Godzilla: King of the Monsters could have easily been just another summer blockbuster tentpole film with giant monsters destroying cities. But in reality, there is a lot more nuance to it that. It’s got some grounded depth to it thanks in no small part to the human cast who play a critical role in the highly anticipated sequel.
Geeks of Doom had a chance to join their fellow journalists at the press conference for Godzilla: King of the Monsters, where Millie Bobby Brown, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Thomas Middleditch, Kyle Chandler, Bradley Whitford, and Ken Watanabe talked about what it was like to be a part of a film whose title character has such a longstanding legacy, shooting with something that wasn’t there, and more. Check out what they had to say below.
Brown, who plays Madison Russell, the daughter of Dr. Mark Russell (Chandler) and Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), told journalists that there wasn’t much preparation for getting into character, but she did train physically for the role. “When you watch the movie, I have a lot of running,” Brown said. “Running takes a toll. I needed to prepare emotionally so I could run uphill and make sure I wouldn’t be out of breath before I got to the top of the hill.”
Brown explains how she was gasping for air the first few times before she finally got the hang of it. As to acting against something that wasn’t there, she says “You just do it. You just get there and you just do it.” “You imagine like something is there and you go ‘gasp!'” Brown said.
Jackson Jr. declared his love for Godzilla by saying how much of a fan he was of the towering reptile since he was a kid. How he used to watch it on TV, knowing which channels it would be on, and when it would air. In fact, his fandom is so strong, he says that he has been playing with Godzilla his whole life. “My dad, my brother, my uncle, playing the video games, the action figures and using them to destroy my LEGOs,” Jackson said. “When I did my first film, Straight Outta Compton, I listed my five heroes that weren’t my father, and Godzilla was on that top five list.”
He added that he has been waiting for this for his entire life and that he was happy enough to get the audition for the role of Jackson Barnes. But when it comes to acting with something that is not there, it really comes down to knowing what you are doing. “They give you enough practical effects to work with,” Jackson said. “Most of the time, when you are dealing with the Titans on screen, it is just about eye line, you know. ‘Where am I terrified the most?’ From there it’s just running and a lot of physical labor.”
But his preparation was a little bit different since his character had to fight against the elements like snow. Which proved to be a little difficult since the stuff had to be artificial, especially when it came to recreating the Arctic in Georgia. Jackson revealed that much of the snow seen in the film was actually Epsom salt and soap. But even though he had to work in those harsh conditions, he saw the silver lining. “The hurricane that Ghidorah brings, I had to deal with every day on set,” he said. “Getting doused in water, and 100 MPH fans, you know, the hardest days on set I just remember that it’s because I am in Godzilla. That will do a lot for the psyche.”
Middleditch, who plays Sam Coleman, said that in addition to the practical effects grounding the film, director Michael Dougherty would be playing the sound effects, grunts, and the roars over loudspeakers. Though his character spent most of the time on the Argo, he said he would be bouncing around in fake turbulence most of the days like Star Trek. “The assistant director would give us commands,” Middleditch said. “He would be like ‘And there’s Godzilla and BOOM!'”
Chandler says the pre-visualization (pre-viz) helped out because it would give him an idea, aspect, size, and distance of where things are and how they might be juxtaposed against something like Godzilla. “The greatest benefit for us was, you know, you have a tape of a tennis ball, laser, what have you, and your imagination goes,” Chandler said. “We had a first AD, Cliff Lanning, who is probably the greatest gift because he is so good at what he does. He’s got so much energy, and he is involved, and he takes care of us. He’s just a good human being.”
Chandler said that Lanning had the cast energized and kept them alive. “We always knew what was happening when Cliff was on that microphone,” he said. “That made it. That was 90% of my imagination.”
“You really can’t overstate his contribution to this because you are basically looking at a little laser dot and having sort of these huge emotions and he does it in such a joyous way,” Whitford, who plays Dr. Rick Stanton, said. “We would not have been able to do this without him.”
Brown admits that she wasn’t a fan of Godzilla. But according to her, that is a good thing, because her character isn’t a fan of Godzilla as well. “She is learning about Godzilla and the Titans as she goes along,” Brown said. “She doesn’t really know how she feels about him. But her love and affection towards him in the movie grows and that’s also in Godzilla vs. King Kong.”
Middleditch joked that Godzilla had to win him over, but that he was a pretty cool guy on set. “To be honest, he wasn’t anywhere near a G.I. Joe or a lightsaber growing up for me, so he didn’t make my Venn diagram in nerdism,” Middleditch said. “But I am on board now.”
