While in San Diego for the 2013 Comic-Con, Bloody-Disgusting and Dread Central’s “thehorrorchick” had the opportunity to exclusively chat with director Gareth Edwards about all things Godzilla.
During our interview, we heard from Edwards about his initial feelings on being offered such an epic opportunity like Godzilla as a follow-up to his 2010 critically-acclaimed indie creature feature Monsters, his approach to balancing the tone and story of the film, his thoughts on the design of Godzilla and more.
Bloody-Disgusting: It’s great talking with you again, especially since we discussed back on Monsters your love of giant monster movies. I have to imagine when you were offered Godzilla that you were pretty psyched- what was going through your head when you got the call from Legendary?
Gareth Edwards: You know, when we were driving around and shooting Monsters, we would have a lot of time to spare in the van so we’d sit around just talking. One day we were just sort of joking around, asking each other, “What would have to happen in your career to make this (Monsters) movie worth it?” And I said when they asked me, “As long as I get to do another film of this scale but also with a low budget, it’ll be worth it.” If you would have told me back then that the next movie I would be doing would be Godzilla, I would have never, ever believed it; it was never on my radar that doing Monsters would lead to something like this.
So what happened one day was that I had a meeting with Legendary- when you make an independent movie that people seem to respond to, the studios want to set up meetings with you to talk about future projects. I had just signed to another smaller project with another company so I was worried that I had burned a bridge there. But then suddenly out of the blue, I got a random phone call from Thomas (Tull) who said at the end of the phone call, “Oh- by the way, if we had a big, massive franchise that we felt was right for you, would you be interested in doing it?” I didn’t really know what he meant by that but I told him that of course I would be interested. And that was the end of that call but I still had no idea what he meant.
Three days later, I get a strange email that asked me to call a number right now and when I did, it was my agent Rich who told me to sit down immediately. And that’s when he told me that Legendary wanted to offer me a chance to direct Godzilla. And at first I didn’t really say anything because I was overwhelmed but then he asked me if I was a fan. As I was sitting there talking to him, I happened to realize that I was staring at my DVD of the 1954 version which I had recently played just a few nights before coincidentally and had laying on my desk. So they took that to mean I was a fan thankfully (laughs) so we had a meeting just a few days later; I was so relieved then because I realized Legendary wanted to make the movie with the same kind of tone that I wanted to and they were on exactly the same page I was for this film. They wanted to same movie and they’ve just been fantastic to work with.
All those horror stories you hear about first-time Hollywood directors that get these kinds of opportunities who have been warned about all these bad things that can happen when working with a studio- but honest to God, I know people say this to suck up to producers but Legendary was so supportive. I could show you every single email that was exchanged for Godzilla and it was nothing but love for the film and nothing but support for myself and the entire team behind the movie. Everyone who has worked on this movie has said how rare our experience was and how it was literally the best producing team they’ve ever worked with too. We really lucked out.
Bloody-Disgusting: Something that I’ve always appreciated about Legendary is that they seem to be really invested in big stories with great character and heart and from what you’ve said, it also sounds like that’s something they’ve brought to the table for Godzilla as well.
Gareth Edwards: And that’s Thomas (Tull)- he’s pretty much Legendary and he’s really just a big fanboy at heart. He’s probably the biggest fanboy that I know and it’s like the reason they make these movies is because they want to see them on the big screen themselves; they’re just making them happen now. It really feels like that’s their main motivation which is a fantastic place to be coming at it from.
Bloody-Disgusting: So when you’re approaching a movie like Godzilla where you have decades and decades of material to draw from, both in literature and in film, what is the biggest challenge for you as a storyteller in creating a story that has to deliver on so many different levels?
Gareth Edwards: Yeah, I think in terms of pre-production, that was the hardest thing for me. The great thing about Godzilla is that the story is such an infinite canvas where you can kind of do anything you want. So early on in the process we had to decide what story we were going to tell, what characters we wanted in the film and we brainstormed every single thing. I feel like we found a good balance between really great characters that were likable but also have this journey throughout the story. I’m pretty pleased with how everything came out; it seemed like we were really bashing around ideas for years on this movie. I’m really quite pleased with how it all turned out; I think people will be quite surprised actually because there is some emotional stuff going on with the story as well. There are moments I cannot wait for people to see.
There are a lot of great spectacle moments in Godzilla which turned out beyond anything I could have ever imagined but there are also a lot of character-driven moments to the film too which left me quite emotional. One of the most important things to me when working on Godzilla was that you really cared about these people and that you’re invested in them; I think when you do have all that epic craziness going on, it’s ten times more powerful when you can root for those characters to survive everything that’s going on around them.
And I have to say that I had an embarrassment of riches in terms of the cast that I had working on Godzilla; it’s almost embarrassing how great they all were. So I don’t know- I just tried to go back to the kind of films I grew up loving, like late 1970’s/early 80’s in terms of the pace and suspense. I just wanted the audience to feel like there was a reward for them in the movie I was giving them. I just feel like a lot of recent blockbusters focus on the ‘whiz, bang’ but don’t give you anything to keep you emotionally invested and the story is always cranked to 11. There’s just nowhere else to go when you’re making a movie like that. For me, things work in a story because of contrast.
Bloody-Disgusting: I remember from our last interview that having a visual effects background really helped you in making Monsters; did you get to put any of those skills to use on Godzilla, especially when it came time to design his look?
Gareth Edwards: Oh definitely- and the great thing with a project like Godzilla is that when you’re doing a movie like this that involves a monster that’s so beloved, you suddenly get access to the greatest visual artists out there working today. So I was very lucky in terms of that. And I did get my hands dirty on this and broke out the old tablet again but it was mostly just like tweaking things. But in terms of designing Godzilla, we spent about an entire year just working on that aspect alone. You never quite feel like you have enough time but I wouldn’t change a single thing with the design. I’m so incredibly happy with it.
In theaters May 16, 2014, an epic rebirth to Toho’s iconic Godzilla, this spectacular adventure pits the world’s most famous monster against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity’s scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence. Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Richard T. Jones, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, David Strathairn, Patrick Sabongui, Yuki Morita, Brian Markinson, Juliette Binoche, Akira Takarada, Victor Rasuk, C.J. Adams, and Ken Watanabe star.
Check out the Godzilla Encounter website to keep track of Big G’s path of destruction!