On Tuesday, March 23rd I interviewed Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) director Adam Wingard about the film. Topics discussed (or briefly mentioned) were James Rolfe’s (aka The Angry Videogame Nerd) possible cameo in the film, the absence of Akira Ifukube’s Godzilla theme, and many other things. The interview is audio based and almost 15 minutes long. This interview DOES contain spoilers so come back after you’ve seen the film!
Below is an audio transcript of the interview, for those who prefer to read versus listen. This was an automated transcript, using IBM Watson AI, and then manually edited. It cuts some aspects of the natural language down, but also leaves other moments as is. So keep this in mind when reading it.
Chris Mirjahangir: Hey Adam!
Adam Wingard: Hey, how are you?
Mirjahangir: We have a mutual friend in James Rolfe, he wanted to tell you “hi”.
Wingard: Oh my god, I wanted to see if I could get him as a cameo in the movie and it was just it was too complicated for me to work out so I never it never got that point rides even able to ask but I I would have loved to put him in the movie. I know he’s such a big Godzilla fan and I’m such a fan of his.
Mirjahangir: So Akira Ifukube’s music was a big part of [Godzilla] King of Monsters but it’s not in this film it kind of alludes to it but then pulls away. I just want to know what the thought process behind that was.
Wingard: Yeah I mean. [Michael] Dougherty he did such a good job of really paying homage to that. I mean because that music is just like some of the most inspirational things to me when I was making this movie. I mean specifically the score for Godzilla vs. Destoroyah is my favorite of all the films. I mean that music in itself was a big turning point for me in terms of making me realize what is so great about these monster movies is that if you can empathize with them and you can really get to the emotion of it you can really transcend and then pull people and the key to it really is the music a lot of times. With that said, we went in a different direction with it because Mike Dougherty had already done it and for me… I just have to be honest with you… I liked how it worked in his movie but just speaking totally from a personal point of view in terms of the movie that I made I felt like it would be insincere for me to use that music because I associate that with the original Toho Godzilla series so much and the roots of that music really goes back to the beginning and the tragedy of it all and what the character represents in Japan and all those kind of things. I just felt like the MonsterVerse is different, he’s a different character. I mean like he is Godzilla still, but he’s the MonsterVerse Godzilla. So when we were developing the themes for it this was the sort of instinct is to kind of come up with a a new version of Godzilla, something that paid homage to the past but it was doing something new and different. I knew would be controversial on one hand because the original themes have been kind of revived but on the other hand I wanted this to stand on its own legs. I wanted to embrace the MonsterVerse version of the character.
Mirjahangir: Alright. So the previous film, in the end credits, felt like it was setting up like for a sequel. Rodan’s in Fiji, there’s another Mothra egg… everything, but they’re not in the movie at all and so were they part of the story originally?
Wingard: No they never came up. I mean I was the one who really pushed for the Ghidorah skull element of the movie. Like obviously that’s teed up in the the post scene in [Godzilla] King of Monsters but that actually was already in our script and they created that post credits scene as a reaction to what we are already going to be doing in this movie. But yeah unfortunately the monsters weren’t in and I don’t have a really interesting answer for you other than the fact that you put these monsters in the film and it costs a lot of money. At a certain point we had to be very choosy about where we were putting our money and so we really couldn’t bring back Rodan and a lot of the other monsters we had to be selective and it just didn’t fit the story, like weren’t a part of the story that we’re telling. I would have loved to have been able to put them in it but it just didn’t fit in terms of where we’re going. I know that people don’t want to hear that,it’s not a particularly interesting answer but it’s just the way it is.
Mirjahangir: Well, no because if you show them that they have to be a part of it.
Wingard: Exactly, you don’t just… like a cheap cameo. I mean, I guess nobody would argued with a with a nice little cameo of Rodan, I would have loved it but it’s just the way some of these things kind of roll out. I mean we got like so much great stuff in this movie in different characters and so no regrets there but yeah.
Mirjahangir: In the hollow earth did you think of maybe putting a Toho monster kind of in the background or something?
Wingard: Yeah, no… I mean I considered it but it was also just like it felt like because of the stuff that we are on the ground we’re already covering in this movie and the way that the last did it was like I thought people got really excited as well that the last film introduced new Titans and so our approach in hollow earth was always to go in that direction. Also I have to be honest with you, if I was going to do any of them I probably would have done… I would have liked to have seen a living Anguirus but the problem is if you just have him in a little cameo you’ve kind of wasted him a little bit. I’d rather see him come back as a full character potentially in the future and so I kind of avoided that kind of thing mainly for that reason you know if anything but again all the original monsters have price tags attached to them because you’re licensing the character and so you just have to choose your battles.
Mirjahangir: Alright so the way the film begins, or at least the last 45 seconds, is kind of like with the fight brackets you know kind of like who is defeated but with the outcomes going to Godzilla and Kong… but it’s a standalone film so are all those defeats everything apart of the MonsterVerse like cannon or is it just this is just kind of like a side story?
Wingard: I mean I think you have to accept each one of these as cannon and I’m sure that like there’s flexibility within that because each of these movies are also kind of designed as standalone but presumably Godzilla got in there and either took on those monsters at some point between that film and this one or it’s just considered to have beat some of them just by you know conquering them in general and having them sort of bow down to him.
Mirjahangir: How do you see the MonsterVerse going from here? You know because Alex Garcia said it depends on how well each one does and this one obviously is going to take a ton, so where would you like to see it go?
