The latest installment of the storied Resident Evil franchise hits theaters this week. Unlike its six predecessors, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City brings fans back to where it all began.
Welcome to Raccoon City adapts elements of the first two video game as it follows a group that are determined to uncover the secrets of the shady pharmaceutical company Umbrella Corporation. Taking place in 1998, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City picks up the day after the events of the Resident Evil 2 video game. This also sets it before any of the Milla Jovovich-led films, which all take place in the 21st Century.
The Resident Evil reboot will feature many mainstays of the video game series in prominent roles. Kaya Scodelario and Robbie Amell star as Claire and Chris Redfield, a sibling duo taking center stage for the first time in the film series.
While Welcome to Raccoon City recasts many iconic characters seen in previous films, it does make efforts to adapt those from the video game that have never seen themselves in live-action before.
Resident Evil Star Reveals Inspiration
The road to the truth can be paved with danger, and that's exactly where investigative journalist Ben Bertolucci finds himself in Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Direct's Liam Crowley, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City's Josh Cruddas opened up about his portrayal of the new yet familiar Resident Evil part.
Cruddas noted it was important to him to do the Ben Bertolucci character justice while also making it his own.
"Ben was a character that I was familiar with before I taped for it, but I honestly didn't go back before the tape to the games because I know there's a really fine line. There's another actor who played that character in the games. It's not just a robot, it's another actor voicing this character, and then eventually doing mo-cap for the remastered, the remake. I was like, I don't want to copycat another actor's performance. That's not what I'm here for. The script's completely different. The character, even in the script, you read it and you're like, 'Okay, they are kind of expanding him a bit and expanding his world, while also making some cool, creative choices.' I really wanted to give my own take on it."
Unlike his cast mates who are assuming their live-action roles from other actors, Cruddas only has voice actors Rod Wilson, Skip Stellrecht, and Atsushi Imaruoka to compare to. Physically, Cruddas' frame of reference is the digital iteration of Bertolucci, which has enough distinctions from Cruddas that it makes his portrayal unique from first glance alone.
"The fact of the matter is, I've got ginger hair! In the game, there's no Ben Bertolucci with ginger hair. They were smart about that. Obviously, this game is iconic and you have all these other amazing actors playing all these other iconic characters, but there's room for a bit of here's a guy we know, but we're going to not subvert expectations, but keep people on their toes. Introduce a little more blood, pun intended."
In the games, Ben Bertolucci is a freelance investigative journalist who works to unravel the mystery surrounding Raccoon City's unsolved murders. Bertolucci's desperate pleas for believability is met with doubt from his peers, a foundational characteristic of truth-seekers in film.
"You watch these movies and yes, there's not a stereotype, but a bit of an archetype of these characters that has the truth and is a sympathetic character, but there's also something maybe a little bit off that you don't immediately trust them and there's a reason for that. Certainly, I think Ben, when we meet him in the games and when we meet him in this movie, there is a desperation that comes with knowing the truth and having people stonewall you for years, or however long it's been. He has to get the message across, and it's a fun journey."
To understand that "fun journey" is to understand Bertolucci's arc in the Resident Evil games, which Cruddas joked he was "too terrified" to play all the way through as a kid.
"I've known about the movie series for a long time, but also the games. As I keep saying to everybody, I could never play them as a kid because I was always too terrified, but I've loved them as an adult. I'm one of those people that gets scared watching Paw Patrol, so this wasn't the world I'm sunk my teeth into for hours at a time. I've been lucky to work in a lot of horror movies, so even after filming them, reading the script, the same with this one. I still get scared. Jump scares always work on me. I'm never desensitized. It was a bit tough to fully immerse myself in it again. But yes, in order to get the spirit of the games, you have to play them, but you have to immerse yourself in the script too."
Once he powered through the games, Cruddas emphasized that it was "a blast" everyday on set. Cruddas pointed to Avan Jorgia's Leon S. Kennedy as a character he loved playing off of.
"Playing with Avan, who is so good as Leon in this movie. Finding our relationship and getting that cooking. Once that homework is done, you can just show up and play. It's a blast."
Despite being the seventh installment in a franchise that has spanned nearly two decades, Cruddas stressed that Welcome to Raccoon City is both "familiar" and a "different vibe" from its predecessors.
"At the end of the day, the first six movies are iconic in their own way, but this one takes us back to 1998. We're seeing the origin stories of all these characters we've come to love from the games. It's very familiar, but it's quite a different vibe from the other ones. It's much scarier I think than the other ones. There's still amazing action. The DNA of the Resident Evil games has really been built into this movie."
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is in theaters now.