Now playing in theaters around the world is director Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla. Produced by Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures, the film is a new take on the classic monster and it’s loaded with an awesome cast led by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche, and David Strathairn. For more on the film, watch a featurette on the new Godzilla roar, check out new images, watch 5 clips along with 11 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage, or click here for all of our previous coverage.
At the New York City press day, I was able to participate in a group interview with Ken Watanabe. He talked about why it was a good idea to remake Godzilla, the background of his character, his feelings about the original movie, what it was like to make a film where you’re reacting to nothing on set, and a lot more. Hit the jump for what he had to say.
KEN WATANABE: It’s the same thing like my curiosity before I met Gareth- Why make another Godzilla? Why now? This year marks the 60th anniversary of Godzilla. The first original is 1954. The first one is after World War II. 1954 Godzilla was born out of fear that people were fascinated by nuclear weapons after the Bikini Islands nuclear tests. Then three years ago we had experiences in Japan, collapse of a nuclear power plant due to a major earthquake and tsunami. Even after 60 years people are still fascinated by Godzilla, why? After all these years people are still fascinated by Godzilla because after all these years the things terrify us for nuclear power, nuclear energy, our fear. It’s something of a curiosity for me, and as a Japanese actor I wanted to do, I wanted to join this project. Then Gareth has a great vision. It’s the same theme between the original.
Your character is a champion for Godzilla.
WATANABE: [Laughs] He’s a scientist, just scientist.
Why do you think that is? Why do you think he roots for Godzilla?
WATANABE: Not sure. His father was a survivor of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima, 1945. Because of that background he wound up studying nuclear power, nuclear energy, in hopes to do something meaningful for mankind. Then he discovered the existence of Godzilla during the investigation of something, he discovers the Godzilla and he comes to believe and fear the power of nature, which man cannot control. Then he does not cheer, but he admires something, he admires nature.
He says in the movie that it’s about maintaining the balance of nature, so he has faith that Godzilla is the overseer of nature and that he will be able to handle it better than we can. Is that right?
WATANABE: I don’t completely understand about that, he doesn’t. I want to ask you, is Godzilla a hero or a villain?
He’s a hero in this.
Yes he is.
WATANABE: Really? Okay.
Compared to M.U.T.O. yeah.
WATANABE: When I saw the movie, of course at the time-
Not the original, this one.
WATANABE: Yeah, yeah, I became so excited whenever he lets out his roar [Impersonates Godzilla Roar]. It’s very strong, but its something of a scream of sadness I felt. His screaming is like it’s scorning us for humanity’s foolishness. It’s like Godzilla symbolizes man’s conscience; he goes on a rampage and the city gets destroyed, so many buildings, streets, Golden Gate Bridge, airport in Honolulu, but human believes we can stand up and rebuild that city that has been destroyed, perhaps there is slight but certain hope there. Then I think Godzilla is like a man of conscience, yeah, or human.
I want to talk about the scale of the movie, obviously it has to be a big movie, because you have big monsters walking around, but as far as an actor, there are scenes- even the beginning scene where there’s the skeleton of the creature, how much of that was on set? How much of that was actually built for you to see and be a part of when he had all this destruction and some of these big, huge set pieces?
WATANABE: During shooting?
WATANABE: Nothing. Nothing, just a point. Just imagination and a point. Gareth had visualized on an iPad or something, some animation.
I’m not talking about the creatures, I’m talking about the set pieces where it was inside the creature at the beginning of the movie. Was there some kind of big set piece built for you?
WATANABE: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Inside of set, huge set. We could make it build up the cave or something, but it’s deep inside, yeah.
Since Godzilla is obviously not real, who do you think is actually responsible for maintaining the balance of nature in real life?
You talked a little bit about the original Godzilla before. Did you borrow anything form the two scientist characters in that movie in developing your character?
WATANABE: No, in the original one Dr. Serizawa is a little bad. It’s just the spirit of the storytelling that I took.
On the original, I know you didn’t see it until later life, but what impact did you see growing up culturally, if any, about Godzilla in Japan?
WATANABE: I didn’t see the first one at the time, just before- four or five years before I was born. The first Godzilla is like just some fight with another creature, just some curiosity for kids, some monster, creature fight with a battle or something. Then [as an] adult I felt some different feelings from Godzilla. It’s a good thing for the kids at the time, nobody can understand the whole thing, but after that, after ten years, after fifteen years I catch different feeling.