Fun Paul W.S. Anderson Facts!
Paul W.S. Anderson is my favourite movie director and I’ve already listed my 10 favourite movies from him. Now, I decided it would be fun to just list some random bits of fun trivia about the man behind such movies as Mortal Kombat, Event Horizon, Pompeii and the Resident Evil film series…
Anderson is no stranger to critical derision but you’d be surprised to find out how far back Anderson’s bad relations with the movie-critic crowds goes. Now to be fair, his very first movie Shopping was a succes at the Sundance Film Festival in 1994 and Roger Corman liked it so much that he even picked up the American distribution rights (Anderson repaid the favour years later with a remake of Corman’s Death Race 2000). But the Brits tore Shopping apart…
Not only was the film derided for its seeming glorification of teen violence and Anderson’s budding attempts at action scenes (on a TV-movie budget, mind you) the film found itself banned in parts of the UK because it was feared that the film might inspire teens to engage in the act of ram-raiding (crashing a car into a store in order to rob it). It seems almost ridiculous how bad the reception for Shopping was back in the day, especially since now the film is actually regarded as one of Anderson’s best.
I guess it’s incidents like this that help film-makers grow a thick skin.
You may be surprised to find out that Robin Shou wasn’t particularly keen on playing the role of Liu Kang in Mortal Kombat, because he essentially thought he was going to be the film’s Asian side-kick rather than the main star. Even though Mortal Kombat didn’t launch Shou (already a seasoned Hong Kong stuntman) into world-wide fame, it did result in a strange and sort of adorable friendship between him and Anderson. As a result, Shou’s had a fair number of cameos in a number of Anderson productions like DOA: Dead Or Alive and Death Race.
Anderson has noted that he still has a high opinion of Mortal Kombat considering that it was his first Hollywood film and that he really didn’t understand all the technical aspects of the film when he first took on the job. He even needed Shou’s help in shooting some of the fight-scenes since at first he attempted to shoot them in wide-shots until he realised how bad they looked. The two hung out during the production of Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and Event Horizon and Shou was even Milla Jovovich’s personal trainer for the first Resident Evil.
Anderson admitted that he cast Shou in Death Race just so he could shave his magnificent hair.
Event Horizon is widely regarded as Anderson’s best film but it was neither a box-office success nor a very fun movie for Anderson to produce. The film had a hectic schedule and after a first, failed test-screening Anderson was forced to severely cut down the film’s running time. Despite the film’s much improved reputation in subsequent years, Anderson still laments he wasn’t able to make the film as extreme as he wanted it. Anderson turned down a chance to direct the first X-Men movie in order to make Event Horizon which he admits might have not been the smartest move.
However, one funny production story which Anderson recalls is that he inadvertently rescued Fishburne at the studio gym. According to him, he and Fishburne had a whole conversation at the gym with Fishburne dangling upside-down from an exercise machine and it was only when the two were alone that the Fish asked Anderson to help him down as he had gotten stuck.
Fishburne also thanked Anderson later on for the wire-work experience when he went on to work on The Matrix.
Soldier was a movie that everyone, Anderson included, was a little let-down by as the big budget sci-fi/action/drama bombed at the box-office. Anderson pegs this on Warner Bros.’s terrible marketing which focused too much on the action rather than the drama side of the film. Soldier also very nearly killed Anderson’s career which explains why he’s more than a little sore over the fact (which is still sad, as Soldier is my favourite movie by him).
Anderson had planned to shoot the movie immediately after Mortal Kombat, but because he wanted Kurt Russel for the lead-role and he was busy on the production of another film, Anderson postponed his film in order to secure Russell’s participation. Apart from a number of other minor production problems, shooting was halted when Russell twisted his ankle when he accidentally stepped on a prop vegetable in the garden set of the film’s junkyard planet.
Because Anderson didn’t want to embarrass Russel, he lied in an official press release and said that Russell had injured himself shooting a stunt sequence.
