Below is an audio transcript of the interview, for those who prefer to read versus listen. Thanks goes to Noah Percival for transcribing this long interview.
Chris Mirjahangir: Thank you for this post release interview and congratulations on the release of the film.
Adam Wingard: Thank you.
Mirjahangir: In the past couple days it’s come up for fans who have discovered the audio commentary and about an hour in you had said: getting the energy source doesn’t make any sense, doesn’t matter, everything. I just want to know if you want to elaborate on that.
Wingard: Yeah I mean I think I was just totally just joking I mean I I’m surprised anybody would take something from a commentary really seriously. I mean when you make a movie you’re making a movie and the commentaries like an extra thing and if you have to explain or anything else in a commentary anything… you know it’s just a separate thing it’s not the movie you know and you know that you know yeah I think I remember saying that and just being totally joking because you know it is a very convoluted sort of excuse to go down into Hollow Earth but you know when I say it doesn’t matter I don’t think I’d literally meant it doesn’t matter at the end you know. I mean because truthfully like what does matter to me is that you know that the movie get to all the fun stuff and you know really at the end of the day you know movies have MacGuffins you know these are things that are important to the characters but really aren’t important to the audience and that’s that part of the film is getting sort of the MacGuffin out of the way that’s all it is you know and so once that part has been unlocked and achieved by the characters then the movie isn’t just “okay we’re trying to get to point A to point B”. It becomes now we’re really in the fast track with the really exciting stuff and so yeah. I mean it’s funny, it’s really funny like whenever I did Blair Witch the commentary and there’s a lot of controversy because Simon and I wouldn’t, he’s the writer of that film, we wouldn’t say what the thing was in the woods and we wouldn’t clarify certain mysteries within the movie and that some people are really mad and it’s just like what do you really expect me to you know we didn’t tell you in the movie we’re not gonna tell you in the commentary but you know people wanna be mad at me they can be mad at me you know whatever. It’s like I think the movie delivers on a level that I’m really proud of and you know and there are just you know there’s kind of silly plot contrivances in the film, Godzilla vs. Kong, but the thing is you know we tried everything it wasn’t because out of laziness or something that we just like landed at something it’s like no stone was left unturned I can assure you in terms of developing that film and ultimately where we ended up you know some of it’s a little over complicated in terms of what their journey you know their purpose for it is you know like does it really make sense them uploading the signal up there, sure, maybe you know like enough to give us an excuse to you know have a movie and have fun but ultimately you know you have to pick the route that’s the best for the overall movie and a film like Godzilla vs. Kong you know pacing is so important you know and obviously it doesn’t take precedence over anything but that’s the balance and for me it’s just a matter of trying to make the most efficient version of the film possible and just like every film you know we have like deleted scenes and some of that stuff you know there’s a couple of cool deleted scenes that didn’t make it into the film but there’s nothing that I missed from the movie.
Mirjahangir: I didn’t see anything.
Wingard: And to be honest with you almost everything that’s cut from the film is cut because it wasn’t efficient enough or you know it wasn’t interesting enough maybe and it wasn’t efficient enough or you know like maybe a scene in itself would be interesting but then you had to have 3 scenes around it supporting it and so you know it was just kind of the things you do when you’re chipping away a film like this where I mean we literally go to every part of the world and inside of the world and back again and we do it two hours.
Mirjahangir: There was something because you told me that James Rolfe he had a cameo. Can you tell me what that cameo was going to be and if you do another MonsterVerse movie…
Wingard: You know I feel like that all got really blown out of proportion because I’m a big fan of The Angry Video Game Nerd I’ve been since basically the beginning of that site. And so over the years that kind of talked to Rolfe or James you know a couple times like at one point I tried to get him to let me direct an episode of his Angry Video Game Nerd show and we were talking about it but we just weren’t able to make it work you know for whatever reason I can’t remember why I think we got too busy here I can’t remember what it was. And at one point I wanted him to star in my VHS 2 short but he was doing his movie and then you know it’s funny because I was really excited because on the night of Godzilla vs. Kong coming out I saw that James posted a video about his review of it which I figured he would do relatively soon because I know he’s such a massive Godzilla fan. And it’s funny because like I was like sitting there watching it and it’s quite amusing because at the end of the video he literally starts talking to me and I need to follow up I need to write him back but that happened like right when everything’s going on so I just didn’t get a chance too. But in the video yeah he talked about you know I think he mentioned it there maybe afterwards everybody was saying that you know he was gonna have a cameo in the film but… and I did want him to come on and be like an extra or something you know at some point. It never went beyond that, there was never like oh I have a role for you James it was like: “Hey James, if you’re like around you know we should throw you in a shot or something, reaction to something” you know that was like my hope and dream at best you know and so it just it just didn’t come to fruition and then I heard you know that James turned down a role in the movie and I’m kind of like what, what is this. You know because I don’t think it was never, never, never that far it was literally just casual conversation between me and him it never got to the point where I’m like talking to the producers saying hey I got this guy I want to be in the movie which I’m sure they would have been totally fine with. If we had a written part for him that be much bigger deal because then I would have to get him to audition because I don’t think I could just be like Hey this guy you know can come in and be in this expensive movie, they would want to see evidence I don’t think they would just trust me at face value maybe a little more now but not as much yeah I had to make a hit movie first.
