Ali Larter has no misconceptions about the Resident Evil franchise, which she joined as redheaded heroine Claire Redfield in its third installment, Extinction.
"Look, these are not critic's darlings," the 41-year-old actress told us matter-of-factly while discussing its ultimate entry, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.
"They've made six of them, and the franchise has made over 6 billion dollars," she added, in a clear barb to highfalutin critics of zombie apocalypse flicks. "So sometimes you just have to give the fans what they want."
For six films, Claire, along with zombie slayer-in-chief Alice (famously portrayed by Milla Jovovich), have delivered thrills and kills straight-up. Based on a popular video game series, the franchise has followed amnesiac assassin Alice as she battles against global zombie outbreaks created by the archetypically evil Umbrella Corporation... with some mutant canines and killer laser beams tossed in for good measure.
Claire has been by her side for three installments—in Extinction, Afterlife and now The Final Chapter—as the fierce, and admittedly sexy, leader of a convoy of human survivors.
It hasn't been Larter's most critically acclaimed work. That distinction would go to her deranged turn as a spurned lover in Obsessed or her binary roles of Niki Sanders and Tracy Strauss in the beloved NBC superhero series Heroes. That said, Resident Evil is the highest-grossing film series to be based on video games of all time, and Larter is among the brightest of its stars.
As the unabashed gorefest draws to a close (The Final Chapter just released on digital, DVD and Blu-ray), we caught up with Larter about saying goodbye to the franchise that endeared her to gamers everywhere. She sounded off on being a woman in a typically macho genre, her willingness to play it sexy, and pushing her body to the max.
Why do we love to watch beautiful women kicking ass?
You know what… it's pretty exciting. It's actually more exciting to watch a woman do it. But I think it's limiting to wonder why we wouldn’t like that.
Claire and Alice are always fighting together, rather than against one another. Is that rare for women in the action genre?
That's what stands out about these movies. To see women in these roles was very, very new at the time when Milla did the first one. And then the fact that they don't fall into the clichés of the catfights or trying to deceive each other. We build each other up, and we're a true partnership. That's something that makes this a feminist franchise. It gives you that type of female empowerment where we don't try to break each other down.
Is that what originally drew you to the franchise?
The draw for me was that I wanted to be in an action movie and to put my physicality into it. This is not a dialogue-heavy franchise, so your body is like a character. It has been so much fun to go through the stunt training and gun training. And then I wanted to play one of those roles that is typically male.
Filming must be grueling. How was shooting The Final Chapter in South Africa?
It was incredibly grueling, especially filming in Cape Town. We did all nights, and Paul had us running hours and hours in the freezing cold. But the thing is… I love that. It was pretty cool running through the quarries and swimming through swamps. It's challenging, but that’s what makes it special.
Are you anything like your character Claire?
She's so different from who I am as a person. I'm a mom: I have a six-year-old little boy and a two-year-old daughter. I love to cook and garden, and I love art… things like that. So the biggest similarity is that I'm someone who loves to push my body. That's something I was able to connect with.
Speaking of pushing your body, do you have any fond memories from your Maxim 2001 cover shoot?
Gosh, I was really having a moment when I did that magazine. Look, I'm not scared of being sexy. I might be a feminist, but I'm still someone who loves to embrace that side. I loved doing it, and I felt incredible. I was definitely putting it out there.
Did you feel the same during your iconic sundae scene from Varsity Blues?
That was one of my first scenes. I think that was one of the fun parts of the movie… what she was willing to do. She had this idea of how she was going to seduce this guy, and then she breaks down, and it's kind of a vulnerable moment. When it has that balance to it, it's great.
Lastly, do you enjoy your cult popularity among action and horror fans?
I just feel lucky that I'm still getting opportunities that inspire me, whether I'm doing Heroes, Final Destination, Resident Evil, Obsessed or Legally Blonde. I've done so many different things in my career, and it's been incredible to switch in and out of different genres.