating the game in every detail but in replicating its feelings of total shock and horror," he says.
After a couple of years spent developing the project, everything snapped into focus for Eichinger when Constantin entered a deal with Impact Pictures, founded by Jeremy Bolt and Paul W.S. Anderson, the producer/director team behind Mortal Kombat and Event Horizon.
"We had been talking to Constantin about developing and financing a few projects when, by pure chance, we discovered they owned the rights to Resident Evil, a game Paul and I enjoyed enormously," says Jeremy Bolt.
Eichinger was impressed by Paul's knowledge of the game and asked him if he'd be interested in writing a script. When Bernd read it, he knew the concept he had been looking for had finally been cracked."
"I'm a huge fan of the Resident Evil games and have played all of them," says Paul W.S. Anderson.
"As a die-hard fan, I wanted a movie version that is respectful of it, builds on its premise and delivers on its promise. To be scary you have to be unpredictable - and that's why I wanted to use a set of fresh characters. We couldn't use the Jill Valentine character from the first game, for example, as the fans would know she wasn't going to be killed because she pops up in the later games. The suspense dynamic of who is going to live, who is going to die and what people's allegiances are was only going to work with new characters. This approach also fits in with the world of the game which is constantly expanding and introducing new characters and locations."
Jeremy Bolt adds, "Paul went to Japan to visit the Capcom people and had five days of intense talks with them because it was in everyone's interests that they be consulted every step of the way. Capcom immediately felt comfortable with Paul. The major lesson we learned from Mortal Kombat was that you can add to the rules of the game and enhance them - but you can't break them. Playing within the game's universe is the key and that's what Paul cleverly did when he came up with the idea of Resident Evil."
Bernd Eichinger adds, "Paul's script combined the elements of the game in fresh ways to maximise surprise and suspense. Plus Paul had directed the only successful video game film adaptation to date with Mortal Kombat. That meant he knew all the pitfalls and we could benefit from his enormous wealth of experience on that picture."
Paul W.S. Anderson explains the concept: "This film is the explanatory prequel that game players have always wanted to see, using the scary mechanisms and devices that have become part of the Resident Evil cyber culture. I felt the idea was the correct approach for both people who had never heard of the game and for the avid players who will get all the references included just for them."
Taken directly from the game is the Umbrella Corporation, the concept of the mansion in the woods, the secret lab, the underground railway and the escape of the T-virus. In addition, a host of creatures from the game are also featured in the movie - the Undead, the Licker, the Crows and every game player's favourite, the Zombie Dogs.
To put his own unique mark on the Resident Evil project, Anderson incorporated various other chosen references too:
He explains: 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' and 'Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There' by Lewis Carroll are two of my absolute favourite books. I found the similarities between the Carroll literary masterpieces and the game's structure interesting. In both, a heroine goes on a strange journey underground and comes across many weird things. So I worked in the name Alice, Looking Glass House, the chess motif and the Red Queen computer. That's not going to come out of left field for the hardcore gamers either." In the last game, Resident Evil - Code: Veronica, one of the monsters is named Bandersnatch, which is a creature from the Jabberwocky poem featured in 'Through the Looking Glass.'
"It's too easy to gross people out on a splatter level and far harder to scare them senseless. I made a deliberate choice in the script to try to be frightening rather than visceral, as showing everything covered in blood is now such a dated and hokey approach. Ensuring things are shadowy and tension-filled is the best way to keep audiences shrieking and their nerves jangling," says Anderson.
Executive producer Robert Kulzer wraps up everyone's feelings about the Resident Evil genesis: "Movies based on video games and cyber characters are a relatively new genre, so naturally early teething problems during development did occur. Everyone could see the concept would make a great action horror thriller because it has such a haunting idea behind it. But only when Paul came in, wrote a suspenseful script and liberated the story from its game confines did all our collaborative energies spark and come together."
Resident Evil was filmed on location in and around Berlin, Germany, and on stages at Studio Berlin, in the East Berlin suburb of Adlershof, Resident Evil is produced by Bernd Eichinger and Constantin Film. It is a co-production with New Legacy Films Ltd in co-operation with Samuel Hadida's Davis Films and Paul Anderson and Jeremy Bolt's Impact Pictures.
Constantin Film has been a leading production and distribution house in Germany for more than 20 years. Helmed by producer Bernd Eichinger, the company's credits include such international productions as The NeverEnding Story, The Name of the Rose, The House of the Spirits and Smilla's Sense of Snow.
Impact Pictures is the production company founded by Jeremy Bolt and Paul Anderson in 1992. Their films include Shopping, Mortal Kombat, Event Horizon and Soldier - all directed by Anderson - and Stiff Upper Lips, There's Only One Jimmy Grimble and The Hole. Impact Pictures recently embarked on an overhead, development and financing joint venture with Constantin Film. Resident Evil is their first production since that venture began.
Davis Films is owned by Samuel Hadida, producer of the recent French hit Brotherhood of the Wolf. His other producing credits include The Adventures of Pinocchio, Crying Freeman, Killing Zoe and True Romance.
Capcom - the world's leading computer games manufacturer. The Resident Evil series comprises of Resident Evil (1996), Resident Evil 2 (1998), Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (1998) and Resident Evil - Code: Veronica (2000). To date the award-winning blockbuster series has sold more than 16 million units world-wide and grossed over $600 million. In addition to the movie strand, a line of action figures and comic books are in development.