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THE PERFORMANCE: Milla Jovovich

Milla Jovovich takes a turn toward 'normal' in 'A Perfect Getaway'

Killers are on the loose in Hawaii, and the 'Resident Evil' veteran is game for the hunt for humans instead of the undead.

August 06, 2009|Michael Ordona

The grass is always greener, especially when not tainted by the blood of zombies.

Whereas most actresses in Hollywood would probably give their eyeteeth, or someone else's, to have an action franchise, Milla Jovovich suffers her share of combat fatigue. She's sincerely delighted with -- and dedicated to -- the undead-stomping "Resident Evil" series (she's suiting up for No. 4, "Afterlife," soon), but as she puts it, "It's nice to be able to play parts where I don't have to do a lot of running and chasing and killing."

Jovovich plays a "nice, normal girl" in the twisting thriller "A Perfect Getaway," co-starring Steve Zahn, Timothy Olyphant and Kiele Sanchez -- sort of. "For all intents and purposes, it's as normal and nice as I'm going to get right now," she says, allowing that the role did call for "a great girlfight."

In the story of three couples crossing paths in Hawaii, discovering that among them may be a pair of killers, the usual-warrior-woman was paired with usual-funny man Zahn, who plays it mostly straight -- on camera, anyway.

"You always knew where Steve and I were because that was where all the laughter was coming from," she says. "We would just, all day, be joking and talking and telling stories. He doesn't even have to do anything, just start to tell a joke and his expression -- oh, my God."

Having already trod as many walks of life as most millipedes, Jovovich has gone from wayward youth, teenage supermodel and recording artist, to successful fashion designer and international action star (VH1 unofficially crowned her the "reigning queen of kick-butt"). Her upcoming ventures include the drama "Stone" with Edward Norton and Robert De Niro, and promoting a Donna Karan fragrance, but none of it compares to her newest role: mom.

"My priorities have shifted completely, which has helped my career because there's this new peace that I have," says the mother, with fiance filmmaker Paul W.S. Anderson, of 21-month-old daughter Ever. "If I never did anything again, I would be a mom and I'd be totally happy being a mom.

"Everything has fallen into place so beautifully because I'm not trying so hard. If my daughter's OK, I can concentrate on something else. So it's not like all day I'm thinking about me."

The 33-year-old polyglot (she speaks English, Russian, French and Serbian) who commands what must be a dead-on impression of Ever glaring at her defiantly, lampoons her previous career obsession with Mistress Thespian gestures and theatrical anguish: "Oh, I didn't get that part! That person was mean to me at that party!' "

That doesn't mean she wasn't over the moon to work with Norton and De Niro, though wary of going against her instincts with the famously in-the-moment De Niro. Jovovich was dubious about playing one telephone scene with him as an aggressive come-on, per director John Curran's request. She gamely tried, and it clicked -- in the wrong way.

"John said, 'What happened?' 'Dude, he hung up on me! He's a nice guy with his wife in the house; I'm trying to seduce him on the phone? Of course he hung up on me.' So John said, 'OK, do whatever you feel.'

"So then I did everything I could to keep him on the phone. One take, I'm pleading with him and crying, 'Please listen to me, my husband, I care so much about him,' " and she kept going, so eager was she to make it work. "And then I hear, 'Ah-ha-ha,' " she says, accurately reproducing the De Niro chuckle, "and I'm like, 'What?,' " wondering what could be so funny in the dramatic scene. Turns out she had been so focused, she hadn't noticed they'd called "cut" until De Niro told her.

This film and her new role at home have led the star of "The Fifth Element" and "Ultraviolet" to reconsider her image:

"After I got 'Stone,' I said, 'OK, I've got this really serious movie, I'll put up a black-and-white head shot on IMDB.' Paul was like, 'Yeah, I think you should go to all your auditions in black and white now. You're not getting paid a bunch of money to kick . . . ; you're getting paid nothing to do a really artistic movie. You've made it.' "

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Where you've seen her

Milla Jovovich (YO-vo-vitch) is lovingly drooled over by gamers around the world -- Maxim magazine named her No. 11 on its list of Hottest Nerd Crushes -- for her lead role as Alice in the "Resident Evil" films. She also starred heroically in "Ultraviolet" and "The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc." Her earliest prominent roles included "Two Moon Junction," "Chaplin" (opposite Robert Downey Jr.) and "Dazed and Confused," but it was her first collaboration with Luc Besson, "The Fifth Element" (with Bruce Willis), that made her a star.

-- Michael Ordona

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