While at Comic-Con for a presentation in Hall H, actor Bryan Cranston and filmmaker Gareth Edwards talked about their new take on the classic creature Godzilla. The sci-fi action-adventure epic pits the world’s most famous monster against creatures who threaten humanity’s very existence. The film also stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche and David Strathairn.
During the interview, Bryan Cranston and Gareth Edwards talked about what it is about Godzilla that still resonates with people, how the film is structured, dealing with the special effects, the biggest challenges of the shoot, and the tone of the films. Edwards also said that he’d definitely be interested in directing a sequel, if the possibility came up. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
GARETH EDWARDS: I think it’s the fact that you can’t answer that question. You can’t just define it, in a sentence. When we first tried to figure out the film, we thought, “What is it that makes Godzilla, Godzilla?” You go through all these different things, and you actually find, after lots and lots of conversation, that it’s undefinable, to an extent. There have been so many movies that it’s evolved and changed, over the years, and I think that’s why it’s stood the test of time. When we were doing this film, we found that, apart from having Godzilla in the movie, you’ve got an infinite canvas and it’s such a rich universe. Once you accept the fact that there’s giant creatures, you can kind of do then anything you want. I think that’s why it’s stood the test of time. It’s so ripe for reinventing and revisiting. It’s not a single story. It can be any story you want.
Gareth, so much of the charm of Monsters was the idea of concealing the creatures in that movie. How much did that challenge you when you were working on this, which is so much about the spectacle of revealing the creature?
EDWARDS: With this films, you’re going to sit in the cinema for two hours, and you want to see Godzilla and you want to see him fight something else. If you just do it straight away and everything is all the way up to 11, the whole time, it might as well be at zero because it has no effect. It’s all about contrast. We tried to build the structure and rhythm of the movie in such a way that the climax is more and more and more and more. By the end of the film, hopefully it’s as powerful as it can be, when you get all of those moments, which come throughout the movie.
Are the other creatures in the movie made from original designs?
EDWARDS: I cannot answer that question.
What was the first time you discovered Godzilla and what was your reaction?
BRYAN CRANSTON: My discovery of Godzilla was back in the ‘50s, when the Raymond Burr movie came out. Watching that on TV, as a kid, it was astonishing, even for its time. It was amazing to see those special effects that were state-of-the-art, at the time. I just loved it! For a boy to watch that, it was great destruction and wonderful use of miniatures. But, our tastes have become more sophisticated since then, and certainly now. That’s what’s so great about this version. There was careful concern to develop the plotlines and intricacies, and the character development. Without us, as actors and performers, getting into our roles, the audience wouldn’t be invested either. What makes it more interesting for me is that I believe audiences will truly be invested in these characters, and riding with them through the tensions and fears and anxieties that the characters are going through. You’ll feel it more, and it will ultimately be a better experience for you.
Gareth, what did you want to add or change to make this your Godzilla film ?
EDWARDS: Imagine that, in 1954 when the first Godzilla movie was made, this creature really existed and someone saw him, tried to draw him and tried to make a suit, and they did a very good job with it, but when you then saw the real creature, you’d go, “Okay, I totally understand how you got that suit from that creature, but now I see the real thing. I totally believe it. It’s completely real.” That was the brief we gave for all of the designs. We did hundreds of designs, and never stopped playing with it, until the last minute. It got to a point where it was like, “Is there anything else you want to change about this design.” Personally, I was really happy with it.
Is the population of this film aware of Godzilla before he shows up in the film?
What was it like to have to deal with the effects for this film?
EDWARDS: I think the trick is not to view them as effects. You just go, “Okay, this really happened. There really are giant monsters. What would be the most story that we can think of to tell?” It always involves humans, so you come up with those characters and you try to create that story. I don’t separate the two, in my mind. You just picture the movie. What was so refreshing was that we would shoot scenes that sometimes had the creature elements in and sometimes didn’t. We desperately tried to make it work from an emotional point of view, on its own, and then you have the advantage of this creature. And then, you start reviewing stuff with the visual effects companies, as they start putting the special effects in, and you’re like, “Oh, my god, I completely forgot that there’s this whole other layer going on this.” We painstakingly worried about characters and their journey, and then suddenly you think about this spectacle that’s going to be embedded in the whole film and it makes you feel really good. We really want to get it right, with the whole character side of things.
What were some of the biggest challenges with this, during the shoot?
CRANSTON: Getting Godzilla to come out of his trailer. He was an ass. He was a real asshole. He really was.
EDWARDS: He never came out. We’re going to have to CGI the whole thing.
CRANSTON: And when he came out, he would eat all the food at craft service and he would wreck everything. But when the cameras rolled, boy was he good. That’s why they keep making Godzilla movies. He’s really good.
EDWARDS: On day one, you drive to the set and you’re like, “Oh, no! We’ve picked a really bad time to go to the location. There’s some kind of convention going on.” There are 400 cars and all these trucks and you’re like, “Oh, no! Did no one check this?” And then, they’re like, “Gareth, it’s your crew. There are 400 of them.” And there really were 400. And you go, “Okay. All right.” What was so amazing, and I’m not proud of this, but we wrapped and, if you tested me to name my crew and tell you what they did, I would fail miserably. You never actually deal with these people. You’re kept in this little bubble. You get dropped off, and you’re next to the cameraman and the actors, and then, at the end of the day, you get driven off again. You’re kind of just protected, so it felt, to me, like a small, intimate movie. I was only ever talking to about six people, throughout the whole experience. You see trees move and lights move, and things that are requested just arrive. It can get quite addictive. It’s a power trip.
What sort of tone does this film have?
CRANSTON: I think it’s cautionary, actually. You look at the tale and you see the scope of it, and it’s relevant to today’s times. It’s about harnessing power, dispersing of waste and messing around with Mother Nature. Can you actually do that and get away with that? How long can you get away with that? Living in that milieu is this creature that emerges from the muck and mire. It’s very exciting.
Gareth, are you already set to direct a sequel, if that were to happen?
EDWARDS: I had a blast, and it’s not over yet. What’s so fantastic about Godzilla is that we’ve created a playground that I would love to play in again. If I was lucky enough to be invited back to the party, I would jump at it. It’s such an honor to do one of these movies with this character, and to work with this cast. I would definitely be interested in doing another film.
Godzilla opens in theaters on May 16, 2014.