Mirjahangir: With you I guess it’s been reported that you’re like in talks to do another one you know it’d be a second chance for a cameo.
Wingard: Ha ha ha! Who knows.
Mirjahangir: Yeah. So these are like a lot of the more pressing questions and stuff. So you shot the Jonas scene at the end of [Godzilla] King of the Monsters saying “we’ll take it” but the head you know just to get the Ghidorah head. Then Bernie when they come across the head in the film he says that there’s two, there’s one there there’s one inside Mechagodzilla… but I thought there was only like just that one severed head. Where did the other one come from?
Wingard: Yeah because the other ones do get destroyed in the movie you know yeah it’s really funny because… we actually created that before King of the Monsters came out. So I think the way that happened was I don’t think that actually we knew that all the heads were destroyed completely and then you watch the movie and you’re like okay it’s destroyed but you know the line is what it is you know? It’s funny because I remember bringing that up at one of the meetings and everybody was just like that’s fine you know what it’s just one of those things you know that’s sort of the overlap that happens sometimes when you got two movies kind of being made concurrently. Because we didn’t see it, I don’t think we saw a version of the film until we shot that I can’t remember how it was it. I think that’s how that happened. I agree because yeah because yeah because 2 of them get totally vaporized in King of Monsters right so…
Mirjahangir: Well I mean all of Ghidorah gets wasted, except that severed head.
Wingard: Well you know and it’s like who knows maybe like a piece of it got left behind and that you know that we didn’t see you know? But also you have to remember I mean like Bernie’s just theorizing he’s not basing that in anything nobody else says that in the film but I think it’s one of those things where once you have a character say it everybody assumes its true and in my mind it was never that there was another skull inside of there because I just saw it like we’re not, because I remember when we developed the idea initially because I don’t believe that line came in until later if I remember correctly. But actually I think like the original genesis of the thing was just it wasn’t even that it needed two skulls to communicate with each other which doesn’t make sense you know there’s a logic to that I really like and it’s probably why that line ended up in the film because at some point it just made things easier to explain you know what I mean? Yeah the original intention with that thing so in the very first draft of the script when that skull came up it was initially just going to be something that you pilot Mechagodzilla from. So the idea that the AI in Mechagodzilla was a late blooming kind of idea that came in very late in the development. The original idea was that Ren actually was going to pilot Mechagodzilla the entire time and he and the skull itself it wasn’t used because it needed to communicate with the other skull it was just that the Apex had kind of in the same way that you would reverse engineer like a UFO in Area 51 you know? And then you create like new UFOs it was almost like, but it’s because it’s from technology that you know we don’t have access to it may be materials and things. The idea was that the humans in Apex essentially did the same thing with the Ghidorah skull they found out that it had these psychic properties and they were able to utilize that to create this like kind of perfected version of a real time communication between the driver of Ghidorah… err… Mechagodzilla and the device, and Mechagodzilla himself.
Mirjahangir: And that is Ghidorah…
Wingard: It’s funny because you are bringing all this up and these are things I haven’t really thought about in like years like I’m even trying to think “Oh wait actually I forgot about that” you know it’s really funny to even go down memory lane.
Mirjahangir: Because we just kind of got the movie you know?
Wingard: Yeah, that’s true, well I’ve been working on this thing since 2017 you know at least the first versions of it so at least you know developing.
Mirjahangir: When did you finish? When was this 100% done CGI and everything?
Wingard: I want to say… So I wanna say maybe August or September 2020. But it wasn’t done done at that point you know like there’s still a lot of you know the 3D version wasn’t done for a decent amount of time later. There’s still a lot of work going on until basically I mean the end of the year.. Actually we were still creating versions of the movie in January 2021 I believe because I remember I was watching the IMAX versions and all those kind of things are playing those all back in January and February I believe.
