The first time I ever talked to British filmmaker Gareth Edwards was when he was on the DVD press tour for Monsters. At the time, he had just landed a big gig: Godzilla, a reboot of the Toho property spearheaded by Legendary Pictures. Jump to a few years later and here we are chatting once again, this time at the San Diego Comic-Con about his massive undertaking.
ShockTillYouDrop.com sat down with Edwards who is talking about the film for the first time since wrapping the project which stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche and David Strathairn and opens May 16, 2014.
While Edwards could not say much, we got him to touch on the following: Whether or not we have seen a design that closely matches what appears in the film, what Godzilla represents and whether he carries a personality, what Frank Darabont brought to the table and more. There are a lot of good nuggets in here!
Shock Till You Drop: I’m guessing you’re pretty exhausted.
Gareth Edwards: The last day of filming was yesterday and we flew straight on a plane here.
Shock: I spent some time in the Godzilla Encounter exhibit here and there’s a statue that folks are presuming is the new design, are you able to comment on that?
Edwards: If I’m thinking of the right image… No. Yeah. [laughs] I can’t say too much. I went there this morning and there are a few things where I said, “I’m surprised that’s not the image that hit the Internet.” It’s not the exact thing.
[At this point, I pull the image of the statue to show him. See pic to the right.]
Edwards: Yeah. It’s a resemblance, but that’s not 100% correct.
Shock: When a guy like you – from an indie background – comes aboard a property like this, how much of your personality is able to shine through?
Edwards: Not many people have seen Monsters, but if anyone who did see it and liked it and came to see Godzilla, I hope when they left they’d say, I can tell it’s the same filmmaker. When we did Monsters, I was doing all of the visual FX myself so there was a limit to how many creatures I can show, to the benefit of the film. Godzilla, I don’t have that limitation and will be a lot more epic. But it was really important to me, at the heart of this film, there were characters we cared about. We tried to find the right story and path through this Godzilla universe where the characters were connected to the events in the movie where it didn’t feel forced and would also get you to the places in the story you wanted to experience. They were tagged on but embedded in the journey of the movie. I’m really pleased with what we came up with. A lot of the actors, I think, got on board because they had an emotional connection with the people which was one of the goals when we set out to do this.
Shock: What did Frank Darabont bring to the table when he worked on the script?
Edwards: We blocked out the whole story and Frank did a pass at helping the characters and emotions. He delivered on that. The most moving scene in the movie is something Frank wrote that Bryan and Juliette would tell you that particular moment made them want to come on board. When you read it, you’re like, Oh my God, and when we shot it, there were people welling up. Frank brought a lot of heart to it and soul. He was fantastic, I’d love to work with him again.
Shock: Godzilla, what does he represent here for our time? Does he have a personality or is he merely this unstoppable force of nature?
Edwards: It’s funny because just like when you write a screenplay, these characters…you never get to know them until the actor turns up and starts delivering the lines and you’re like, Oh, it’s there. It forms in front of you and it becomes a real person. It’s the same with Godzilla in that I always viewed him as a force of nature. He’s not like King Kong where there’s a personality. Godzilla is definitely a representation of the wrath of nature. But we’re in the process of visual FX and I’m starting to see him and his personality is coming through. It’s interesting. I’m happy and surprised. We saw early tests and my reaction was like Internet dating or something [laughs], suddenly you’re meeting him for the first time and you go, he’s real. It’s probably going to develop more personality as we go on and my answer might be different when we’re done, but he definitely has personality from the icon he is. We’ve taken it very seriously and the theme is man versus nature and Godzilla is certainly the nature side of it. You can’t win that fight. Nature’s always going to win and that’s what the subtext of our movie is about. He’s an anti-hero. I wouldn’t describe him as a good guy, but he’s not evil personified. He’s the punishment we deserve, you know?
Shock: The film is said to be more grounded and “real” so how to you plausibly handle his creation, his atomic breath and other elements?
Edwards: It was important to me to make it as believable as possible and with all of those elements you’ve mentioned, they’re in the film but I tried to put them in the film where they’re not so fantastical that you don’t believe it. Hopefully, the only big buy the audience has to make – and I believe there can only be one buy – is that giant creatures can exist. Beyond that, we try to make it as realistic as possible. Throughout the franchise, there’s consistently been these elements related to Godzilla and they’re in this film, but it was about making it feel natural in our film. I can’t go into much more details. There is a nuclear element in the movie.
Shock: Working with Toho on the design, how involved were they?
Edwards: They were very much involved. We were showing them designs throughout. We showed them the final designs and we were refining it, but they approved of the final look. It was important to me that this felt like a Toho Godzilla. I went to visit them in Japan and they came out to the set. There’s always this fear when you’re working on something with a legacy…who am I? This young-ish British filmmaker handling their property. But they feel we’ve stayed true to their roots. In the encyclopedias and books you read about Godzilla, there’s these different groups – all of the Godzillas in one section and then there’s the American  film. I’d love ours to be considered as part of the Toho group.