A Reminder That George A. Romero Almost Made The First Resident Evil Film (And The Reason Why He Didn’t)

A Reminder That George A. Romero Almost Made The First Resident Evil Film (And The Reason Why He Didn’t)

Back in 1998, Capcom hired George A. Romero to direct a Japanese commercial for Resident Evil 2. The results were so impressive that Sony wanted to hire the zombie-movie pioneer to direct a big-screen adaptation of the hit video game. A logical pairing, yeah? Well, it didn’t quite work out that way.

Milla Jovovich stars in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. Image: Ilze Kitshoff © 2016 Constantin Film Produktion GmbH

Here’s the ad, which stars Brad Renfro and Adrienne Frantz as the game’s protagonists. (Note that Resident Evil 2 was marketed as Biohazard 2 in Japan, which explains the title.)

Emboldened by the chance to revisit a genre he’d basically invented from a new point of view, Romero studied the game (even though he wasn’t a gamer) and penned a script that was faithful to Resident Evil’s characters, plot and tone in just six weeks. Apparently that wasn’t enough.

Variety reports:

Unlike the version that Paul W.S. Anderson eventually wrote and directed in 2002, Romero’s script was faithful to the game’s plot, and featured a menagerie of bizarre creatures (including mutant sharks, giant snakes and a man-eating plant) that gamers had come to love… Though some details were changed, the script’s overall tone and structure hewed far closer to the game than Anderson’s post-“Matrix” sci-fi version did.

“The original game was a slow-burn horror story, punctuated by moments of intense terror,” [Jamie Russell, author of Book of the Dead: The Complete History of Zombie Cinema] said. “Anderson’s movie, in contrast, took the concept and put it on steroids. It was brash and relentless. At times, you’d be forgiven for thinking he was adapting the ‘Call of Duty’ games.”

Yet despite adhering to the game’s mythology, Sony and Capcom ultimately passed on Romero’s draft. Capcom producer Yoshiki Okamoto bluntly stated at the time: “Romero’s script wasn’t good, so Romero was fired.”

Way harsh, especially considering the fact that the game’s designer, Shinji Mikami, was a big fan of Romero, and had been heavily inspired by the Night of the Living Dead auteur’s zombie omnibus (others might say “ripped off”). The sixth and allegedly last film adaptation, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, is due out January 26.