Interview:
Thomas Tull

Chris Mirjahangir: I'm talking with Thomas Tull, producer of Godzilla (2014) and of the largest driving forces in bringing Godzilla back to the big screen. This interview was conducted May 4th, 2014 at the J.W. Essex Marriot Hotel, New York, New York.

VERY special thanks to Gemma Cacho at Warner Bros. Entertainment!

Photo of Thomas Tull taken by Chris Mirjahangir on the red carpet at the Godzilla premiere in Hollywood, California on May 8th, 2014. The premiere was held at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California.

Now for my first question: Would you (Legendary) ever expand into remaking other Toho properties like Rodan (1956) or The War of the Gargantuas (1966)?

Thomas Tull:
We're huge fans obviously of Toho so we have literally made a rule from the beginning like if we don't get Godzilla right, and show people that like, this is the tone, this is the movie, at least it's the movie I've wanted to see my whole life as a Godzilla fan, then we won't have earned the right to do anything else. We love the Toho universe and if we get this (Godzilla) right and the world deems we got it right, then you can never have enough giant monster movies at Legendary.

Mirjahangir: At the Godzilla Encounter from Comic Con (2013), when I went there, I was told by Barnaby (Legg), he said "We used Toho Kingdom to make this experience". Was the site used as a reference during pre-production/ production?

Tull:
Yeah! There was sort of an omnipresent thing. Barnaby and Emily and their whole team did a pretty amazing job putting that together and as it relates to the Experience at Comic Con, we wanted..of course we showed things at Hall H but we also wanted fans to be able to walk it and be immersed in it. So that experience was important to us.

Mirjahangir: Do you have a Godzilla collection? Movies, toys and what have you?

Tull:
Yes. I probably have 8 or 9 different maquettes or versions of Godzilla INCLUDING my favorite one Guillermo Del Toro bought me. I forget where he was but he saw it and he bought it for me and it's about 14-16 inches tall and it's like really detailed so that was very kind of him. I have all the movies and –when they convert to Blu-Ray-and my favorite is still the '54 version, the original Japanese version. It's tough to beat that. Yeah, I'm a lifelong Godzilla fan.

Mirjahangir: Godzilla's appearance has always changed from film to film so do you think that (for future films) the backplates will be going back into the white, and the feet going back into the more traditional flat foot (design) as opposed to what's there now?

Tull:
You know, we spent and enormous amount of time on both the design and the roar and we wanted to make sure it was Godzilla. It wasn't like, you know, "that's a giant monster or maybe a giant dinosaur but it's not Godzilla". And we wanted it to have all the attributes that as fans that we expect… but at the same time, if you're gonna attract a film maker like Gareth and if you're gonna get folks like ourselves we have to put our own slant on it so that it connects and it tips it's cap to the past but it's also, we think connects in a way that makes sense for today's audiences.

Mirjahangir: It's accessible I've noticed

Tull:
Yeah because you have to have, at least in our process, we have to have some kind of guidepost to always go back to. Like, what are we trying to accomplish here? And what we used to say all the time, is that if you saw Godzilla in real life and you heard the roar, our version you would be like "that's terrifying, oh my God" and then you'd look at the Toho movies and you'd say "I get why they made the movie of Godzilla that looks like that." And I said to our sound guy who's AMAZING-Erik Aadahl, that…if you've ever, I'm on the board at the San Diego Zoo and one time I got close to a male lion when it let out a full roar. I promise you it is NOTHING like what you've seen in a movie or the beginning to an MGM movie. It is a primal, visceral, terrifying thing and so we were literally like "we wanna capture that feeling" so it feels like its real.

Mirjahangir: Will there be an extended cut of this (the film)?

Tull:
Yes.

Mirjahangir: But like Peter Jackson style where it's all blended in together?

Tull:
Well, that's really Gareth's choice. There's certainly some scenes and things you're gonna see and it's up to him how he wants to present that to fans.

