Resident Evil: Welcome To Raccoon City Director Johannes Roberts Discusses The Franchise Reboot

How did you select the characters you wanted to use?

The trickiest thing for me is obviously we are combining two games. The second game is Claire and Leon, and the first one is Jill and Chris and Wesker. And now suddenly I put them all together. You got Irons there, you got Birkin. You’ve got all these different characters. And that was very tricky for me in telling the story. I was like, “Okay, how am I going to do this?” And really, my way into the movie was “Assault on Precinct 13.” I’m a huge John Carpenter fan. I just went, “Okay, this guy knows how to tell a siege movie.” He knows how to bring characters together in that kind of Western way in a modern setting, and he knows how to scare people.

“Assault on Precinct 13” is one of my favorite movies of all time. I was like, “This is my benchmark for how we are going to bring everyone together.” So I very much looked at that. It’s a real balance, that each character has their own space. They’re all differentiated enough to be their own character with their own goals and journeys. And it’s really tricky. It was very, very hard in writing it and then casting it, to make sure everybody was an equal lead. It was a pure, pure ensemble.

What did you look for when you cast the actors?

Kaya was first. I’m good friends with (director) Alex Aja, who just done “Crawl.” I watched it. It blew me away. And I was like, she’s just perfect — she looks like Claire, but she just has this kind of down-to-earth toughness. So I spoke to (Aja) about it, and he was like, “Yeah, she’s great.” I knew it was going to be a super tough shoot as well, pandemic, minus 10 degrees, dark nights, rain. I needed someone that was just going to roll her sleeves up and just get in there and pull the whole thing together, and she imbued that. She had humor. She’s so funny and so just English, just getting on with it. So she was first in there, and then we brought in the cast around her.

The trickiest by far was Avan (Jogia), the Leon role, because as a writer, I got into the piece through his character. He’s pure Carpenter. He’s a mixture of a little bit of Jack Burton from “Big Trouble in Little China,” a little bit of Napoleon from “Assault on Precinct 13,” a bit of MacRready from “The Thing.” There’s all this kind of stuff — this disheveled, hungover character on his first day in Raccoon City.

We must have seen every actor in Hollywood, and then Avan came in, and he did not look anything like Leon from the games. But he just nailed it. He understood how to play the disheveled, broken-down, hungover humor and be a leading man and then have this perfect arc. I was just like, “He’s the guy for me.”

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