One of the most striking things about Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, the cinematic reboot of the acclaimed Resident Evil franchise, is how closely it hews the look and story from the video game source material. Adapting the first two games in Capcom's iconic survival horror franchise, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City follows police officers Albert Wesker and Leon S. Kennedy enduring what will become one of the most terrifying nights of their lives. As Raccoon City is overwhelmed by hordes of ravenous undead, Leon finds himself trapped in the city's police station with Claire Redfield. Meanwhile, Wesker holds a dark secret as he and his team investigate an abandoned mansion just outside the city limits.
In an exclusive interview with CBR, Welcome to Raccoon City stars Avan Jogia and Tom Hopper discussed their respective roles of Leon and Wesker and shared their love of the video game series. Also, the duo revealed which character elements they wanted to imbue into their performances to bring these iconic Resident Evil characters to life.
With there being 25 years of Resident Evil history now, was there any element from the games or previous movies that you used to help develop your performances?
Avan Jogia: I grew on Resident Evil 4. That was my game. I played it on GameCube, and I played it again, for the like the hundredth time, in VR for the Oculus Quest II. It's awesome. There's so much more anxiety when you're having to load your gun. In Resident Evil 2, there's this behavior with his pistol that Leon has -- an official Leon body language. I really took that on first and built off of that skeletal system and put in muscles and all that stuff. Starting with a little bit of behavior is always really helpful for me, especially when you're playing a person that exists in real-life.
Tom Hopper: Yeah, there was a lot since Wesker has such a long story. While I was aware of all that, my focus was mainly on Resident Evil 1 because obviously, he isn't in Resident Evil 2, but I played a lot of Resident Evil 2 for research and to get a feel for it. The remake of 2 is the closest in tone, in terms of the movie, but for Wesker, going back to 1 was what I really wanted to focus on in terms of the moral compass of Wesker. It was really important for me to figure out who the guy was behind the villain's sunglasses, that's what I really wanted to try and bring out.
With these particular versions of the characters, there's a lot of backstories left unsaid and open for interpretation. How was it threading that in and how much did you bring to these iterations of the characters yourselves?
Jogia: I think it's always an amalgamation of the text, what's in the script, and research you can do on your own and your own interpretation. But like you said, there's a wealth of lore to pull from but those are not actionable/performable moments. [laughs] But all that information does help you get a general picture of a person or behavioral stuff. Something Tom was saying in earlier interviews, you throw all that out and start on page one and march through the story.
Hopper: Because of the director we have in Johannes Roberts -- and he's obviously the writer -- we had such a great guide there, being a fan of the games himself. We were very well looked after in terms of what we were bringing personally. What we discussed with him at length before we started shooting, was who we wanted these characters to be, and how much from the games we wanted to pull from, and how much we wanted to let go -- trying to find that balance all the time. Who is this movie's version of the character? How much of the game are we bringing into it?
To build off that, what was something you specifically wanted to bring to your portrayal of these characters?
Hopper: For me, it was important that he was relatable. If I had gone in there and done the version from the game of Wesker, I feel like I would be doing a disservice to who the person really is. We've seen that version done. I wanted to do more than that and bring some humor to him and some likability. I wanted him to feel like one of the guys on the team. They should feel truly betrayed by Wesker and feel like he was one of the team and their friend. He should feel guilty about it. It's important that he has that moral dilemma.
He's not an out-and-out bad person, I think he's just presented with a choice and he's selfish and disregards his friends at that point. That was relatable, I think. There are people who make choices like that and people will dislike them, ultimately, and they have to live with that. That's what Wesker has to do. That's what's really interesting with Wesker, moving forward from this point, how much of who becomes driven by guilt.
Jogia: How much remains of the man he was before he made this terrible decision! For Leon, he's got a funny sense of humor when he's put upon -- more in Resident Evil 4 and less in 2. I wanted to bring in some of the things I liked about his character in 4, which is him being this put upon, glorified babysitter for the President's daughter. [laughs] He has a lot hemming and hawing and trying to put that humor into this rookie's very, very bad first day on the job as he's completely out of his depth and in the deep water in a sink-or-swim moment.
He looks like he's going to sink, and with the help of Claire and his own bravery, he becomes a swimmer and then we start to build towards the special forces bodyguard Leon from 4. We're not there exactly but, in Resident Evil 2, we start to begin that journey. This movie is the beginning of that journey into a more hardened Leon.
Written and directed by Johannes Roberts, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City opens in theaters on Nov. 24.
KEEP READING: Resident Evil Featurette Highlights Welcome to Raccoon City's Chris Redfield
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