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11 September 2010   Comments Off on ‘Resident Evil: Afterlife’ star Wentworth Miller channels his inner Tennessee Williams

Wentworth Miller was a main character for four seasons of TV’s Prison Break, but he knows his role as the new man in the Resident Evil film franchise, starring Milla Jovovich and based on the popular zombie-shooting video games. “Milla’s the main event, I knew that going in, and was very appreciative of that dynamic,” says Miller, who plays Chris Redfield to Jovovich’s action heroine Alice in Resident Evil: Afterlife, the fourth movie in the series opening in theaters today. “It was purely about the stunts and the physicality of telling that particular story, whereas with Prison Break, being one of the lead actors on this one-hour drama for four years, if I could be frank sometimes it got challenging being one of the guys pulling the cart. There was a lot of extra responsibility involved that sometimes competed with or even detracted from the creative process of acting on camera.” Nowadays, though, Miller is working behind the scenes as a fledgling screenwriter. So far he’s got two scripts — the horror/family drama Stoker and its prequel Uncle Charlie — that Miller says are “the most creatively satisfying things I’ve ever done, and that includes anything I’ve done as an actor.” We talked for an item on this weekend’s Who’s News page, but read below for more on his career shift and check out this behind-the-scenes Resident Evil: Afterlife featurette with Miller, Jovovich and director Paul W.S. Anderson.

Resident Evil is a very popular thing for many gamers. Do you fall into that category?
I’ve never been a gamer. My parents really put an emphasis on homework growing up, so there wasn’t really time for video games or comic books. Now I feel at the ripe old age of 38 that I’ve pretty much missed my window of opportunity. [Laughs] I do get a kick out of being part of a video game franchise.

It seems like a lot of people are talking about your movie scripts. Googling “Wentworth Miller” gets you all kinds of stuff about Stoker. Are you excited about getting more search results about that these days than Prison Break?
I’m not in the business of keeping tabs on searches related to Wentworth Miller. [Laughs] I am pleased to be inching my way toward a status as an official slash: actor/writer. That does put a smile on my face. I’m not sure if it’s true long term, it might only be true for the moment, but I’m enjoying it for what it is.

Do you find that writing inspires acting, and/or vice versa?
Absolutely. First of all, I appreciated writing on a number of levels, one of which was that it’s a completely self-generated experience. When you’re on a set, you are in the habit of waiting for a hundred other people to do their jobs before you get a chance to do yours. It’s an inherently collaborative process and it takes the time it takes, whereas when you’re writing something, whatever it is it’s obviously just you and your computer. So I enjoyed that tremendously. Because I’ve only acted up until this point, I’ve only experienced the business from an actor’s point of view. And at the end of the day, you show up on set, you’ve got your lines memorized and you lay down the work as best you can. But you’re not there when your performance is put together in the editing room. The desire to be a part of the larger process — whether it be acting or writing or editing — is a natural development for a lot of actors, myself included.

Have you missed acting yet with all the writing you’ve been doing?
[Laughs] I haven’t. What I’m enjoying is that for the first time in a long time, I’ve got more than one pot on the stove. For four years with Prison Break, there was one big pot of boiling water, and it felt very much like there wasn’t really room for anything else. But now with the writing — and the acting to hopefully return to at some point — I’ve got balance in a way that I didn’t have balance before, and actually what feels like options, which for an actor in this business is a refreshing place to be.

Two scripts in, do you feel like you’ve found your voice?
I would imagine that much like acting, there’s some evolution to be expected. These are two scripts right out of the gate – I’m very pleased with the way they turned out and I’m excited about the attention that they’ve attracted so far. I imagine that in five or 10 years’ time if I sat down to write another script or my 100th script, it would probably look, sound and feel very different because I would be very different.

