Like Elizabeth Hurley, James King and numerous other model-turned-actresses, L’Oreal beauty Milla Jovovich has been working hard to distinguish herself in Hollywood as more than just another pretty face. Although the 26-year-old Ukraine native may have gotten her start in Hollywood as an actress — making her film debut at the age of 9 in the Disney Channel’s Night Train to Kathmandu — Jovovich is still seen by the public as a model after becoming an international spokesmodel for L’Oreal. With Screen Gems’ Resident Evil though, Jovovich is proving to the world that this is one model who isn’t afraid to get physical.
A Little Sigourney
Based on the popular video game, Resident Evil stars Jovovich as a kick-ass heroine named Alice who battles mutant dogs, a deadly virus and hordes of zombies all while toting a gun and wearing a skimpy red dress. Although the role may seem to be a bit of a stretch for someone who plugs cosmetics on a regular basis, Jovovich was determined to land the role even if it meant doing all of her own stunts.
“Part of the reason I did this movie is because I said, ‘you know what, I don’t know any other actress in Hollywood that is going to be able to do this. I am physically right to do this,’” Jovovich says. “I kind of see myself as a little Sigourney Weaver and I always could see myself in Alien, so I gave him (director Paul W.S. Anderson) no choice.”
“Milla was the first person I met with for the role of Alice and she was a huge fan of the game,” Anderson recalls. “She was that rare combination of a good actress who could kick ass and look beautiful doing it.”
Woman in Red
While Jovovich may be striving to leave behind the public’s image of her as just another gorgeous body, she understood the importance of playing up her sexuality as Alice. Even though she’s never liked doing films with “nudity and mini-skirts for the sake of mini-skirts,” Jovovich was aware that her character was very masculine in certain ways so she wanted to be sexy in the film to add a touch of femininity. She and Anderson knew though that there was no way Alice could fight off evil in a tube top and a mini-skirt like the character in the video game, so they created a costume that was just as sexy for Jovovich to wear during the film but easier for her to move in. And while the formal red dress (which gets shorter and shorter as the film progresses) may have served its purpose of being visually stimulating, it did take its toll on Jovovich when she had to do her stunt work.
“Milla did all of her own stunts, except one where Alice had to jump from one collapsing pipe to another, without wearing any protective pads,” Anderson says. “Unlike the other cast members, we couldn’t hide pads or a wet suit on her, so she had to take all of her own tumbles.”
“It was really physical. I got really banged up most of the time, and the fact I was in a mini-dress made it even more difficult,” Jovovich states. “At first we had to draw bruises on and by the end of the movie we were covering them up because it was just too much already. It was just so unbelievable— it was like ‘nobody was gonna get that bruised up.’ Plus I was the only one without a wetsuit on cause I couldn’t hide it anywhere. So in-between the shots (in the freezing cold flooded laboratory) the crew brought me a bucket that you put your feet in to wash and filled it with hot water. I would just sit in the bucket— a bucket the size I could wash my miniature maltase in — with hot towels on to warm up.”
Doing her own stunt work wasn’t the only time Jovovich put herself in physical danger while making Resident Evil. Even in-between takes she found herself in harm’s way, whether it be working alongside vicious Dobermans or just due to freak accidents that occurred on the set. “There were just so many other crazy incidents outside of filming — like at one point a battery exploded on the set and sort of gusted Eric (Mabius) and I, Eric mostly and me on my face and arm,” Jovovich says. “My manager came on set wearing a Prada shirt, Gucci pants and with his Prada bag and it ate through his Prada bag and Gucci pants. Meanwhile, I was like ‘I’m not going to the doctor! Look, I scrubbed it off!’ (laughs). I was getting welts and I’m like ‘I’m not going! I want to sleep cause I’m tired!’ But I had to go to the doctor. When you are that tired though you could have somebody chop your hand off and you’ll be like ‘Okay, later. It’s there, it’s there, you can just sew it back on later.’”
Although Jovovich managed to escape the filming of Resident Evil with only a few minor scrapes and bruises, she wasn’t so lucky while shooting a commercial during the movie’s production. While filming a commercial for L’Oreal’s Air Wear campaign, Jovovich ended up slicing her hand open when one of the guys who was moving the walls of the tunnel she was running through miscalculated when to move the wall and Jovovich slammed into it.
“I literally ended up slicing my hand open— it was insane,” she says with a laugh. “I got more injured on a L’Oreal commercial than I did on Resident Evil where I was working with Dobermans, zombies, flooded laboratories and mini-skirts. Paul was laughing so hard and when he finally got a chance to meet some people from L’Oreal when they came on set one day he gave them so much hell. He’s like, ‘I can’t believe you bring my actress back with blood dripping down her hand! We’re doing a horror film here and not even here does she get this injured!’”
Jovovich says that the injury wasn’t the only time she wondered why she was still doing L’Oreal commercials while working on a major Hollywood motion picture. After she discovered that one of the Resident Evil Steadicam operators was the Steadicam operator for another L’Oreal commercial she worked on during the film’s production, she began to feel a bit embarrassed juggling both a modeling career and a career as an actress.
“There really are some times when I’ll get on the set of a commercial and I’m going, ‘what am I doing here?’” Jovovich admits. “The things that I have been through on films, it’s just ridiculous that I’m spending three days at L’Oreal shooting a commercial. Like during a commercial I did for L’Oreal hairspray I had to walk under this mist and show that ‘wow, my hair is still amazing!’ So I walk under the mist and literally when we finish five people run over to me and ask ‘Miss Jovovich, was the mist the right temperature for you? Is everything okay?’ I was kind of embarrassed and when I looked over to the Steadicam guy he was totally making fun of me. Then the next day I’m back on the flooded set of Resident Evil in the flooded lab— which was freezing— and he literally comes up to me and says, ‘Miss Jovovich, was everything okay? Can we bring you anything? A shorter skirt maybe to make things easier for you?’ It’s totally weird to me.”
Paying the Bills
This doesn’t mean that Jovovich isn’t grateful for her contract with L’Oreal, though. Jovovich knows that her deal with the company is one of the main things that made her a recognized name in Hollywood and has allowed her to star in films like Resident Evil and the upcoming thriller No Good Deed opposite Samuel L. Jackson. But above anything else, the one thing Jovovich is grateful for the most is her natural good looks.
“I’m so happy for my looks because I make money off my looks and my family is doing well because of my looks,” she says. “I also get to make really great film choices because of my looks since I don’t have to take whatever role comes my way to pay the bills. I have had so many great opportunities given to me because I can say no so much to so many things, so I’m very grateful for my looks.”
As for what is next for Jovovich, she plans on surprising her fans yet again by taking on some comedic roles— something she believes most people wouldn’t expect her to do even after her part in last year’s surprise hit Zoolander. Jovovich also plans to continue recording her own music, although she has no immediate plans to release a follow-up to her critically acclaimed CD “The Divine Comedy.” However, with Resident Evil earning $17.7 million in its opening weekend and Screen Gems’ already green-lighting a sequel (Resident Evil: Nemesis), Jovovich may find herself back in that red dress before she gets to explore other career options. But she isn’t upset. “I would love to come back for the sequel,” she says happily. “We have so many great ideas for the sequel... it’ll be so cool.”