SAN DIEGO — Sony hit San Diego Comic-Con's Hall H with guns blazing this year. Literally. We saw Joseph Gordon-Levitt blasting hapless, hooded victims with shotguns and Jessica Biel aiming pistols at futuristic hovercrafts. Then there was Milla Jovovich firing off rounds while spin-kicking enemies and Matt Damon brutally sticking it to the "haves" in a dystopian future.
Blood was spilled and bullets flew, with the future (and the apocalypse) a consistent theme, as stars and filmmakers presented previously unseen footage from the similarly themed sci-fi epics "Resident Evil: Apocalypse," "Total Recall," "Elysium" and "Looper."
Here are a few key things we learned, in no particular order.
1. "Resident Evil: Retribution" is the beginning of the end for the franchise.
After debuting two minutes of the nine-minute "fight to the death" scene between Alice and Jill Valentine, writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson told the crowd "Resident Evil: Retribution" is "definitely the beginning of the end. Everything is coming to a climax. This movie has a lot of big revelations in it and it has an awful lot of death in it." The franchise mastermind's real-life wife, Milla Jovovich, revealed, "He did tell me an idea for [movie] #6. He said, 'I really want to bring this to closure. If we did do another one, I really want to sort of end this story.' "
2. Playing a suburban mom with no fighting skills was "horrifying" for Milla Jovovich.
For a portion of the new movie, Alice thinks she's just an average mom living in the 'burbs. When crazed creatures burst in, she has no martial-arts training, weapons or other abilities to rely upon. "It was horrifying because, to be honest, I didn't really appreciate what it was like to be a superhero until I played a normal person in the 'Resident Evil' world. Normal people have it really bad. They just run and scream and get killed, like, horrifically."
For Anderson, these moments were an important choice for the latest chapter. "We tried to make the movie [bigger] in terms of scale and action but as small and intimate as possible in terms of the Milla character," he explained. "She has a child, she has a husband."
3. The cast of "Total Recall" slept with director Len Wiseman (OK, maybe just one of them).
It's no secret that married couple Kate Beckinsale and director Len Wiseman fell in love while making the "Underworld" movies together. "I'm still offended that you thought of me as this psycho-bitch wife," she joked about her role in "Total Recall." Biel jokingly declared that "the cast couch is not dead!" and added that the vivid world envisioned by Wiseman was part of what drew her to the movie, "besides, of course, sleeping with Len."
4. Colin Farrell didn't try to fill Arnold Schwarzenegger's shoes — but he almost tried his accent.
All of the folks involved with the "Total Recall" remake noted how different their film is tonally from the 1990 original, which was filled with absurd humor and one-liners. Accordingly, Colin Farrell worked to make the character made famous by the Austrian Oak his own.
"I didn't feel the need to fill those size-18 shoes or whatever size foot Arnie has," Farrell said of Arnold Schwarzenegger. "The film felt different enough that I could go and make it my own." The actor also said he didn't consider using his native Irish accent in the film though, he joked, "I suppose I could've. Is it too late? When is it released?" "I did think about messing around with an Austrian accent — terrible idea— for about seven minutes," he noted.
5. Jessica Biel's "Total Recall" training: boxing. Bryan Cranston's: drinking.
"Total Recall" is filled with high-flying stunts, tons of mixed-martial arts fighting and even a bit of wall-climbing Parkour for its leads. "I just had loads of chicken, went to the gym, drank protein shakes and tried to get a good night's rest," Farrell explained of his physical preparation. "You do have to train as an athlete would," Biel added. "Eating well, exercising, martial arts, the Parkour; boxing, boxing, boxing, boxing ... and chicken." As for Cranston's villain role? "I was training at night in the bar. Len and I would drink a lot and then we would come up with our character," he said.
6. Kate Beckinsale will put her action experience to work against her daughter's boyfriends.
"I wasn't born like Jessica wielding a javelin and running full tilt," Beckinsale said of he co-star. "I was born sitting down and reading a book and eating something." Be that as it may, the British born actress has certainly developed many skills while making the "Underworld" films and "Total Recall." Her daughter is now 13, she said, so she intends to put those chops to work as a "deterrent to the eighth-grade boys."
7. Joseph Gordon-Levitt went to great lengths to play a young Bruce Willis.
In "Looper," which reunites JGL with the writer/director of the critically acclaimed "Brick," Gordon-Levitt plays an assassin confronted with the task of killing his future self. Without falling into straight imitation, the young actor immersed himself in the entire Bruce Willis filmography, even listening to the actor's voice on his iPod and donning minor prosthetics on his face onscreen.
"I didn't think an impersonation would be appropriate anyway, I thought it would be distracting. I tried to internalize him," Gordon-Levitt told the Hall H crowd. "I watched all [Willis'] movies on repeat. I took the audio from his movies and put them on my iPod so I could listen to them. He recorded some of my voiceover lines and sent them to me so I could listen to them. I've been a fan of his ever since I was a kid."
8. The #1 reason Matt Damon made "Elysium" was "District 9."
The crowd roared their approval at the first extended look at filmmaker Neill Blomkamp's follow-up to "District 9," which envisions a futuristic dystopia, where the rich have escaped to a fancy space station while the rest of humanity toils away down below. Damon plays a world-weary everyman with five days to live who goes to great lengths to change the way things work.
"It was a very easy decision for me," Damon explained. "After I saw 'District 9,' if Neill had called me up out of the blue and said, 'This is Neill Blomkamp, will you be in my next movie?' I would have said yes." Damon said Blomkamp's name belongs right beside Scorsese and Eastwood.
The filmmaker came prepared with what Damon described as an incredibly detailed "graphic novel" on his computer. "There was a whole corresponding book of weaponry, a whole other book of vehicles. There was no question he couldn't answer about the world of 'Elysium.' I'd ask him questions as a joke sometimes," Damon smiled. For example, Damon questioned Blomkamp about why the space station was tilted a certain direction, and the director came back with details involving the position of the sun and NASA studies.
"It's really fun to work with somebody like that who actually does have all of the answers," Damon said.
9. "Elysium" filmed at the world's second largest dump. Fecal matter and pig urine were everywhere.
A few key scenes in "Elysium" were shot at the second-largest trash dump in the world. The crew wore respirators as dust, comprised mostly of fecal matter, was kicked up by helicopters and eventually covered the actors from head to toe. During one scene, Damon's stunt double was trapped under a bunch of riled-up pigs that proceeded to urinate all over him. Damon never regretted choosing the role, though.
"Being a writer also, given that you normally have a lot of lead time, I try to think objectively," he told a fan of his acting approach. "In the case of 'Elysium,' Neill and I sat down and objectively said, 'What are the things I need to do to accomplish this?' You can knock those down objectively: 'I need to work out four hours a day, I've got to shave my head' ... It's kind of that way with all the roles. I try to think about all the little details, 'cause it's always in the details."
10. Jodie Foster loved "Team America: World Police." And so did Matt Damon.
Getting covered in fecal dust isn't the only thing Damon has a sense of humor about. When an audience member brought up the movie "Team America: World Police," which viciously lampoons celebrities, including Damon and his "Elysium" co-star, Jodie Foster, the pair professed their love for the flick.
The guys behind "South Park" went after Damon in the film, aided of course by puppets. "Some people think it's my best performance," Damon joked good-naturedly. "When autograph-seekers come up, I've signed more of the puppet pictures [than anything else]. Unfortunately, I can't take any credit for 'Team America,' because I didn't work on it," he lamented. "I'd like to. Those guys are geniuses."
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