Guerilla film-maker Gareth Edwards approached this month's reboot of the Godzilla franchise with a type of passion rarely seen in a summer block-buster. Taking inspiration from JAWS, JURASSIC PARK and THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy, his adaptation looks set to be one of this summers cinema highlights.
Why do you think Godzilla, a monster created by the Japanese over 60 years ago still appeals to global audiences today?
Gareth Edwards: One of the reasons that GODZILLA has lasted so long is that it offers an infinite canvas, it's not like other franchises or characters where you have to tell the same story over and over. With GODZILLA you can do anything you want, which was a little paralyzing to start with because what are you going to do?
How long did you spend preparing the movie and staging the action sequences?
GE: We brainstormed it for ages, circled around a million ideas. It took us a good year if not a year and a half to land on the story. We used a lot of pre-viz and computer animation showing every scene before we shot it, I was worried that this might rob the movie of its soul but sitting with an animator is like guerilla film-shooting but with a computer. We spent a lot of time brainstorming, then figuring out a scene, then animating it and watching it back. Almost all of the sequences in the final film were designed on a computer over a year before filming began. In the past it was difficult to get big studios to sign off on an idea but when you can sit there and press play it really helps, the creativity it buys it quite massive. It gave me much more creative freedom than I expected to have on a movie of this scale.
The original GODZILLA had 27 sequels, a ton of spin-offs and inspired modern monster movies from KING KONG up to CLOVERFIELD. Did you go back and watch many of these for research?
GE: It depends on where you draw the line of a monster movie, I'd call JAWS and JURASSIC PARK monster movies, and I've watched those over 100 times each. I was always a fan of GODZILLA as a kid and had a lot of respect for the 1954 version but as soon as I got the directors job I did go and buy all 28 of Toho's GODZILLA movies and did my homework. There's a lot you can take from that, in terms of what the Universe you're trying to create should have in it and what would make the fans happy but also we were trying to reinvent it. Our benchmark is what Christopher Nolan did with the Batman franchise, in that it had ran out of steam, got quite campy, and people weren't taking it serious anymore. He gave it a spin and reignited it and ended up making a masterpiece. If Godzilla really, really, really happened, it would be the most monumental thing to ever happen in the history of the world. The trick is to believe it and not laugh it off, if you replace Godzilla with a hurricane it still has to work.
You've cast an extremely strong cast of actors; do you think the human element is what sets your movie apart from previous Godzilla movies?
GE: Its funny because if you watch the early Japanese films there's a lot of human element in them, they couldn't afford to have two hours of back to back carnage back then, so they had human stories. I grew up in the era before CGI came along and we wanted to go back to the late 70's style of film making that isn't all about spectacle. All those films I loved growing up, like JAWS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS had characters at the heart of them, where you really cared about these people, so that when the fantastic event started happening it feels even more powerful because you've already been sucked into their journey. So it was important we base this film around a group of people who feel real and who we care about.
You made your debut film MONSTERS in 2010, were you surprised to be asked to make a movie on the scale of ‘Godzilla' as your follow up film?
GE: For a long time it felt like a fantasy, I expected Jeremy Beadle to pop out and say ‘surprise, you haven't really made a movie, you're not really making GODZILLA', so it's a bit surreal... MONSTERS was made with just five people in a van, I was expecting to work in TV or drama after it which would have been worth the two years of pain. I never ever expected it to lead to something as massive as GODZILLA and would never have believed it if you told me back then. You're only here once, there's no rehearsal for life, I always wanted to make films and this is my opportunity to make a film that everyone will have the chance to see. It doesn't matter if the budget was £10 or £100,000,000 I just wanted to create the best two-hour experience possible.
GODZILLA is at Irish cinemas from May 8th
Words: Vincent Donnelly