Mirjahangir: You've said you're a lifelong Godzilla fan but how long have you WANTED to make a Godzilla film?

Tull:
You know, the possibility..until Jon Jashini came in and said..it didn't even occur to me that that was possible.

Mirjahangir: Yeah

Tull:
You know what I mean? I'm such a huge fan and it just…I don't know. It literally just didn't occur to me until he walked in and said "hey guess what?" And I freaked out about it.

Mirjahangir: The very first viewing of a Godzilla film you ever saw when you were a kid, what was it about it (the film) that drew you to it (Godzilla)?

Tull:
I was probably eight-ish years old and it was the 54 black and white original and because I didn't have any context it almost, in a weird way, feels like found footage right? Like, to my eight year old mind, I was like "is this real?" like "Is this in Japan? Is this what..?" . But there was something awe inspiring about it. And, you know, the Oxygen Destroyer. I kept thinking "how would that really work?" . And I just became hooked. My first experience with Godzilla was actually terrifying and then obviously you gain perspective with age and then it's taken all type of twists and turns in terms of tone.

Mirjahangir: As a fan do you keep up with the current news? Do you go on sites like Toho Kingdom to check things out?

Tull:
Yeah! And for years there's a big Godzilla gathering-I think last year's was in Chicago.

Mirjahangir: They're always in Chicago.

Tull:
So there's like a vibrant fanbase of people and I also love like last year after we did our piece at Hall H and we went to our booth, a couple of fans came up and were just like-not only passionate but almost emotional and were just like "you guys are bringing the king of the monsters back" and that hit me. I was like "oh man, this is AWESOME!"

Mirjahangir: Have you heard about the orchestra that's playing all of Ifukube's music at G-Fest? They did a Kickstarter, and they got it. It's going to be an hour long and it's being organized right now and they're getting it together but it got funded.

Tull:
When is G-Fest this year?

Mirjahangir: I think like, late July [my bad everyone. I did send over the correct dates after this interview!]. I can get info and send it over.

Tull:
I think that's great and frankly it's something we want to be supportive of in any way. There's just something about Godzilla fans-that not only the passion they have for it, and the history of it and being able to name off all the different things, and creatures, and it's definitely worthy of its own fest.

Mirjahangir: So it becomes obvious (in the film) early on that Godzilla's a good guy. Was that something that was from the get-go (script wise) or did it just morph into that?

Tull:
No, One hundred percent from the beginning it was he has to fight other monsters and I wanna root for him. So that was a very conscious choice that- we all love Godzilla. Especially when they throw down I want people to be able to cheer for that.

Mirjahangir: Yeah that finishing move, that was SO Mortal Kombat, it was so cool

(Tull laughs)

Mirjahangir: But getting the flame right-it's a little more centered as opposed to the full wide mouth. Was this something you played with?

Tull:
Oh my God, yes. Everything that you would imagine as a fan that you would obsess over, we obsessed over. It's both the fun of it and at the same time-because no matter what you do, you're gonna have people with different opinions so all you can do is say "look, this is our version of Godzilla and we're rolling it out there to the world."

Mirjahangir: With Mr. Akira Takarada's part being cut, should there be a sequel, would you put him in in another capacity?

Tull:
He-being involved in the movie, was a very important thing to us. It was really cool when I got to meet him and talk to him. Fans will get to see that certainly on the Blu-Ray and digital versions. But, making sure we show proper respect to the past is important to us.

Mirjahangir: Outside of Godzilla, is there another Toho monster you're a fan of?

Tull:
Oh yeah! I mean, I'm a huge fan of Rodan, I love King Ghidorah-probably my favorite. You know…even Gamera. But probably King Ghidorah's my favorite.

PERSON DETAILS

THOMAS TULL

CEO of Legendary Pictures, Thomas Tull oversaw the company's many high profile projects, including The Dark Knight and Inception. Tull's upcoming films that he is producing include Jurassic World and Pacific Rim 2.

Date: 07/07/2014
Interviewer: Chris Mirjahangir

 

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