Gallery July 2002
by J. Rentilly
Chances are good you've seen Milla Jovovich in the altogether. By her own admission, the 26-year-old Ukraine-born and Cali-raised model-turned-actress-turned-singer-turned-actress-again, is "no shrinking violet." Just try to match Milla's joie de vivre; modeling for major international corporations at 11, Zalman King movies at 13, hit records (The Divine Comedy) at 18, married to director Luc Besson at 21, and now she's come to save the world from a zombie takeover -- more than half-undressed -- in Resident Evil (just out on DVD). The impossibly beautiful Jovovich, who resembles nothing so much as a cherub who just had her first impure thought, is fearless. Taunted as a child by peers who considered her an 'evil commie' because of her Soviet heritage, Jovovich -- like the great artists of our time -- follows her bliss and masters it. Her turn in Evil is unlikely to win any awards, but does confirm Jovovich as a provocative, hyper-sexualized force to be reckoned with. This fall she will share the big screen with Samuel L. Jackson in the caper-noir, No Good Deed, and will release the pop-art album The Peopletree Sessions. No shrinking violet, indeed.
Gallery: Tell me about making Million Dollar Hotel, written by U2's Bono and Nicholas Klein, directed by Wim Wenders. The movie is one of my favorite films from last year-but it's a movie virtually no one saw.
It's one of the most incredible experiences. It's my favorite movie that I've ever done. It was incredible.
G: I would imagine working with Wenders was a dream of yours.
Oh yeah, Wim (who was also helmed Buena Vista Social Club and Wings of Desire) is such an amazing, intelligent, sensitive person -- the kind of guy who, if he's in a room, all you want to do is ask questions. I've always been such a huge fan of his. When I heard about Million Dollar Hotel, I fought so hard for the part. It was literally -- you always hear about movies being "one big happy family" -- this was a big , happy family kind of film. It was very small, all the people involved were doing it for Wim.
G: You shot the movie in a particularly seedy area of Downtown Los Angeles at the real Million Dollar Motel.
Yeah, I made some friends in downtown L.A. It was crazy, I spent some weekends at the Million Dollar Motel on my own, hanging out with the people who lived there, trying to assimilate myself into their world. At first, they would come to me and say they see me on TV; they'd treat me like a famous person. By sort of the second week I was there, people were coming up to me, going, "Girl, put some shoes on. You can't walk around in here naked like that, you'll step on a needle or something." Of course, I did my best to stay away from the needles. But I did end up walking barefoot all over the place. They were completely shocked. Towards the end of the film, people who lived there didn't look twice at me. That was sort of my intent going in, to make myself invisible. I think I did it.
G: I would imagine making Milla Jovovich invisible is pretty impossible, especially if there are any men around.
I think that's a compliment.
G: From art films to ass-kickers. What appealed to you about making Resident Evil?
Let's put it this way; I'm no shrinking violet. I wouldn't be able to pass myself of as one, unless I really worked hard at it and had the right clothing. I mean, I'm a strong, big girl. My dad's from Yugoslavia, from Montenegro. I have big bones, big shoulders. Today, if you look at all the actresses, I don't know who else could've played the part -- that's sort of built like me, can do those physical things believably. I see myself as a Sigourney Weaver of this generation. I love that.
G: Plus you've cultivated a new, young breed of boys who will fawn over you.
(Laughs) My little brother now thinks I'm a god, he just loves me so much more for doing the movie of his favorite game.
G: How old is your brother?
G: Isn't it ironic that most of the game's biggest fans, including your little brother, are too young to see the R-rated film?
Well, they're going to have to sneak in with their older brothers, aren't they?
G: Can young audiences handle the graphic violence of a film like Resident Evil?