Mirjahangir: This had some release dates it bounced for a little bit.
Wingard: Yeah It did but it was never like a thing where “Oh the films in trouble and we’re going to change the release dates” I was always afraid that was going to be the perception because we were moving it around but you know it was more just like that you know they needed slots and so they just kinda called out stuff I remember originally we were gonna be in May I think 2020 or something like that I can’t remember what it was yeah… Yeah we were originally going to be in May 2020 and then I think Fast and Furious moved on that date or some I think it was… it was some movie like that where you’re just like there’s no way we’re going to try to compete with that right?
Wingard: And so they bumped it up to March and I remember we’re all just like well there’s no way we’re gonna… we’re not even gonna have the movie finished in March you know what I mean? And so that that always felt like a placeholder date and then November was the real one that we could have hit that November date if the pandemic hadn’t happened and then the third date or you know the fourth date was the final one which ended up being actually technically there is two more because originally they moved into the summer 2021 once the pandemic hit and then they decided to move it up.
Wingard: And you know it’s kind of scary because everybody’s always like looking at these things and they’re trying to read into it and I just remember being like oh man you can’t just come out and say hey things are really going great you know everybody’s happy with the movie you know what I mean? You can’t just come out and say that because they’re going to think that you’re lying or something or you’re covering something up even more now because why would you have to say that if there’s nothing wrong you know maybe there’s something is wrong and then it can be an avalanche or it’s like a snowball effect whenever internet gossip starts you know and that could be detrimental to a film because it can change the way people perceive a movie in general but by in large we kind of stayed under the radar it was a big deal to the fans you know but just it never really nobody was really paying much attention to us we were kind of weirdly like an underdog movie like until the trailer came out there it felt like everybody was just kinda like “Eh whatever this could be anything. you know? And I remember there’s a lot of pessimism on a mainstream level about the film before anybody that knew anything about it and then I remember the morning of the trailer drop like Forbes have been writing a couple articles and they were just very kind of like just dismissive of the film but then the morning the trailer drops it was almost like right before it dropped I read this article and it was the first article that I saw were clearly the person who’d written that had seen the movie and they said you know what if this movie takes sort of like the Freddy versus Jason path on with that kind of approach then they might have a shot at it and suddenly it was almost like they were covering their **** because they realize what a second like this trailers like crazy it’s different it might actually connect and that was like the first kind of sign where I saw all like people kind of say like oh wait a minute now that we actually see what this thing is it does look kind of exciting. You know it just kept going off from there you know kept exceeding I think all of our expectations especially you know with COVID and hopefully you know will still have Japan left that’s our last one.
Mirjahangir: Are you doing premieres over there?
Wingard: I mean… I’m not, I wish I was but I assume because of… I thought for a little while you know like whenever. Things were really starting to get better here and when the movie first came out I thought wow I wonder if they’re gonna actually just fly us up to Japan and do a real premier because at the time it seemed like things were going pretty good over there I believe and things were going pretty good over here but now that the pandemic hit again I think there’s probably like a zero chance of at least a premier in the sense of the flying us they might do something over there but you know they are still just coming out of a rough patch.
Mirjahangir: Yeah it’s had a… strange release because the first time I saw it was in that drive-in thing in LA. Warner Brothers had us all come and that was strange to see a movie for the first time in my car and then there was that fan event…
Wingard: Yeah that wasn’t my preference, but better that than nothing right it was still a cute event…
Mirjahangir: It was cool.
Wingard: Yeah that was fun, they did a great job with that they did a great job I mean for me as a filmmaker I just like you know you put so much work into the visuals and…
Mirjahangir: ..and the sound.
Wingard: …and the sound and I don’t… I mean I have a pretty nice car and I thought the movie sounded horrible in my car.
Mirjahangir: ..oh, right.
Wingard: But I talked to other people they said oh it sounded good but I think I know what the movie’s supposed to sound like and I’m like that did not sound good to me and it was too dim I thought the projection was very dark. It’s pretty common at drive ins and every drive in I saw and have ever seen.
Mirjahangir: It was an interesting thing because they had the fan event which is you know, it’s industry right you know but they had you and the other MonsterVerse directors there and it kinda made me think like this is kind of strange is this like the end of it because they’re bringing everybody out or you know you they kind of had you guys doing photo ops and stuff for a little bit.
