Gareth Edwards

Chris Mirjahangir: This is the full roundtable Q&A with Godzilla (2014) director Gareth Edwards. It was conducted at the J.W. Essex Marriot in New York, New York on May 4th, 2014. It was transcribed by Noah Percival and myself, Chris Mirjahangir. I was in attendance, although the questions contained here are by various journalists.

*Gareth Edwards walks into the room and sits down at the two large microphones in front of him*

Gareth Edwards: Yeah. Yeah, I promise you I did not have sexual relations with Godzilla.

*all laugh*

Roundtable Question: I'm curious what didn't make it to the screen that you feel a little upset about that you wish did?

Edwards: Umm... I mean there's lots to be honest with you. When you make a film there are many, many scenes and a lot of my favorite ideas or shots are not in the movie because you gotta think of it as a whole from an emotional point of view in terms of like my love of Godzilla. The hardest thing was Akira Takarada who was in the original films did a cameo for us on day one. It felt very appropriate at the time because he played an immigration officer who welcomes Aaron's character to Japan and so it was like this perfect day one first shot and then when we construct the film like everything basically it was there was a lot of pressure to get on with the adventure and get to the monsters you know as soon as you can and things like this.

So lots of things came out of that part of the movie and lots and lots. I hung on to that till the last second and it was still deemed by the screenings that we, when we tested it that we had to get it shorter. So that ended up having to go which I is probably my biggest regret.

Roundtable Question: Then his comments on not being in the movie anymore, did you hear from him?

Edwards: I've written to him yeah and he did a chat show I believe.

He's a real gentleman so I think he was understanding but you know its just one of those horrible things about the process.

Roundtable Question: What can you tell us about the looks of the monsters about retailing. Kind of about what that we grew up on but also making a completely new and intimidating for a 21st century audience.

Edwards: Yeah what we said to the designers that you have to try and frame it in a way that you know we gonna get Godzilla but try and update it. What we said was imagine that like 60 years ago like Godzilla's a real animal that really existed. He's in the ocean and he comes out 60 years ago and he was witnessed by people in Japan, and no one took a picture but they went running and screaming back to Toho Studios and made the original films and tried to describe him to them. They went off and made all the movies that we know and love and in our film you're gonna get to see the idea of them, you're gonna get to see the original animal that they witnessed so you should be able to correlate it and go oh I see from the description at how they arrived at that guy in a suit but that would give us a bit of license to bring it up to date a bit and make it more realistic potentially. The main thing I tried to do was refine the shapes and just give it a little bit more aggressive lines in the face and straighter sort of sharper silhouette so that it just feels a little bit more fierce.

Roundtable Question: Could you talk about casting the film? With humans because if I had seen this list and not known it was a monster I would have thought it was a holocaust film.

Edwards: Ah good! The idea was that... It's funny cause you end up with every actor to be on this and maybe they'll tell you differently but with each actor there was a hesitation about doing it because there's a version of this film that they feel could be you know not a great movie. I feel like a lot of actors you get the impression looking at their resumes that they sorta go: "Ok I'm gonna do a personal project and then I'm gonna do a commercial project and then I'll do a personal project and a commercial project". I said to everybody you have to do this as your personal project, like don't be treating it like it's some popcorn blockbuster. I want you to, you need a performance that's as strong as like you know "Oscar Bait Drama" and they responded to that really well. When they read the screenplay and could see there was some emotion in there and hopefully another layer to the film other than just a monster movie they all jumped onboard and yeah.

Roundtable Question: Can you tell me how it was determined which city he would trash?

Edwards: Yeah it was kind of maths in that I felt that what we're doing conceptually is we're taking this Japanese icon, franchise, whatever words you want to use, and we're bringing it to America and so when we talked about what the global journey of Godzilla is in the movie. I felt like well the most relevant thing is it starts in Japan, the movie begins in Asia, and by the end of the movie it arrives in America. and as soon as you do that you're looking at the Pacific Coast you've got Los Angeles, you've got the major cities, and I felt that San Francisco had, I wanted a city that had a relationship with the ocean you know and that seemed to you know with the bay and such iconic landmarks it felt like something come from the ocean has a lot of fun to be had with that versus Los Angeles which is literately like they step onto the beach and then that would be that. So San Francisco felt like the best playground, no offensive to them. I think it's an honor when Godzilla trashes your city.

Roundtable Question: You guys looked at 28 Toho Godzilla movies, which ones in particular served as inspiration more than others or what did you look at in the different 28 movies to serve as inspiration in the film.

Edwards: Yeah I mean the main one we always talked about was the original, the 1954 black and white movie, for a lot of people who don't know about Godzilla or they grew up on the more child friendly versions, it's a surprise to watch the original because it's a really serious metaphor for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I believe that of the Japanese could have made a movie just about Hiroshima they would have but there was a lot of censorship at the time from the west after World War II and they couldn't make films about World War II or their experiences so they hid it under the radar under the guise of a monster movie. So it had this serious weight to it so that was kind of like our benchmark but personally they divide Godzilla movies up into eras and the Showa era which is kind of the sixties era is the one I like the most. I've got a high tolerance for any sort of science fiction from that period of time and I just love things like Destroy All Monsters (1968) and stuff. I love the idea of Monster Island and multiple creatures and like the child in me that is there's certain movies that I wouldn't you know necessarily show to a friend and say you know you're gonna love this I think it's a particular taste that you acquire but they definitely influenced me anyway in making this film.

Roundtable Question: How did you do the Monsters? Was it performance capture? Digital? What kind of combination?

Edwards: It was mainly animation like key frame animation. We had for a brief period of time towards the end Andy Serkis and his team got involved and that was more because the fastest way sometimes to arrive at an result just like having an actor is when you have someone like playing the character you can get a result of what a reaction or a particular movement should look like.

So we did that for a short period of time towards the end but predominately it was all key frame animated and initially we looked at hundreds of clips of animal behavior like wildlife documentaries and my first approach was gonna be we're just gonna copy nature and it's just gonna be this animal. We looked at bears fighting and all sorts of different things and then we found the problem with that is when you just drop into a middle of a wild life program and you watch two animals you don't know what the hell is going on and which is why they always narrate those things because it's very confusing like what animal, is he angry or scared? Like you just can't tell anything and so we had to dial slightly way from animals and more towards a human performance and so which is why Andy got involved towards the end but it really was the meeting pitch company and the Double Negative which were two main visual effects companies.

Roundtable Question: Did he actually get into a Godzilla Costume, Andy?

Edwards: No. No.

Roundtable Question: What did he do with it?

Edwards: There was some motion capture that happened and they videoed it and things and him and his team he's got a team of people that do it all and mainly used as reference for the animators because we had such a narrow period of time that to convert everything and use it properly it was more like as a reference- its quicker to talk to an actor and get that performance than it is sometimes with animation it can be inefficient because it takes much longer and just towards the end we didn't have the time so we decided to try and use some of Andy to help speed things up but it was definitely animators that were at the hands of the performance after that.



Director of the 2010 film Monsters, Gareth Edwards landed the coveted position of directing the 2014 Godzilla film for Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros.

Date: 05/11/2014
Interviewer: Chris Mirjahangir (group interview)


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