In each incarnation of “Resident Evil,” the filmmakers introduce elements of the games that are most popular with hardcore gamers. “We pay a lot of attention to what they say,” says writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson. “We listen to their feedback. That’s why the dogs and the Lickers are in the franchise. It’s why Jill joined the franchise. For “Resident Evil: Retribution,” we have added the characters of Leon Kennedy, Barry Burton and Ada Wong. People were clamoring for them.”
|Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures|
The gamers’ enthusiasm for those characters meant the filmmakers had to be especially meticulous in selecting the actors who would embody them on screen. “We took a long time with the casting process,” Anderson adds. “We found actors who brought these characters to life in a way that is as close to the video game as possible. You have no idea how difficult it is to find someone who could carry off Leon Kennedy’s hair. He had to be to be manly and have those long bangs.”
“I think the parts of Barry, Leon and Ada are perfectly cast,” says producer Robert Kulzer. “The actors have captured the essence of what people love about their videogame characters, but at the same time, have made the roles completely their own.”
Anderson chose Estonian-born actor Johann Urb to bring the key character of Leon S. Kennedy to life. Urb calls his character “a zombie-killing machine. He is a survivor and the leader of the resistance. Things have gotten really dire and we all have to team up to survive.”
Urb says he loved the idea of playing an action hero. “The character is a real dream for me. He’s strong, confident, a great leader, and he gets to shoot zombies. He’s lot of fun and it makes it easy to wake up each morning and step into his shoes.”
To bring the role of Barry Burton to the screen, the filmmakers tapped Canadian-born actor Kevin Durand. Familiar to audiences for such roles as Gabriel in “Legion” and Martin Keamy in the hit television series “Lost,” Durand embraced the opportunity to play the cigar-chomping zombie fighter. “It really wasn’t a difficult decision,” says Durand. “Burton’s kind of a Dirty Harry type of character that carries a big .44 Magnum and is really good at killing zombies. How much fun is that?”
Another character drawn directly from the game is the mysterious and deadly Ada Wong. The filmmakers selected award-winning Chinese actress Li Bingbing to embody Wong’s strength and intelligence, as well her ambiguous loyalties.
“We knew as soon as we saw her audition that Bingbing was the perfect choice for the role,” says producer Jeremy Bolt. “In addition to being an extremely talented actor, she’s sharp, sexy and smart—all qualities that the Ada Wong character had to have.”
Li was honored to be chosen to play the alluring assassin. “Resident Evil is a well-known game in China and Ada Wong has a lot of fans there,” she says. “When Paul invited me to play the part, I think the fans were as excited as I was.”
The most daunting component for Li was not the extensive stunt work, but having to speak her lines in English. “At the beginning, I was very self-conscious,” she admits. “I thought that if I just didn’t open my mouth, I wouldn’t make any mistakes. But as I got to know everyone better, I became more comfortable. And I was relieved to find that nobody laughed. In fact, they said ‘oh your English is amazing!’ They made me feel like I was part of a very cozy family.”
“Resident Evil: Retribution” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International. Visit www.columbiapictures.com.ph to see the latest trailers, get free downloads and play free movie games.