Wingard: Well you know I like I actually put a lot of thought into this lately and I think that you know there’s lots of ways these like universe movies can really work I mean you know Marvel has earned that stature out of all these movies they didn’t just start there you know you need to do so like whenever they give you a cliffhanger you know that they know their audience and that people are going to responded to that you know like the problem with a lot of universe movies is, is they tried too hard to make it a universe and now so the movies kind of have these open ended kind of endings and now I mean I’ve even been accused of that on Death Note even though that wasn’t the intention necessarily but it happens you know it’s like and to me I felt like with Godzilla vs. Kong I feel like the only way that the series was really gonna move forward was if we gave it a completed ending that you would any other movie because here’s the truth you know like you can dig yourself out of any hole in a sequel. You know what I mean but because like we were not actively creating the sequel it was really a like you know let’s see how this does and then you know you know maybe they’ll be a sequel I actually think that’s a stronger step forward because the next movie doesn’t matter yet you know what I’m saying? Like the movie that you’re watching right now is what matters you know and I think some people will probably disagree with me all the same people who disagree with my commentary track but like I mean you know if I did another one of these I would probably have the same approach I wouldn’t want to an ending.. Maybe we’d have like an actual post credits scene or something but I think a movie needs to just you know it needs to be a movie and obviously there’s like exceptions to that you know. So I can’t say it’s you know it’s a definitive rule I mean you look at Empire Strikes Back I mean that movie is completely like you know wait for the sequel and see. But you know so that’s my kind of strategy that’s my belief in these kind of things especially when you’re kind of inundated with all these kind of you know movies that want to be universes you know and I wouldn’t dare call any of them out but at the end of the day it’s like the movie you’re making is the most important one because that’s what people are watching and if your story isn’t a fully told story it’s you know it’s like okay you know like maybe it’s all about teeing up your other film but you know but then that’s what you’re doing you know I mean you’re making a movie to tee up another movie not just making a movie on its own.
Mirjahangir: Yeah… you know I am curious because you had mentioned in the commentary like the first 30 minutes were kind of rearranged and stuff I’m wondering what that 30 minutes would have been?
Wingard: Chris, I would not dare go into that with you on this okay we’ll get taken out of context.
Wingard: Nah, I was just kidding so I mean you know like… it’s still the same movie yeah like that there’s different scenes there’s a bit of a different kind of set up in terms of the actual reason that they’re going to the hollow earth. But it’s so funny because you look at the final film and it took so little to actually change that you know it meant cutting out a decent amount of deleted scenes you know here and there throughout the film but it doesn’t matter and it’s like you know I made the mistake on one interview saying oh yeah I mean I could cut a 5 hour version of the film and that got taken as there’s a 5 hour version of the film or that there even would be a 5 hour version of the film. Let me go ahead and set that straight because I’m sure that this is the type of stuff that you really want to get into right?
Mirjahangir: Oh yeah.
Wingard: So the longest version of the movie that ever existed was the editors cut and it was two hours and 45 minutes and by editors cut that means my editor cut dailies as we were shooting which means that’s always going to be the longest version of your film, right?
Wingard: The director’s cut was about 2 hours and 10 minutes I want to say it was between 2 hours 10 and 2 hours 15. It was never longer than that and I remember that really specifically because I remember it shocked the producers because they’re used to getting longer director’s cuts you know yeah but I never had any kind of delusions that the movie was going to be more than 2 hours long I didn’t want to be more than 2 hours long it’s not a movie I wanted to see I felt like all these like blockbusters A. B. there so many of them that are over 2 hours and I just I think it hurts the movies you know it’s like it you know that when you’re doing like a you know some crazy action thrill ride movie like this it’s like it’s kind of what I’ve always said it’s like you’re not going to get more of the fun stuff you just going to get more people talking about doing fun stuff you know and the you know and it’s not that I don’t value what the characters are doing saying feeling thinking I’m gonna live with these characters every day I’ve evolved with them you know during this long process and so I have a lot of you know feelings for them you know I want them to succeed as characters and for what they want as characters. But at the end of the day I think you know like you know we’re telling a movie and it’s about the whole it’s not just about like you know having more scenes in all this I don’t think that more scenes with characters talking about stuff are gonna make you like the characters more I don’t think it’s going to make you more invested in the film like you know cinema is time you know like that’s what you’re doing you’re chipping away at something and there’s like the physical chipping away you know there’s you can see the visuals, you’re putting shots together you’re putting sounds and images together but there’s the invisible kind of chipping away which is time you’re always looking at frames you know you’re saying well you know what this reaction is better if its 3 frame shorter which you know is like almost imperceptible but it makes a big difference when you add all these things up you know and so when you look at a film’s whole… a longer running time it affects you, it affects the movie’s overall you know overall things.