You know what? Hollywood would have no power over those kids if parents gave the kids a good basis for comparison. My brother -- his mother is from Argentina, he's Catholic, goes to church every Sunday -- is the most amazing, smart, a straight-A student, honor roll, the best in his class, and has friends who, literally keep going, "2 o'clock, top of tits, 2 o'clock", I'm like, "What does that mean?". We look over and there's a woman with cleavage and you could see the top of her tits. I'm like, "Jonathan, I can't believe you said that!" And they're both laughing, but you'd never hear my brother say that, ever. My brother will laugh a lot, but you won't catch him behaving that way. That's the difference, when you have a mother who explains things to you, really spends time with you. His friends look like they have a lot of time on their own, that they make a lot of their own decisions, so he ends up spending his days going, "I like big butts." Which one of those boys could handle seeing this movie without shooting up his school afterwards?
G: Do you think Hollywood should take the whipping on the alleged links between real violence in the media and real-life acts of violence?
First of all, I think that parents need to take a lot more responsibility than they do. It's easy to blame Hollywood. And I think that there are some real valid points, blaming Hollywood for putting weird ideas into kids' heads. The tragedies that happen, in this country at least, are very related to films and video games. In a way, we are the country that creates these things. At the same time, you see Japanese kids killing themselves because they can't get into the right school. Every country has it's own pressures. So many traditions put different chains on young people. The most important thing is to know your own kids like the back of your own hand, so that they're not afraid to tell you things, show you things, play things like Resident Evil in front of you. You don't want your kids to hide from you. They can get their hands on whatever they want. You don't want them hiding it.
G: One of the funniest bits in the movie is the running joke about the length of your miniskirt, which by the movie's end is almost entirely gone.
It was definitely a joke. And it was a joke from the very beginning. Obviously, the girl in the video game has a miniskirt and a tube top. She has a gun. She's underground. We said, "How can we logically figure out a way to get this girl down there in a miniskirt?" We thought, miniskirt, miniskirt, miniskirt. And we figured we'd start it out as an evening dress -- she's going out to dinner before she passes out.
G: And voila! 2002's best costume design is born.
It was hilarious, because I was the only one who didn't have anything to cover me during the action scenes. All the other actors got kneepads and elbow pads and wet suits for the flooding scenes. I was kind of the stupid one, half naked. Okay, yeah, I'm really serious about my job! I really love what I'm doing! I'm really trying to prove how serious I am as an actress! I was freezing my butt off!
G: In the film, You have to duke it out with a ravenous pack of zombie dogs, good fun?
The dogs were real. Totally real. These dogs are security dogs, not really movie dogs, because movie dogs are older, quieter, don't bite. But we used vicious, crazy dogs. We weren't supposed to touch them or be around them. It was a little scary. We didn't have the kind of money to separate me from the animals between every take, so it was all kind of mish-mashed together. They'd let the dog out and yell, "Run!" I'd just try to run my ass off and try to get the door slammed fast enough. I mean, the dog didn't want to bite me; he wanted to bite the squeaky toy the trainer was dangling from my ass. Little teddy bear. For the most part, it was a very controlled situation. I'm sure someone would've jumped in front of me if there was an attack. Wouldn't they?
G: That kind of action is probably a world away from the modeling gigs you've done since you were a kid.
It was funny, because I do the L'Oreal work on the weekends, which was a 180-degree change from the movie. As it happened, the steadicam operator from the movie also worked one of the L'Oreal commercials. One day, L'Oreal had this light mist spraying at me for the commercial and one of the producers came over to me and they were, like, Miss Jovovich, is everything okay? Is the mist a good temperature for you? I never lived that down on the movie. Everyone, the rest of the shoot, Miss Jovovich, is this okay for you? The temperature -- is it okay for you? It was hilarious. We actually perforated the miniskirt for several scenes, so the zombies could rip it off. All the zombies were clawing at my skirt, and the pieces of my skirt became a real prize. Yeah, I got this piece! Yeah, I got this one! They're smelling it, being so nasty. All the male zombies had a real blast with my skirt, grabbing me, kicking me. But I'd kick them in the head, so everything was fine.