Hollywood has plenty of intriguing what-if scenarios, including a rather notable one featuring the legendary George Romero.
Romero is mostly known for his iconic work on the Night of the Living Dead series, and back in 1998, that resume got him a gig directing a live action commercial for Capcom's Resident Evil 2 in Japan. The commercial featured Brad Renfro as Leon Kennedy and Adrienne Frantz as Claire Redfield modeled the surroundings and theme around the game (via Variety).
“It was an honor to work with a legend like Romero,” Frantz said. “All of the zombie TV shows and movies that we see today are because of him. He started an entire horror film revolution. Every little detail counted to him. I remember he taught me how to pump the shotgun correctly!”
That attention to detail eventually led Capcom and Sony Pictures to hire him as the director for the film adaptation. The move put fans of the franchise at ease, as the director had clearly shown his adeptness at handling this type of universe. Rob Kuhns, who directed the documentary "Birth of the Living Dead", said “Having Romero attached gave the film a stamp of legitimacy for horror fans. Back then, if you thought about zombies, you thought of Romero. His involvement guaranteed a certain number of people would come to see the movie.”
Kuhn also mentioned how the project came at a fortunate time for Romero, as multiple previous projects kept falling through. “He had a 10-year period with New Line Cinema where he was paid to develop projects, but he didn’t make anything with them. Everything kept falling through repeatedly.”
Romero's pitch was much like the original game. It took place in the Spencer Mansion, and focused on leads Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine. The script also featured some iconic imagery, such as the giant snake and man-eating plant. It's ironic that the film hewed so closely to the game, as Romero had actually never played it according to author Jamie Russell, who wrote "Book of the Dead: The Complete History of Zombie Cinema. “Romero wasn’t a gamer,” Russell said. “To familiarize himself, he watched a videotape of an assistant playing through it.”
Compared to the future Paul W.S. Anderson take that launched a successful franchise, it was night and day. “The original game was a slow-burn horror story, punctuated by moments of intense terror,” Russell 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.”
Turning in the script after just six weeks, Romero was told they wouldn't be using it. Capcom producer Yoshiki Okamoto's less tactful stance at the time was "Romero's script wasn't good, so Romero was fired." “I know George was really disappointed that he didn’t do it,” Adrienne Frantz said. “Still to this day, I just can’t believe that his version didn’t end up making it.”
Russell added “from his point of view, the games had basically ripped-off his Living Dead films to begin with.”
You can view the commercial for Resident Evil 2 to see what Romero was going for, and it is far different than the Resident Evil that eventually made its way to theaters. Whether that's a good thing or not is up to you, but it is always interesting to see what might have been.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, the final (Ha!) installment in Sony's film franchise, which is based on Capcom’s hugely popular video game series and has grossed over $1 billion worldwide, comes out next month. To generate as much interest as possible, the studio has released a new pair of television spots.
Picking up immediately after the events in Resident Evil: Retribution, humanity is on its last legs after Alice is betrayed by Wesker in Washington D.C. As the only survivor of what was meant to be humanity's final stand against the undead hordes, Alice must return to where the nightmare began – Raccoon City, where the Umbrella Corporation is gathering its forces for a final strike against the only remaining survivors of the apocalypse. In a race against time Alice will join forces with old friends, and an unlikely ally, in an action packed battle with undead hordes and new mutant monsters. Between losing her superhuman abilities and Umbrella's impending attack, this will be Alice's most difficult adventure as she fights to save humanity, which is on the brink of oblivion.
Milla Jovovich reprises her starring role as Alice. Other headline cast includes Ali Larter (Heroes, Resident Evil: Afterlife) as Claire Redfield, Iain Glen (Game of Thrones, Resident Evil: Extinction) in the role of Dr. Alexander Isaacs, Shawn Roberts (Edge of Darkness, Resident Evil: Afterlife) as Albert Wesker, Australian actress Ruby Rose (Orange is the New Black), who has a huge social media presence, as Abigail, Eoin Macken (The Night Shift) as Doc, Cuban-American actor William Levy, one of People en Español's reigning 50 Most Beautiful, as Christian, Fraser James (Law & Order: UK) as Michael, and Japanese model and TV personality, Rola, as Cobalt.