CS Visits the Australia Set of Godzilla vs. Kong!
On March 26, 2019 ComingSoon.net took a jaunt to Village Roadshow Studios idyllic Queensland, Australia to visit the set of a little movie with two very big protagonists: Godzilla vs. Kong! Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary’s fourth entry in their MonsterVerse series follows in the footsteps of previous entries Godzilla (2014), Kong: Skull Island (2017) and Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), all of which share the common thread of the omnipresent Monarch organization monitoring and attempting control of the iconic monsters referred to as Titans.
While there have been many films featuring both Godzilla and King Kong separately, there is a precedent for the two to duke it out with Ishirō Honda’s 1962 cult classic King Kong vs. Godzilla. This new $200 million version from noted genre director Adam Wingard (Death Note, The Guest, Blair Witch) dispenses with the painfully dated depiction of islanders, man-in-suit effects and pretty much everything else from the ’62 film in favor of a neon-soaked modern take that is not a remake but definitely a follow-up to what was mapped out in King of the Monsters, a movie that -at the time of filming- had yet to come out in theaters. Thus, both we as visitors to the set and Wingard as a filmmaker had the unique experience of experiencing a sequel-in-the-making before the previous installment had even been seen by audiences.
Upon entering the War Room we are greeted by vivid neon-soaked production paintings of Kong and Godzilla going at it something fierce in the streets of Hong Kong in the film’s third act. These are instantly iconic images of the two cinematic beasts swinging parkhour-style from buildings or blasting fire breath at each other, respectively. We catch a glimpse at HEAVs: Hollow Earth Aerial Vehicles, a reference to the (IRL crackpot) theory espoused by Dr. Houston Brooks (Joe Morton/Corey Hawkins) in King of the Monsters/Skull Island which turns out to be true. The paintings also tease a massive action set piece where Godzilla attacks a flotilla of ships carrying Kong, where the two of them first face off.
We learn about a few changes since the events of KOTM: Kyle Chandler’s Dr. Mark Russell is now a director at Monarch (marking Chandler’s second Kong movie after Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong), and there has been a lot of rebuilding in the wake of monster destruction which is mostly handled by the powerful Apex Corporation. Kong is significantly larger than he was (he was still an adolescent in Skull Island) and Godzilla has suddenly become unstable after a few years of keeping the other Titans contained. Russell’s daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) believes Apex is somehow behind Godzilla’s erratic behavior.
“The movie opens on Skull Island, which has changed a lot in the 40-something years since we last saw it in ‘Kong,’ and when the movie first opens we are witnessing the beginning of a really massive event, a massive mission being undertaken to stem this global threat,” says producer Alex Garcia, who has shepherded all four MonsterVerse movies to the screen. “The Titans are around the planet, they have largely remained dormant at the end of King of the Monsters, we see that there are many Titans in the world and Godzilla has been reinstated as the apex predator and he’s maintaining a balance. But as we come into this movie Godzilla has been acting erratically for the last few months – no one knows why. He’s been attacking certain cities, facilities. Madison Russell – who is Mille Bobby Brown’s character – she is really the advocate for Godzilla in this film. She spends the film trying to vindicate Godzilla. She believes, with all her heart, that for a lot of personal and emotional reasons that there must be a reason Godzilla is doing what he’s doing. She believes that while he’s not benevolent to us, that what he wants is good for all mankind. The other side of the story is that Monarch, in reacting to this global fear of the creatures, has spent a lot of time and a lot of money creating entrances into the Hollow Earth, these areas where it can be an easier entry into that eco-system.”
“Madison, who is aware of all this, decides to go off and find out on her own, because she’s afraid of what’s going to happen to Godzilla, she goes on a fact-finding journey to dig into what she believes is a conspiracy caused by this organization called Apex. She launched off with a good friend named Josh (Julian Dennison), and they eventually intersect with Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry), who is a former, disgruntled employee of Apex. The three of them become this funny trio trying to uncover the mystery at the center of Apex.”
Appropriately when we first step on set we pass an oversized Kong/Godzilla-sized slate made for the production. Turns out that everything is big here. Entering the massive “Skull Set” on Stage 8, we are greeted by a MASSIVE practical Ghidorah skull, which was acquired by Charles Dance’s Alan Jonah with the flesh still on it at the tail end of KOTM. There are many multi-colored ultraviolet wires going into the skull from the ceiling. It is highly detailed, with many machine elements embedded into the design. There is a portal through the jaw, with is a control room inside the skull sporting a computer array, where the floor is black and reflective and everything is bathed in blue light, with the overall feel of an MDM nightclub.
