Say what you will about the Resident Evil film franchise, but Paul W.S. Anderson’s series has quietly satisfied action fans for over a decade. Between 2002 and 2017, Screen Gems released six installments that follow Alice Marcus (Milla Jovovich) as she kicks ass across a post-apocalyptic wasteland, destroying zombies and Umbrella goons at every turn. While American audiences have been tepid about the franchise — but still helped make it a success by any metric applied to the usually doomed genre of video game adaptation — Resident Evil is a bona fide hit internationally. The last film grossed over $300 million.
For years, Resident Evil also occupied rarefied air: that of the film starring a female action star. Jovovich — along with Kate Beckinsale in Underworld — was one of the only successors to great sci-fi heroes like Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in the early aughts. Even now a woman getting her own action-adventure film is something to be celebrated, not just another Friday at your local cineplex. But it turns out Alice Marcus almost didn’t happen.
In a long and detailed oral history of the Resident Evil. films, Inverse writer Jordan Zakarin covers everything from the inception of the franchise to the stuntwork and zombie dog make-up effects. The entire piece is worth a read. But one anecdote that sticks out is Jovovich recounting how if it weren’t for Michelle Rodriguez, Jovovich and Anderson might never have gotten married.
When the first Resident Evil film was about to begin principal photography, Jovovich was still working on another project. The studio had just hired Rodriguez to play Rain. Coming off of Girlfight, Rodriguez was considered a hot new ‘It Girl.’ So with Jovovich not on set yet, Anderson began to rewrite the script in a way that shunted Alice into the traditional “girl” role and giving the action-y scenes to Rodriguez. Of course, that wasn’t the character Jovovich signed up to play and, once she got the new script in her hands, she was having none of it.
Paul ended up coming over [to my hotel] that evening and we literally sat for three hours and went through the script, page by page. He was like, “What do you mean? This didn’t change that much?” So I was like, “OK, why don’t we start with page one?” I pointed out every time I felt like my great scenes were taken away. That was how we started our relationship.
And thus both an action icon and a rock-solid relationship that would eventually lead to marriage and two children was born.