Wingard: Well I hope you’re right about that because I would love to do another one of these films. I know where I would take it but I think it would slightly spoil the movie for some people if I kind of express that direction but all I can say to is that this movie really tees up a lot of new ideas and a lot of new places and things. I know where I would take it… I mean like for me it’s like the example I’ve always given is that I read an interview with Quentin Tarantino and the reason that he did Hateful Eight after Django is that when he did Django that was the first time he’d done a western and so he learned all these new skills about how to film a western and to film people on horses and all these things. And so he wanted to do another western because he felt like he had kind of figured it out and that he wanted to continue those skills. I feel exactly the same way about making a monster movie. I mean one of the trickiest things you learn is how to make a film where multiple protagonist of the movie are going to be 6 feet under and then you’re gonna have… or Alexander Skarsgard’s case like 6 foot 7 and under because he’s really tall… but you’re going to have characters that are 300 foot and above you know. That’s a huge height discrepancy and that’s just the beginning of how difficult these things are to make and all the tools you have to learn and in some ways you’re making an animated movie a lot of the times because large chunks of the sequences are just fully CGI because there’s no other way to do it. So yeah I would love to continue that and do it again and get in there because I’m really proud of the movie I made and I think that if I made another one I could do even better.
Mirjahangir: Yeah, so the pacing of this movie is like really quick. It kind of makes you feel like there’s a bigger movie there but everybody wants to see the fights, right? So could there be some sort of extended director’s cut for the Blu-ray?
Wingard: Well… no because I’m a director who’s really obsessed with pacing and efficiency and obviously tone and style all those things but like for me I always aim to this movie being around 2 hours long and I would never put out another version of the film because I mean for one thing you’re also like if there was a longer version you’re just gonna get longer versions of the scenes with the humans talking you’re not going to get more special effects are not gonna get more monster so it be like an extra hour of people talking about the monsters and things. I’m sure super fans would like that but for the most part it’s like the movie I made was the movie I made. I mean it was always designed to be densely entertainment. Some people want things spread out a little bit more, some people like that, but I’m just a big believer in keeping your entertainment as dense as possible in a film like this. Not to say I wouldn’t make a movie that’s 2.5 or 3 hours at some point in my career but it just felt like for this one I wanted something that just was punching in fast and just got in there and covers a lot of ground. We obviously cover a lot of ground in 2 hours but that’s not because we were forced to do anything, there’s no secret “Wingard cut” of the movie. Like I’m the type of guy that if I had a director’s cut it would probably be shorter.
Mirjahangir: Yeah I see people: “I want to see a movie that’s just monster fights”. That would be boring as shit, dude for like 20 minutes and then you’re done because it’s sensory overload you know.
Wingard: Yeah… Well I mean here’s the thing: if I had a chance to do another one of these monster movies and… my impression of the way the studio thinks about these things nowadays has evolved over the years. I think we’re at the point now where we could do a movie that’s like kind of flips the amount of human story versus the monster story. You know the movie I would make next would be like 35% humans and the rest of it’s just total monsters and I think it would largely a quiet movie without a lot of verbal dialogue. I mean there be a lot of non verbal communication between monsters and roaring and stuff and I think you could do that. I think this movie has certain sequences in it that that illustrate that, like we have certain parts where we follow Kong especially in his quest and in hollow earth where we’re able to leave the human point of view. We don’t cut to them at all and we certainly don’t cut to them as much during the action scenes but there’s a couple casual moments we don’t cut to the humans hardly at all and you’re totally engaged. I would say you’re more engaged even because the monsters are so expressive and we imprint on them so much that we don’t need the humans to tell that story anymore. The special effects can hold up on their own. So knock on wood but I mean I think it’s right around the corner to making the ultimate version of these movies people been begging for over the years.
Mirjahangir: I do think you really delivered on the fights but the Mechagodzilla… I feel that Godzilla should have taken him out by himself or in conjunction… Kong’s like…
Wingard: I’ll tell you about that and I don’t want to give any spoilers so hopefully we can save some of the the actual specifics of talking about the Mechagodzilla fight until after the movie comes out. I don’t mind talking about Mechagodzilla right now because everybody knows he’s in it but yeah. But what I will say is it again like this we should save this until the movie comes out but like there were versions that we explored, it never got past the kinda early animation phases, but there were versions where Godzilla was more in the battle. Like he got a lot more back and forth moments with Mechagodzilla and the only reason we kind of went in the direction we did was because it just it just didn’t quite work for whatever reason it was just it felt kind of superfluous it was just like okay Godzilla gets hit in but that but that but it wasn’t clear what the stakes were. Really ultimately it just works better that Mechagodzilla is this thing, he’s been created to perfectly take on Godzilla. Maybe that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s stronger than Godzilla but he’s able to be one step ahead and you also have to consider the fact that Godzilla has just gone through 3 rounds with Kong where he exercised his nuclear breath to its absolute core and so he’s pretty worn down at this point. He’s gone nonstop and there’s one shot where Godzilla and Mechagodzilla fire their beams at each other at the same time right and Mechagodzilla’s actually overpowers Godzilla and I don’t think that that would have been the case if Godzilla’s coming in fresh but I think that he was weakened a bit. We never expressly state that but that was my impression of it and I actually tried to avoid that moment because I didn’t want to give the impression that Mechagodzilla was just so powerful but ultimately that’s just where it landed. It just made the most sense so I have a lot of sympathy for the Godzilla fans out there who feel that way but I will say you look at some of his classic movies and Godzilla gets his ass beat around quite a bit before he usually comes back and you still go with it, you still admire that.
About Adam Wingard
Wingard is an American based filmmaker. He started his career in 2007 at age 19. His filmography is largely as a director, although has worked on editing for a variety of projects. Besides Godzilla vs. Kong (2021), Wingard has directed numerous projects that include the 2014 movie The Guest, the 2016 remake of The Blair Witch and the 2017 US remake of Death Note.