Anderson is someone who doesn’t sugarcoat the film-making process and he’s perfectly aware that he’s occasionally had major short-comings in the writing of his films. Anderson notes that his films frequently suffer from a problem where he himself gets so wrapped up in the film’s story that he forgets to consider whether or not the audience understands the premise.
Because of this reason, his films frequently have an opening narration or a text explaining the premise of the film, such as with Resident Evil, Death Race and The Three Musketeers (co-incidentally, also Event Horizon although the film was actually written by Philip Eisner).
Some people may think it was all sunshine and rainbows for Anderson and Milla Jovovich who found each other on the set of Resident Evil and are now married with two children. However, their relationship wasn’t complete bliss from the start.
Milla Jovovich, being quite gung-ho as an actress, was willing to do a lot of her own stunt-work on the Resident Evil films but at least on the first one this had some painful consequences. She whacked co-star James Purefoy with a rubber axe in the scene where Purefoy’s character, Spence, had become completely zombified.
Also, while practicing for the fight scenes in the sewers, Milla accidentally elbowed the stunt co-ordinator who was standing in for a zombie in the dry run of the scene. For the second dry run, Anderson stepped in and Milla elbowed him too, giving him a black eye in the process.
Anderson and Jovovich also split up before the filming of Resident Evil: Apocalypse but they apparently got back together before the filming of Death Race which is also when they officially got married.
Anderson is a well-known fanboy of the Alien franchise and never misses a chance to drop a reference to it in one of his movies. Understandably, Anderson jumped with joy at the prospect of shooting an instalment in the Alien-series.
However, Anderson had to make-do with a very modest budget which ended up causing a lot of problems. For instance, the film-crew only had three big flashlights which had to be shared by different units for the filming. The crew’s shipments of KY jelly (used to make the aliens slimy) were held up by customs who at first thought Anderson was filming a porno. And even the animatronic Alien Queen caused problems when the engineers accidentally knocked out its (translucent) teeth in the dark temple set.
However, Anderson notes that by far the worst part of shooting AVP was the first day. The film was shot almost entirely in the Czech Republic, including one of the opening scenes which was meant to be set in Mexico. However, even with the digitally added Aztec pyramids in the background, Anderson couldn’t help the fact that on the first day of shooting the location was so cold that extras’ breaths were showing. And to top it all off, it started snowing half-way through the shoot.
Anderson openly admits to being a huge fan of Ridley Scott and James Cameron, especially in relation to the Alien and Terminator franchises (on the commentary for Resident Evil, he and Jeremy Bolt jokingly admitted that they “cried during Terminator”), and at least in the case of the latter the feeling is apparently mutual… sort of.
Cameron was initially extremely sceptical of AVP: Alien vs. Predator, going so far to say in one interview that the film would “kill the franchise”. However, he changed his mind after seeing the film and was quoted as having said he thought it was the third best film in the Alien franchise. Of course, with Prometheus having not come out and both Alien 3 and Resurrection being a bone of contention for many Alien-fans, some were quick to assume Cameron’s comments meant pretty much nothing.
On a Twitter AMA, some years later though, Cameron was asked what his guilty pleasure film was and his answer was Resident Evil. When asked to elaborate he simply said that a guilty pleasure film doesn’t need to be justified.
Anderson and Jovovich of course have children together and apparently this was a big motivator for Anderson wanting to film a Three Musketeers movie. While Anderson’s films rarely go for a hard-R rating with their action frivolity, they do tend to contain a lot of death, swearing and generally dark themes – a fact which the director-actress parent duo have lamented over as their daughter, Ever, isn’t able to watch most of their films.
Anderson also wanted to film in mainland Europe in order to use the architecture while filming which he felt was an excellent way to cut down on the costs of the film. He of course admitted to being a big Musketeers fan himself, though he went the extra mile to avoid repeating too many clichés of prior Musketeer films (Anderson didn’t want the Musketeers to don their traditional “blue bibs”).