Mirjahangir: There was a I guess a toy leak awhile back and there was a “Mega Godzilla” that was kind of shows like a Godzilla with battle armor or something on there. What was that I heard about it but I never really got like a clear image of it but… do you know what I’m talking about?
Wingard: Dunno if I’ve seen that one.
Mirjahangir: May have been something by Playmates that they were just screwing around with or something.
Wingard: Well yeah I mean like toy companies are always like you know expanding on things you know yeah I’m not totally sure.
Mirjahangir: Okay so there was the commentary which you did… sorry, have to keep going back to that, there were gaps though in some parts and stuff like that.
Wingard: I know there were gaps and I have to be honest with you that I don’t know what that was about. I kept asking W.B. about you know hearing the commentary back after I did it and then they sent it to me like a couple days before it dropped which is too late to give notes on anything but I yeah when I listen to it there is I mean I never stop talking during it so I don’t know why they cut things out I don’t know if it’s like, I don’t know if there’s some legal stuff that they had to cut out and I noticed there’s a couple shots that are sort of out of sync with literally what I’m saying like I remember when I watch the commentary there’s a moment where it’s during the Godzilla and Kong fight at the end of the film and in the commentary I think it’s like the POV shot were Kong is kneeing Godzilla in the head and during that I think I and during the commentary I say I love that shot and I specifically don’t think that I was talking about that shot because I don’t actually love that shot, it’s a good shot but it’s not like and you look at any other shot around that sequence are all like super iconic and amazing and that one sort of like kind of a cool quick little moment you know so I’m sure it wasn’t, I think I was talking about the shot where Kong hits Godzilla on the head and then you know pushing him back whatever but I don’t know why that stuff was cut out to be honest with you but it was cut out and I never I never actually followed it up because it was too late. Right you know like I’ve heard commentary tracks growing up I remember where the directors just stop talking and I’m just like what the hell’s going on here so I always thought you know when I when into commentaries like I’m never gonna stop talking because it’s like that’s what you’re listening to commentary for so I you know I definitely didn’t stop talking and I did notice that there are certain parts that were slightly edited. Like one thing I did notice it was edited for some reason I don’t know why but I remember specifically making a bunch of funny noises whenever Godzilla and Kong are punching each other there because I was like you know just in the moment I was having fun. And I noticed they cut some of that out and I was like well why did they cut that out? You know like it’s like were they afraid that I was embarrassing myself? So I don’t know I’ll get to the bottom of it but also I’m like scared to ask because I don’t even remember what I was talking about during that commentary.
Mirjahangir: Okay I mean because I was like did he say something which could be used later?
Wingard: I think if anything I was probably there might just be you know they have like weird copyright things you know when it comes to commentary like there’s literally certain things like that are weird that you wouldn’t think you wouldn’t be able to mention. I don’t think it was because I was like swearing too much or something and that it could be it could be it could be that like some of the things that I was talking about could be things that might be utilized in future stories if those were to be made at some point or something I don’t know you know.
Wingard: What were the scenes that were quiet it was like basically the hologram scene in the beginning?
Mirjahangir: Hologram and then off top of my head I just I think there was a little bit I think because I got the thing last week and you know I’m still trying to remember everything some fight stuff I think.
Wingard: Yeah I was quiet during the whole scene and I was like yeah… I mean… I don’t know.
Mirjahangir: The name Shimida, Nozuki, and the Warbat where did those come from?
Wingard: Oh wait, let me ask you a question: did I mention that in the…
Mirjahangir: No that never came up…
Wingard: Okay here’s one thing that’s interesting is I do specifically remember making fun of the toy’s names and saying that “It’s Nozuki not Warbat” just kind of joking you know? It’s kind of grown on me with the Warbat and the Shimida was always what we call you know those creatures in Hollow Earth so they all had names the real names and so I noticed that those were cut out or at least I thought I remembered those as being cut so it’s probably stuff like that where like you know it somehow affects marketing stuff or you know I’m just a renegade over here you know I’m just see well I’m on that commentary.
Mirjahangir: Those Playmates ninjas over there saying “Hey wait a minute?” you know.