Milla Jovovich stars in Screen Gems' action horror RESIDENT EVIL:...

Milla Jovovich stars in Screen Gems' action horror RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE, produced by Constantin Film and released by Sony Pictures September 10, 2010. Credit: RAFY Photo/

Milla Jovovich, the international model turned singer and actress, is one of the few women to have anchored a successful action movie franchise.

The first three installments of "Resident Evil," based on a popular video game about a superpowered heroine fighting ravenous zombies, netted more than $380 million in worldwide box office receipts, with each release more successful than the previous one. Their fourth, "Resident Evil: Afterlife," opens Friday.

"I'm 34 years old and every teenager in the country knows who I am because of 'Resident Evil,' " the actress marvels. "They don't know how to pronounce my name, but they know I'm the girl from "Resident Evil.' "

For those who don't know, it's pronounced "Mee-luh Yo-vo-vitch." Born in Ukraine, she is the daughter of a Serbian doctor and a Russian actress. She is married to Paul W.S. Anderson, who wrote, directed and produced the first "Resident Evil," released in 2002. Anderson also wrote and produced the sequels "Resident Evil: Apocalypse" and "Resident Evil: Extinction." The couple has a 2-year-old daughter, Ever.

WHAT THE MOVIE'S ABOUT

"Resident Evil: Afterlife" begins four years after the initial outbreak of the T-virus, which was designed by the mysterious Umbrella Corp. to combat aging and nerve-based diseases but has had the unfortunate side effect of reanimating dead cells and transforming its hosts into zombies. The virus has gone global, turning its victims into mindless cannibals. Very few uninfected humans have survived.

Picking up where "Extinction" left off, "Afterlife" finds Alice (Jovovich) in Japan, armed with superhuman abilities and leading an army of her own clones against her longtime nemesis, Umbrella chairman Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts of "Diary of the Dead").

THE DIRECTOR RETURNS

"Afterlife" marks the return of Anderson to the helm and is the first "Resident Evil" movie to be shot in 3-D.

"I missed directing the films," the filmmaker says. " 'Resident Evil' has always been a rich playground for me." As for the 3-D aspect, Anderson says, "It's really exciting to be on the cutting edge of a new technology."

BACK TO ACTION

"Afterlife" marks a return for Jovovich to action movies, after she took a break from the genre following her pregnancy and the birth of her daughter in 2007.

"I took my time losing the weight," she says, looking svelte and fit. ''I gained 75 pounds [during the pregnancy], and it took me over a year to lose it." She got in shape by working out with a celebrity trainer.

Instead of jumping back into action films, she shot the mystery thrillers "A Perfect Getaway," set on a tropical island, and "The Fourth Kind," set in the Alaska. Both films were released last year.

"Being heavier actually opened up new roles for me," says the actress. "I played more normal people." Alice, her signature "Resident Evil" role, is anything but normal. Infected by the virus, she manages to stay human, though she has developed certain extraordinary powers - particularly an ability to fight off zombies. When she encountered them in previous installments, they would simply explode. If she got bit, she would regenerate. This time around, though, she is more vulnerable.

"Alice had to lose her powers," says Anderson, who again wrote the script. "We took her back to the place she was in the very first movie: a skilled warrior but just a human being."

A FAMILY AFFAIR

Getting a chance to work with her husband as a director again was a rewarding experience for Jovovich. "We always have fun making movies together," she says with a chuckle. "We make these fun action films with monsters and explosions. It's not, like, emotionally distressing. It's fun but exhausting."

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