In writing Stoker and Uncle Charlie, which have elements of family angst, mystery and horror, where did you look for inspiration in terms of genre?
I have a great deal of appreciation for stories that straddle genres. Even something like The Shining, which you might point to as an example of classic horror, I think that also holds its own as a family drama. You can interpret that story in any number of ways. In my opinion, it’s not genre-specific. But I didn’t think about genre when I was sitting down to write these two scripts. I just thought about what is the story that most excites me, and wherever that takes me, I have to follow. Hopefully I’ll be able to find someone in the business who sees and respects it for what is and doesn’t try to force it into one pigeonhole or another and helps me get that out there to the largest possible audience.

What’s the trickiest thing you’ve found about screenwriting? It seems like a totally different beast than any other kind of writing.
I understand that there are a lot of books out there you can read and a lot of classes you can go to that are all about the ins and outs of screenwriting – none of which I looked into. [Laughs] I just decided to leap over that edge and see what lay on the other side. But one thing I had heard in the past as a rule of thumb was that every scene needs to advance your understanding of the story or the characters involved. And if it doesn’t, lose it. That can be difficult because you might come up with a great set piece or a moment or a line of dialogue you love but fails to advance the story or the characters in a significant way. I believe, not to sound completely English major-y and pretentious, that there’s a quote from Tennessee Williams that has something to do with killing your little darlings. And there was a bit of that with these two scripts. It was painful to see these moments that I enjoyed fall by the wayside but in service of a larger, tauter, tighter story, it was a necessary part of the process.

Do you look at scripts differently now as a writer than you did strictly as an actor?
I’m now certainly approaching the scripts that come my way from a new direction. And when I go to the movies, I’m not just appreciating what’s on display visually, but I find myself hearing the dialogue as though it were there on the page and figuring out how the scenes come together. There is a science to it as well as an art, and the best screenplays out there hide the science. You don’t see the formula. It’s so ingrained in the larger story that you don’t become aware of the mechanics at work. That said, I’m looking forward to whatever this next chapter is and whatever it might hold. I know education is definitely a part of that process as with any facet of this industry.

Will you be a lot pickier when you look at acting roles now that you have this education?
I’m in a very fortunate position where I can pick and choose. That said, as far as I’m concerned, a role is a role is a role, be that theater or TV or film. There’s a well-worn narrative in this industry about the TV actor who finishes up the series that put him on the map and now feels it’s time to throw his hat in the big ring and seeing if he can become a movie star. I don’t subscribe to that narrative. That’s not my story. The very first thing I did post-Prison Break was an episode of Law & Order, which I think is a pretty clear indication of where my head is at. It’s less about trying to get somewhere in my career and being part of a story that moves people in some way, large or small.

What’s your go-to way to relieve the tension of writing for hours at a computer?
Music, going to the movies, checking out a museum, going for a walk – these are ways in which you can move out of your little bubble you’ve created for yourself as you’re hammering away at the pages. Take a breath, look around and come back with life. Really, all you have to put into your stories at the end of the day is what you’ve learned along the way. So to keep absorbing like a sponge, learning and exposing yourself to different influences is the best way to create something that’s not only powerful in terms of the personal experience for you on a creative level, but also something that someone who is not you can sit down and appreciate and enjoy.

How many script ideas do you have bubbling in your head, and will you wait till these two get picked up to write another one?
To see if there’s any appreciation for what I have to offer? [Laughs] There’s no sequencing that I’m conscious of. I will confess that when I finished Stoker, there was a period of weeks where I was feeling a little down and wondering if I’d told the only story I had to tell. That was it for me! And then I wrote the prequel, which I didn’t see coming but which showed up nonetheless. I will stay hopeful that that’s foreshadowing and shades of things to come. There are a couple ideas I have percolating, but whether or not I sit down to write them has nothing to do with whether or not I think they’ll find an audience, in the business or beyond the business. Once you start playing that very seductive game — What can I sell? What can people easily imagine the poster for? What can the marketing people wrap their heads around most quickly? ­— you’re not writing for yourself anymore. You’re writing for someone else, and that definitely impacts the quality of the story you’ve got to offer.

Source: http://whosnews.usaweekend.com/

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