Opening this week is writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson's "Resident Evil: Retribution". In the series' fifth instalment, we find Alice (Milla Jovovich) waking up in the heart of the Umbrella Corporation's most clandestine operations facility, which she must escape from in order to see for herself the situation of the world outside. However, the facility is once again guarded by the Red Queen, and if Alice is to escape, she needs the help of her newfound ally, Ada Wong, who is also working for Albert Wesker. Chinese star Li Bingbing takes on the role of Ada Wong, a fan favourite since the early days of the "Resident Evil" video games. During a recent interview with Cinema Online, Li Bingbing talked about how she got involved with the role, what the working environment was like and her qualms with the film.
Cinema Online had an interview with Li Bingbing at Empire Hotel Subang courtesy of Sony Pictures Malaysia.
Q: Hi! Can you first tell us why you accepted the role for "Resident Evil: Retribution?"
Li Bingbing: Why wouldn't I accept it? It is a good opportunity for me as it is rare to have Hollywood films with Asians. Also, their style of filmmaking is different, so I can learn different things.
Q: Alright. Can you tell us how you felt when you found out that you got the role?
Li Bingbing: I could not believe it. However, when they called me to tell me that I got the role, I had already accepted a role in a Chinese film. I had already signed the contract with the director, so I can't back out, but because the filming schedules clashed, it didn't look like it was possible for me to star in "Resident Evil: Retribution" after all. I was really tensed then because I really, really wanted to be in it, and after a lot of discussions, phones calls and emails, the Hollywood team decided to change their schedule a bit to accommodate me, and I'm really grateful to them for that.
Q: What is the difference between working with people in a Chinese film and in an American film?
Li Bingbing: With Americans, everything is in black and white. Whatever you sign, you must carry out and vice versa. So if you put in overtime, they will pay the right amount of compensation to you while with the Chinese, it's relationship-based. Sometimes a director you know will expect you to put in overtime or more effort because it is expected to be a favour. At the same time, Chinese people are more flexible with their times because of this.
Q: What was working with Milla and the rest of the cast like?
Li Bingbing: Milla is a very, very nice person. She asked the others to put a jacket around me first when we were filming in Canada as it was cold and I only had the red dress on. She is not snobbish and she made me feel at home even though I didn't talk much on set at first. I didn't want them to have any expectations of me speaking in English, so I decided to keep quiet. So they thought I cannot speak any English at all. When I first said something in English, they were all very impressed. They didn't laugh at me, but helped me improve. I eventually gained more confidence to speak in English around them. Milla brought her child to the set, and I talk to her sometimes. Her daughter once said that she wanted to be a Chinese girl like me. This was because she had never seen a Chinese girl before, but I was very flattered. Apart from that, Milla and I always talked about girl things on set, like our relationships, beauty tips and family.
Q: How did you prepare for the role? Were you aware that the "Resident Evil" films were based on video games?
Li Bingbing: No, I wasn't. But I had watched "Resident Evil", "Resident Evil: Apocalypse" and "Resident Evil: Extinction" before I got the role. When I accepted the offer to play Ada Wong, I went back to re-watch the films and also watched the fourth. I didn't play the games. I just watched video clips of people playing the games that have Ada Wong in it to study her moves, accent and body language. I actually didn't have a lot of time to prepare for my role since I was busy filming my Chinese film, so that is my regret.
Q: What is the hardest scene you had to film for "Resident Evil: Retribution"?
Li Bingbing: Shooting. It was my first time shooting a gun, so I had to have training. At the same time I fell in love with it because it was so exciting. I hope to have more films with guns in the future. Besides shooting, what set me back was how taxing it was, since I had to fly from China to Canada often. I felt really homesick while filming in Canada, and there were cultural differences. Most of the fighting scenes weren't very hard for me because I used to star in Wuxia films.
Q: This is the first time that you've shot a gun. Is there anything else that you would like to try?
Li Bingbing: I would like to fly a plane! I know that I look soft-spoken, but I'm actually a very adventurous person. I would like to try more stunts, so I plan to star in more Hollywood movies as they are known for producing dramatic films.
Q: Considering your resume, this film does not really reflect your acting chops. What have you to say to that?
Li Bingbing: It is an action film after all, and I knew that before I accepted the role. However, I wished that I had more fighting scenes in the film, so maybe the next film may have more scenes for me if I'm in it.
Q: What are your upcoming plans for your career? Do you see yourself moving more towards Hollywood?
Li Bingbing: I would try to take on more English-speaking films, but I will still prioritise Chinese films because that is what I'm good at and I'm Chinese.
Q: Is there anyone that you would like to work with?
Li Bingbing: Meryl Streep. I bumped into her before one day, and we stopped to talk a little. She was very confident when she speaks, but without looking down on you. I really like that. I also admire her versatility. I watched all her movies.
Q: That's all for now. We wish you well in Malaysia.
Li Bingbing: Thank you.