A recent Tuesday morning at the Beverly Hills home of Milla Jovovich and the actress and supermodel is cheerfully multitasking, overseeing various obligations around her daughters – Ever Gabo, nine, and Dashiel Edan, who will be two in April – and also in the middle of packing for a quick trip to London, where she will host a virtual-reality event on behalf of Toyota. “I’ve got all cylinders firing,” Jovovich laughs. “There’s always a lot going on.”
And that’s no exaggeration. The preceding weekend saw the United States release of Jovovich’s latest film, and the sixth and final instalment in the billion-dollar sci-fi horror Resident Evil franchise (in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, she reprises her role as a hardcore and kick-ass zombie basher), and she still has premieres in Moscow and Beijing to attend. What’s more, she has recently come off filming two new movies: Future World with James Franco, and Shock and Awe with Woody Harrelson and Jessica Biel.
Indeed, the Ukranian-born 41-year-old has rarely been idle in decades. As well as caring for her family, she has appeared in three dozen movies, from The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc to the two Zoolander films. Jovovich has also been a long-time muse for the house of Versace, ever since she began modelling in its Milan catwalk shows when she was barely in her teens. And Versace, of course, is now in the throes of a renaissance all its own (it also just opened a new Hong Kong flagship store in Central).
Jovovich has long had an affinity for fashion: several years ago, she was one half of the award-winning Jovovich-Hawk fashion line, which she ultimately sidelined when she became a mother. But still her creative fires burn bright. In keeping with her love of fashion, she’s currently taking a design class and is sewing alongside her instructor. She says she has a pair of jeans in mind that she can’t find anywhere, so she’s going to make them herself.
Here, Jovovich discusses Versace, Resident Evil and elusive casualwear.
So what’s so special about these jeans you’re making?
They’re based on a few of my favourite pairs, one of them being a jean that I designed 10 years ago. It’s high-waisted, but not too crazy or with too much design on it. It’s more simple, sleek and everyday, which you don’t really find. Usually they’re very gimmicky, super-’70s. I want something modern. Let’s see how it turns out.
You’ve been a muse of the house of Versace for a long time. How did that happen?
One of the first shows I ever did for them was when I was 14. This was in the early 1990s and Gianni was still alive. They flew me to Italy and he saw me walk and it was a disaster. I had no clue. So he put me on a swing, and I ended up on this idyllic bench swing for the entire show. It was very cute. He was such a wonderful man and he had the most incredible style. I worked with him on a few different campaigns and shows, and it’s been a long-running relationship with the brand.
How would you say the Versace aesthetic reflects your own?
In how sleek it is. For the most part, it feels very wearable for me. I have to go to lots of events and lunches, and do press, so it’s always nice to have something really sleek and modern.
Do you consider yourself a serious shopper or do you prefer to leave that to a stylist?
I’ve always dressed myself for the most part, although I have worked with stylists. But I know what I want to wear and that’s something I don’t feel a stylist could ever really bring me. I just love classic pieces. That’s why I like Prada as well, for its lines and sense of humour.
How has your look shifted since you became a mother?
It’s definitely simplified. I used to be the kind of girl, especially in my 20s, who was constantly wearing these one-of-a-kind Victorian jackets. I used to take loads of time to get ready and spend hours accessorising. Of course, once you become a parent that becomes completely obsolete. You don’t have the time, and who wants baby gunk – whether it’s mashed fruit or vomit or whatever – on your one-of-a-kind Victorian jacket? Either way, it’s not a good idea. Naturally, my style changed. Now I’ve gone more into the buttoned-down shirt look, with maybe some great Isabel Marant boyfriend jeans. Dressing like that I always look stylish and cool, yet I can still take a thrashing from the kids and not be worried. In fact, my jeans look even better with a couple of paint smudges on them, left over on the baby’s fingers.
How hard has it been bidding farewell to the Resident Evil family?
It’s been such an incredible journey for the last 15 years to be working on something that has resonated so well with fans all across the world. It was really an organic process that happened, and I’m proud of that. Of course, it’s hard to say goodbye. I love doing action movies, with all the wire work, stunts and martial arts, and it will always be a part of my life. It’s been bittersweet.
Why has it had such an enormously successful run and resonated with so many people?
A lot of women across the world really loved the movie. Yes, there’s crazy action, blood and horror, but the underlying theme is that there are strong women leading this film. Given the longevity of the series, it’s something that people are really inspired by.
Having been in entertainment for so long, what have you seen in terms of evolving opportunities for women? Are there more now than when you started?
There are in some ways, and there aren’t in other ways. These days, women definitely have more of a shot. But at the same time, even today, we’re under attack from many different places and governments, including our own. You can send in a resume and call yourself Michael, and then list the same credits and accomplishments and call yourself Michelle, and Michael is probably going to get the job, and be paid more for the same amount of work. That’s just the reality.
You are regarded as an activist for a number of causes, such as the LGBT community or what is happening in Aleppo. Do you think the Hollywood community is proactive enough in shedding light on such critical issues, especially in light of the new presidency?
For the moment, I’m sort of still in shock. I’m still collecting myself and trying to figure out what’s going on. I feel like a lot of people. We’re just trying to get a handle on it. California and New York are bubbles, and Hollywood and Manhattan are bubbles within bubbles, but we’re getting out now and talking to people, and understanding how everyone is feeling and what’s going on, and what we have to do to raise awareness to fix certain underlying problems.
You began modelling very young. Do you ever feel you missed out on any essential childhood experiences?
The career that I ended up in, which is in the entertainment business, is something I believe you have to start young. It’s rare that people fall into it later in life. When you want to be an actor, you know pretty early on, or it’s something you start praying for pretty early on. I suppose I’m kind of confused and conflicted as to what having a certain type of childhood is supposed to mean. Is it supposed to be this idyllic, do-whatever-you-want, be-oblivious-to-everything time? Or is it also a time to understand and nurture passions and experiment with what you want to do, to train for your future? Of course, there has to be a balance of both. I was raised with my family saying, “During the week, everybody works: school activities, homework, reading. And on the weekend, we have fun,” although it’s not that we didn’t have fun during the week.
Your older daughter, Ever, was in this last Resident Evil with you. What was that like?
She wants to be an actress. She’s been acting since she was five. That’s when I said to her, “Fine, but you have to learn to read really well, because there will be scripts for auditions.” She went up two grade levels in reading. Then she asked me again at the age of six, and I sent her to acting classes. She loves auditioning, being on set and experiencing all these incredible things. She’s quite a talented little girl.
Now that you’re done with Resident Evil, what’s next?
I finished two films last year, one with James Franco and another opposite Woody Harrelson and directed by Rob Reiner, whom I’m such a huge fan of. It’s called Shock and Awe, and is based on a true story about war journalists who were the only people writing about the real facts of why America went into Iraq. I’m still reading scripts and there and some modelling jobs here and there, so I have enough on my plate. The most important thing is I have to give myself time to be a mom.
PHOTOGRAPHY AN LE AT LOVEARTISTSAGENCY
CREATIVE DIRECTION AND STYLING ALVIN GOH
HAIR NABIL HARLOW AT BALMAIN HAIR
MAKE-UP YUKI HAYASHI AT STREETERS
PRODUCTION CHRIS BRENNER AND PAVON NYC
SPECIAL THANKS TO SHERATON GRAND LOS ANGELES