We see Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things), Brian Tyree Henry (Joker) and Julian Dennison (Deadpool 2) rehearse a scene where they infiltrate the entrance of the jaw. They look above at the clear glass floor and see people walking above them. As they enter sneakily with Millie in the lead, Julian asks, “What are you doing, Madison?”
Above them Shun Oguri as Ren Serizawa says, “Thank you for your service.”
“This is a stupid plan,” whispers Julian.
Then the 15-year-old Millie shoots past her mark by accident, and exclaims “Oh s**t, I’m sorry,” breaking character. She moves back and they continue the take.
“I play Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe)’s son,” says Oguri. “He works for Apex, which is a tech company, a privately owned tech company, that’s trying to solve the Titan problems. And he is one of their scientists. His father was very occupied solving world problems with Godzilla, and he did sort of follow into his father’s footsteps, but he doesn’t believe he was heard by his father. In general, he is a character who wants to protect the Earth and that is his goal in general. I think the means to get to the goal is a little bit different from everyone else, and his father.”
“Five years have gone by and Madison has grown up,” Brown tells us later. “It’s definitely a coming of age story for her. Her storyline has definitely evolved greatly in the way she deals with things, her attitude towards life, how much more stronger of a person. Really trying to follow in her mother’s footsteps as well as strength-wise she’s becoming more strong, more independent and understanding what she needs to do. Five years are gone by and she’s basically a badass. In ‘King of the Monsters’ her relationship with Godzilla was pretty distant. There are moments in ‘King of the Monsters’ where she gets to have amazing scenes with him, but definitely this movie is much more about the technical side of it, learning more about the data of him as a Titan. It’s much more technical and she’s becoming more knowledgeable of him.”
“My character, Josh, he’s kind of a nerd, adds Dennison. “He doesn’t really have a lot of friends and Madison’s kind of his only friend and he’s always trailing behind her and she’s always very direct. He’s kind of the realist in the duo, and he kind of brings it, ‘Oh, we shouldn’t do that because we’ll die.’ And she’s, ‘No, it will be fine.’ So, I think they play very well. And they’re a very good mix of just craziness.”
“My character is Bernie Hayes, he used to be an employee of Apex Industries, kind of one of the cogs in the chain of all the things they do there,” says Henry. “He lost his wife along the way and kind of turned in on himself and decided to expose Apex for what it really is. He’s kind of like an inside conspiracy theorist, he runs his own podcast that kind of exposes what’s going on in this random world of technology we have found ourselves in and the corruptness of it all. He ends up being befriended by these two kids – Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) and Josh (Julian Dennison) – to kind of embark on this journey with them to expose this industry that is kind of bringing amongst the destruction with Godzilla – and all the things going on with Godzilla and Kong.”
Each time the team goes again for another take the actors change it up slightly, keeping it fresh. On take 2 Brian says, “This doesn’t seem like a really smart idea. They can come back at any time.” Then Shun enters from above.
On take 3, Julian says, “What are you guys doing?”
“C’mon,” replies Bryan. Millie looks tense while she waits underneath the translucent floor, then covers her mouth.
On take 4, Julian starts with, “Madison, wait.” Then Brian whispers/orders, “Down down down down.”
On take 5 Julian starts with, “What’re you guys doing?” Then Brian whispers/orders “Get down, get down.”
Millie looks at Shun above her, following him with her hands and eyes, then moves forward. Brian reluctantly follows, exclaiming, “That’s it, follow the teenagers.”
Take 6 is similar but moves a lot faster, with Julian starting with, “What’re you doing?” and Brian ending on the sarcastic, “Okay, it’s an adventure.”
On Take 7, Brian takes it further, this time buttoning the scene on, “Okay… ’cause following teenagers always works, Bernie. I’m not gonna survive… You’re gonna survive.”
Then on Take 8, Brian says, “Yeah, that’s it Bernie…. ’cause following teenagers always works out in your favor, right? Now I sound like a pedophile, can’t do that.”
“They’re absolutely incredible, you know, says Henry of his co-stars. “I get a little nervous sometimes when I think about working with teenagers in this capacity because what they have to do and what they’re called upon is so difficult and so hard, and especially with Millie’s character there’s an emotional center for what she’s lost from the previous movie. So my duty is just to be there to nurture them, and just protect them in this way. I kind of refer to myself as the Brienne of Tarth of this movie (laughs). Other than that, you know, it’s a weird kind of comradery of being the adult with these teenagers and you wanna make sure there is an authority figure, that there is someone watching out for them, but at the same, I’m still going through what I’m going through of trying to figure out how this industry can do something so harsh and so mean and so cruel to the world, while also trying to give them hope for the future. I feel like that’s my place as Brian with them as actors too, honestly.”
Godzilla vs. Kong is set to open in theaters and stream on HBO Max beginning March 31.