He and the rest of the cast now get to be a part of a legacy that goes as far back as the early 1950s. Though some of the cast may be new to the current iteration of Godzilla, the legendary Kaiju has been a part of a large cinematic legacy since 1954’s Gojira. Since then, he has been rebooted, retooled, and reimagined. But the core aspect of a giant reptile destroying metropolises has not changed.
“He’s one of these big iconic monsters that’s had a bunch of different reinventions, he’s evolved over time,” Middleditch said. “I think with each new reboot or vision of the monster, you can kind of hone on who he is as a creature. This Godzilla, you see much more of a personality from him. He becomes less and less of this unknowable destructive creature that steps on buildings and leaves and still gets to still be called Godzilla, and so you get this long saga with him.”
Jackson echoed those sentiments saying that there has been different people in charge of pushing the story along. “Through each new Godzilla, you can see the style change,” Jackson said. “They are given the creative freedom with such an iconic monster. He is the godfather of giant monsters. There are so many references to Godzilla in little things that might not say it is Godzilla, but you know it’s Godzilla when you see it.”
The actor went on to mention some iconic features like the spikes or that he’s recognized as Reptar in Rugrats to show how much of a cultural impact Godzilla continues to have. “Godzilla has stood the test of time,” Jackson said. “Whoever is in charge of him during that time to be creative, and change up his style, change up the way he looks, change up the story about him, and it still progresses. They just don’t give up 30 movies to anything.”
It’s that legacy that attracted Chandler to do the film. “The ten-year-old me said, yes, Kyle, it’s Godzilla,” Chandler said. “It’s not lost on me who the star of the movie is.”
Whitford said he’s never been a part of anything like this, so he wanted to know what it would be like to “do one of these big movies.”
Whitford believes that the reason why Godzilla keeps getting retold “twice a generation,” is because the “story of man’s arrogance has transcended nature and, obviously, this is an important time to talk about how humanity can disrupt order in the world.”
He adds that the film originally came out of a humanitarian disaster, which gave birth to Godzilla, and that’s why the story should keep being told.
“Each Godzilla movie has a different theme and some kind of fear of humankind in the Cold War, after World War II and the atomic bomb, and a nuclear powered-something,” Watanabe, who plays Dr. Ishirō Serizawa, said. “But I am thinking about just this Godzilla is kind of a natural disaster in the world. We cannot control a natural disaster, the same way we cannot control the Titans.”
Watanabe sees Godzilla: King of the Monsters as the best Westernized interpretation of the Kaiju in a very long time, adding that the first film was an attempt to see “how to make a Godzilla film in Hollywood.”
Dougherty, who we also got a chance to talk to, was adamant about bringing Serizawa and Dr. Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) back for the sequel because they were his favorite characters from the first film, despite the first being a “G.I. Joe adventure.” “The scientists that were actually studying this creature and knew more about them, I really wanted to shift the focus to them,” Dougherty said. “I feel like we don’t have enough heroes in big budget movies who are just scientists. Like, let the smart people take the spotlight for once. It was important for me to have Ken’s character have a dash of the original 1954 character. For a minute, I was toying with the idea of putting him wearing an eye-patch. But then I realized it would look too much like Nick Fury.”
Considering that they just don’t make 30 movies for any character, like a Godzilla, each and every new vision needed to be in the best hands. Not that that happened all the time, but Jackson knew that this Godzilla would be in good hands with Dougherty. “We were speaking about Godzilla, and once I realized he was a fan of Godzilla, and how much he cared about Godzilla, I realized they gave one of us the keys to the car,” Jackson said. “A few selected times, they hand a franchise or something that has such a loyal fanbase to someone who wasn’t a fan of the subject. They don’t necessarily know how to speak to us. Mike, from the jump, I knew we’d be in good hands and he just have to get what he wanted. Sometimes that took a lot out of Shea, but we got what we needed.”
“He’s a guy with a vision,” Middleditch said. “He had everything so specifically dialed and you knew that where we would be going, he knew where you were going way before you ever did.” He said that he trusted Mike because there were a lot of pieces in the film, including special effects, pre-viz, and the planning that went into this.
Brown said that one of the things she loved about working with Dougherty was that he stayed true to the story. “I think that it is important, especially with such a legacy, that you don’t just go AWOL with a story that people absolutely love and cherish and have been waiting for,” she said. “From the very beginning, he knew what was going to happen. He didn’t change a thing about it either.”
It became clear that he knew what he was doing and that he was a fan through the amount of preparation that he did coming into the production. “There’s no questioning what he’s doing,” Brown said.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters opens in theaters on May 31, 2019. Click right here for our review, trailers, and more.