Milla Jovovich is back in action as zombie slayer Alice in Resident Evil: Retribution, released in cinemas on Friday, September 28. The actress talks working with Michelle Rodriguez again and fighting on through injury.
By Kate Whiting
With her model looks, long legs and tiny waist, Milla Jovovich is the ultimate yummy mummy. But then staying in shape must be quite easy, when your day job involves kicking some serious zombie butt.
"To be 36 and have 15-year-old boys going, 'What's up Alice?' is pretty amazing. Being a mum and to still have a young fan base like that, I feel really blessed," concedes Jovovich, whose dark bob sets off a slick of red lipstick.
Alice, for those who don't know, is the main character in the Resident Evil sci-fi thriller series, based on the hugely popular computer games.
The first movie, released in 2002, made more than 100 million dollars worldwide, and brought together Jovovich British director Paul W. Anderson, who married in 2009 and now have a 4-year-old daughter, Ever.
Little Ever travels around the world with her parents to locations as varied as Tokyo, Moscow and the snowy wastes of Northern Russia, as the Resident Evil vehicle rolls on.
Jovovich is all too aware of the typecasting that comes with starring in a long-running franchise - Retribution is the fifth instalment - but she's still enjoying her role.
"Alice has become such a part of my life and she's definitely a part of the family. We spend a lot of time talking about the movies and what happens next and what she's going to do.
"She's dear to our hearts, so it's amazing to be able to go back and visit the character. The more I grow and change, the more I give her and we discover things about each other in a strange way.
"So it's always fun to get back in the harness. 'Get back in the hole', as Paul says!"
Alice is still on a mission to destroy the Umbrella Corporation which created the T-virus that has ravaged earth, turning people into flesh-eating zombies. For the first three films she had superhuman powers, because of a lucky mutation in the virus which meant she could regenerate if bitten.
But in the fourth film, Afterlife, she was stripped of this ability in a showdown with her nemesis, Umbrella Chairman Albert Wesker, who also destroyed her army of clones.
"I was pretty resentful of Paul for taking away my superpowers," the actress admits.
"But he made a good point - what's the point of making any more Resident Evil films if Alice is unbeatable? So I said fine, I'll just be a regular badass again."
This time around though, Alice is even more vulnerable, as she's knocked unconscious and wakes in what seems like an alternate reality, where she's a suburban mum to a young deaf girl called Becky.
"Alice can deal with the undead, the Apocalypse, guns, being a soldier, but to be a mother is a completely new world for her. To have to protect this child is really wonderful because it gives her a vulnerability and a weak point, makes her relatable."
Jovovich was in tears watching Aryana Engineer's audition to be Becky: "She has such a charming way of speaking and signing together, so being a mum, I was watching the audition crying because she was so good."
There is another very welcome addition to the new film - Lost star Michelle Rodriguez, who returns as Umbrella commando operative Rain Ocampo. She was shot dead in the first film, but this time has been cloned as two different versions of herself. 'Bad Rain' hunts down Alice under orders from Umbrella, while 'good Rain' is on her side.
Both women have to do an immense amount of training for their roles, but it's an important part of the day job.
"When you see me or Michelle fighting, doing a stunt or shooting, we put everything into it, so that you buy it. If I don't believe myself, why should anybody else? So I take it seriously. I love martial arts, I love that kind of training, I love flying and doing wire work. A lot of people don't because it's uncomfortable, but hey, you can fly, so what's a little discomfort?"
It's not all fun and flying though, and Jovovich has been battered and bruised over the years.
"It goes with the territory, you're always going to get injured doing these kind of movies, but, knock on wood, nothing serious. The second film was the scariest because we did some really crazy stunts and I slipped and tore a ligament, which I still have a problem with today."
On Retribution, she got hit on the hand by a stick and managed to stay in role until Anderson called 'Cut!'
"Then I went 'Aaaaaarggh!!' I looked down and my finger had grown huge and I said, 'Maybe I need to put some ice on that'."
Jovovich was born in Kiev and her family moved to London when she was five, then finally settled in Los Angeles, where she started going to modelling auditions aged nine.
One of her first film roles was 1991's steamy Return To The Blue Lagoon. After a role in cult stoner flick, Dazed And Confused, Jovovich eloped to Las Vegas at 16 with her co-star Shawn Andrews, a marriage she later confessed was pure "rebellion".
Her acting career took off when Luc Besson cast her in 1997's The Fifth Element, which gave her a choice of mainstream and indie roles, and her second, year-long marriage to the French director.
"I'm really, really happy with the direction my career has gone," she says today. "You know, as an actress, and modelling, I mean, age is an issue...
"I've always done indies, but the problem is, will it get released? There's so much pain involved with making movies that are that small because you put your heart and soul into it and you never know what's going to happen. At least you know with Resident Evil, it's epic, it's magical.
"I've always been a big sci-fi fan, it's always been a love of mine."
Director Anderson has hinted that the next film might be the last, as it would complete two trilogies, but Jovovich insists she'll never tire of the franchise.
"Never ever, forever," she says. "We'll always make them.
"Dead people never get old."
Extra time - Zombies on screen
:: 28 Days Later (2002): Danny Boyle directed this British horror film which starred Cillian Murphy, Naomi Harris and Christopher Eccleston - and saw Cillian's character wake from a coma to find London deserted.
:: Shaun Of The Dead (2004): This spoof of Dawn Of The Dead saw Spaced stars Nick Frost and Simon Pegg throwing their vinyl collection at a pair of zombies and ending with a showdown in a pub.
:: The Walking Dead (2010-): British actor Andrew Lincoln heads up the cast of this post-Apocalyptic series, which sees him play a deputy sheriff, who wakes from a coma to find the world dominated by 'walkers'.
:: Dead Set (2008): Created by journalist Charlie Brooker, this series which aired over five consecutive nights, was set in a Big Brother-style house and chronicled a zombie outbreak that stranded the housemates inside.
:: Resident Evil: Retribution is in cinemas from Friday, September 28