Paul WS Anderson (Monster Hunter): “I’m not a yes man” (interview)

Paul WS Anderson (Monster Hunter): “I’m not a yes man” (interview)

Meeting with the director of the adaptation of the video game Monster Hunter, to be seen for the first time on free-to-air television this evening.

In spring 2021, the English director returned with Monster Huntera new video game adaptation with a very “andersonian”, with Milla Jovovich as a lieutenant in the American army, stuck in a parallel desert world populated by giant monsters. Paul WS Anderson then told us about his place in Hollywood, his dinner with Guillermo del Toro and his desire to make “ cool movies “.

We are sharing this interview again on the occasion of the first free-to-air broadcast of the film, at 9:10 p.m. on NRJ12.

The desert, the cars plowing through the dunes… It’s difficult to see the beginning of Monster Hunter without thinking about Mad Max: Fury Road. Is this a film you had in mind?
No, pure coincidence! These are the video game landscapes that inspired me. More than the giant monsters, that’s what impressed me when I started playing video games, a dozen years ago. This infinite desert universe was so cinematic… But I didn’t want to remake Fury Road, even if for me it is almost the very essence of cinema. That’s what I’m chasing: a film entirely driven by action and the force of its images. The similarities end there. I especially didn’t want the two films to look the same, so when we filmed in Namibia, where they filmed Mad Max: Fury Road, I was very careful to avoid the places they had used.

Damn, I put my feet in it then!
No, no, it doesn’t matter! But to tell you how wrong I was, we also did a lot of shooting in South Africa, where there is dazzling white sand. Unlike the gold and orange desert that George Miller used in Fury Road.

Adapting video games has become your specialty. What do you like so much about it?
Paradoxically, all the cinema that games can contain. Monster Hunter was obvious from this point of view, it seemed to have been designed for a film adaptation. When I discovered it, I immediately saw images in IMAX format. That’s why I used wide-angle cameras, which have twice the resolution of a normal camera. It allowed me to capture the smallest detail of the landscapes and these giant creatures. It was the opportunity to make a real monster film, a genre of which I am a huge fan. But if everyone knows what Godzilla looks like, the creatures of Monster Hunter are completely new to cinema. I saw this as a design opportunity that would take the audience by surprise.

This is actually one of the most successful aspects of the film.
THANKS. It must be said that we pulled out all the stops. The monsters are in an even higher definition than the dinosaurs in the films Jurassic World, it’s completely crazy! And we made the unorthodox choice to postpone post-production. Normally, in a blockbuster like this, most of the special effects are done during the six months preceding the release. It’s a race. But when you have to do 1,400 visual effects in such a short period of time, you know that the result won’t be the same as if you gave yourself more time. I didn’t want to compromise the quality of the creatures, so I gave our animators the time they needed. They did not work seven days a week until midnight as is often the case. Result: they were not exhausted, and I think that shows on the screen.

Monster Hunter is a brain-dead blockbuster (review)

The last time we spoke was for a story about films resident Evil. You mentioned your complicated relationship with journalists, who are rarely kind to you… And yet you continue to adapt video games, knowing very well that it will cut you off from a good part of the criticism.
It’s something I’ve struggled with my entire career, at least since I arrived in Hollywood. When I turned mortal kombat 26 years ago, people told me: “ But why do you do that ? Video game adaptations don’t work. ” There was Double Dragon And Super Mario Bros. but neither had any critical or commercial success. But I had faith. I knew audiences would come see the film and enjoy it. And guess what? That’s what happened. We got terrible reviews from journalists, but the film was number 1 in the United States for three weeks and it played all over the world. So, if done correctly, there is a real audience for video game adaptations, who will appreciate them for what they are. For me, a good story is a good story. And why should I not have the right to adapt Monster Hunter in film if the game inspired me so much visually?

But you’re a bit different in Hollywood. A director who makes commercial successes with a fair amount of regularity – without blowing the bill – and to whom we entrust without much of an eyelid a budget of 60 million dollars because we know that he will calmly repay it. Where do you see your place in the industry?
Hmm. I’m very happy doing what I do. I, uh… went my own way. You know, I’m not a yes man, like many directors in Hollywood who fight to make all the films that are offered to them. I’m from Europe and I’ve always seen myself as a writer-director, which is rare in Hollywood. So since I started there, I’ve tried to have more and more control over my projects. That’s why I also became a producer. I’m very proud of the films I make and the way audiences respond to them. This is what I wanted to do since I was little, when I went to the cinema and saw the spectators applauding the good guys and whistling at the bad guys. I always wanted to make films for people. As a kid, I didn’t read reviews. I was interested in seeing cool movies, and I feel like that’s what I’m doing today. As long as they let me do it, I will continue!

So your project can be summed up as “make cool films” ? Is that what pushes you?
I am a director who works visually and who has a particular affection for the genre. I don’t do romantic comedies because I know what my strings are: it goes from the period disaster film – like Pompeii Or The three Musketeers – up to video game adaptations like Monster Hunter Or resident Evil. I deeply believe that if the idea is cool, people will buy into it. I imagine what the public will react to positively and that’s what thrills me. And then you know, I’m also a fanboy. So the question I always ask myself is: is this the kind of film I would like to see? Yes ? So let’s go. No more complicated than that.

Wouldn’t you like to try something else, to step out of your comfort zone a little?
I’m not convinced of that. There’s a phrase that I like… Who said that again? Surely François Truffaut, because it was always Truffaut who said the most intelligent things about cinema (Laughs.). In short, there are two types of directors: miners and farmers. The miners always dig the same vein because it is only the gold that interests them: they have their obsessions and they tirelessly follow them. And then there are the farmers, who plant different things on their fields every year.

I believe it’s Bertrand Tavernier… (Editor’s note: the interview took place well before his death).
Oh yes, surely! But in any case, I am a minor. I have my obsessions, I know what I like. And in my opinion, there is little chance that I will one day say to myself: “ Come on, I’m going to make a film in a totally different genre “. I have director friends who love to string together a comedy, a drama and a science fiction film… I don’t think I’m that type of person.

You talk about your friends in the industry, which is interesting because I saw you more as a loner. Who are Paul WS Anderson’s director friends?
Huuuuuummmm (he thinks). Indeed, as a director, it’s a pretty solitary job… It can take two years to make a film, and then there’s the editing… It’s not easy being a social animal! And then it’s complicated to build friendships with other filmmakers, because you’re always stuck on the other side of the planet. I have a circle of friends I grew up with in the north of England. There is notably Bharat Nalluri, who made Miss Pettigrew. Guys with whom we shared the same dream when we were teenagers. Otherwise… I once went to an incredible dinner with Guillermo del Toro. I think it was in Madrid, I was promoting a film and writing a script for him. Hmm… (he thinks again) It was probably simpler in the heyday of the studios, when everyone worked in Hollywood. This is no longer the case today. There are practically only series that are shot in the studio.

Last thing before leaving you: resident Evil has been your baby for years. What inspires you about the reboot, whose storyline is supposed to be closer to video games? ?
I am not involved in this project at all. And since I was stuck in Africa filming Monster Hunter, without an Internet connection or telephone network, I can tell you that I did not find out. I wish them the best. For my part, I made six films which grossed 1.3 billion dollars. A very big success that I’m very proud of and… oh, wait, I’m getting my coffee and a croissant from Los Angeles, which is obviously going to be disappointing compared to what you eat at home (Laughs.) I would love to return to Paris, in fact I wrote a screenplay which takes place entirely there and which is high on the list of my future projects. It will be different than living in a tent in the middle of the desert for six months!

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