CS Interview: Michael Dougherty and Cast talk Godzilla: King of the Monsters
ComingSoon.net was fortunate enough to sit down with the director and cast behind one of the summer’s biggest blockbusters, Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Check out the whole chat below!
In 2014, Gareth Edwards brought a Jaws-esque Godzilla movie to the screen. The film follows nuclear plant supervisor Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) as he obsessively searches for the truth behind the accident that claimed the lives of many, including his wife, on the day when the the building inexplicably went up in flames. Joined by his son, Brody discovers the existence of giant monsters, the reawakening of which pose a threat to all of humanity.
Now, director Mike Dougherty, along with stars Millie Bobby Brown, Vera Farmiga, Bradley Whitford, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Ken Watanabe, Kyle Chandler, Thomas Middleditch and Ziyi Zhang have added their own entry to the Godzilla franchise.
There’s a specific scene in the film that takes place in Boston — could’ve been any city in the world, who’s the Boston Red Sox fan?
Michael Dougherty: My writing partner Zach and I chose Boston because I think getting destroyed in a Godzilla movie is a badge of honor, it means your city matters, if it gets destroyed in a Godzilla movie. We’ve seen New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco so many times, why not Bean Town?
Fenway Park and the people who run it are notoriously difficult about letting people film there, very few films have been filmed there. How did you do it and what did you film there? Was it just background, or real people?
Dougherty: It was a combination of location shooting, background plates, digital set extensions so it was pretty seamless. You know the scene of Millie actually entering the field with all the evacuees, that was all done in Atlanta, but merged with actual background plates shot in Boston. But the Fenway group, they were a dream to work with, they were enthusiastic. I think they understood, again, because getting your city trashed by Godzilla is an honor.
Can you talk about building upon what Gareth Edwards did in the first movie, coming in for the sequel, and expanding the world?
Dougherty: I love what Gareth did in the first film. It felt like the most realistic, well-rounded Godzilla film that I always wanted to see. As a kid I always fantasized about Godzilla showing up to destroy my school, I used to fantasize about Godzilla ripping off the roof of my church, so I had a habit of imagining Godzilla entering the real world and that’s what Gareth’s film felt like. It felt like if you looked out the window and saw those creatures, it would be that movie. It felt very grounded. At the same time, I realized there was still room to grow from there. It was like okay, Gareth presented this wonderful vision of what Godzilla in the real world could feel like, what if you threw King Ghidorah into it? What if you threw in Rodan? What would the most grounded, realistic version of those creatures, who are very fantastical, because if you’re working with three-headed dragons and giant moths, you have to embrace some of the more mystical, fantastical qualities of it. It stops being pure science fiction and morphs into fantasy. At the same time, again, Gareth’s template was the perfect springboard for that, so I just dove right in.
Dr. Serizawa is not only a returning character, he’s also a pre-existing character and I’m curious if you went back and looked at the 1954 film to inform the character here, and what was it like to create a pivotal moment that harkens back to the original film?
Dougherty: I was adamant about bringing Serizawa Dr. Graham back, because they were my favorite characters from the first film. As much as I enjoy the sort of G.I. Joe adventure that Aaron Taylor Johnson was on, the scientists that were actually studying the creatures and knew more about them, I really wanted to shift the focus to them. I feel like we don’t have enough people in big budget movies who are just scientists. Let the smart people be heroes for once. It was important to me that Ken’s character have a dash of the original ’54 character. For a minute I was toying with the idea of putting in an eye patch, so like in the five years in-between movies, something had happened. But then I realized like, oh no, that’ll look too much like Nick Fury. But his big scene with Godzilla was a purposeful reflection of the climax of the original ’54 film. In my mind, this Serizawa is setting things right.
The score is absolutely stunning and it’s breathtaking. Did you work closely with Bear on that or did you give him free reign. There’s a lot of fun beats from this world of years past that’s worked into the score.
Dougherty: Yeah, both. I worked very closely with him and let him do his thing. I fell in love with Bear’s music with the revival of Battlestar Galactica, roughly ’03-’08, I think it was. His music was so different and bold, it didn’t sound like your typical space opera, it didn’t sound like it was trying to be Star Wars or Star Trek, it was its own unique flavor and he had really great way of blending the modern and the old. In the Battlestar music, he brought in instruments that were thousands of years old, and I wanted that for this film. I didn’t want the score for this to sound like every other tent pole movie. I wanted it to sound like the music from when the Titans ruled the earth. We kept talking about how it was a monster opera, so if you just sat and listened to the score with a pair of headphones and closed your eyes, it would transport you to a time when Godzilla and his kind ruled the planet. It’s a dream come true, he’s extraordinarily talented, I would work with him again in a heartbeat. It was important to bring back Mothra’s themes and Godzilla’s themes. I’m glad we were able to be the first American film to bring those themes back. Bear was the right man to do it.
Can you talk a little about the villain choices? Obviously, Godzilla has a lot of villains you could’ve chosen from.
Dougherty: I mean King Ghidorah is the Joker to Godzilla’s Batman. What I love about them in the old films is that you sense the rivalry. I don’t know if it’s just inherent in the creatures or what, they look like two monsters that would absolutely hate each other, like maybe they fought over a woman at some point, I don’t know. There’s bad blood between these guys. You can feel it, even though they didn’t have dialogue with each other. So, it made sense that King Ghidorah would be the one here. I really love the Mutos creature design, but you don’t have the same sense of history with those creatures. So being able to bring in King Ghirodah, being able to update it with new technology. I’m a huge fan of dragons, Eastern dragons especially. My middle name actually means dragon in Vietnamese. So, Patrick is my white name and my parents had a debate about what my middle name should be. My mother, who is Vietnamese, was insistent on ‘Long’, which means ‘Dragon’, so it’s Michael Patrick Long Dougherty. So I’ve just grown up with this obsession of eastern dragons and we’ve never seen a really good eastern dragon in movies and I thought well, King Ghidorah should be the one.
Ken Watanabe: Yeah, it was like earth, air, fire water.
Dougherty: Yeah, the idea that each of these creatures is an elemental thing. Ghidorah is fire, Rodan is air, Godzilla is water, and Mothra is earth.
Watanabe: If I think back to when I was a child, I just loved King Ghidorah. Boys love a strong villain.
Dougherty: Don’t say that! Girls like strong villains too.
Godzilla smashed his first building back in 1954 with director Honda’s original post WWII monster movie, and here we are in 2019 and the king of the monsters is back again, still wreaking havoc. What do you think it is that gives the big guy his staying power after all these years?
Bradly Whitford: The reason this story keeps getting re-told twice a generation is it’s a story about man’s arrogance, thinking they have transcended nature. Obviously this is an important time to talk about how community can disrupt order in the world.
What was your preparation like for the role, and what’s it like to act against something that’s not there?
Millie Bobby Brown: I mean, there was not as much preparation as you’d think. Basically when you watch the movie, I have a lot of running, and running takes a toll. I had to prepare, like when I’m running uphill, to make sure that I wouldn’t be out of breath before I reached the top of the hill. The first time I did it, I was like [pretends to be out of breath]. So, I kept practicing, I was training everyday, so I trained physically for the role. And how was it to perform when there’s nothing there? You just do it. You just get there and you just do it. You imagine like something’s there, and you go, [gasps] and then there you go!
Can you talk about your affection or indifference to Godzilla from the time you were children to now?
O’Shea Jackson Jr.: I love Godzilla. I’ve loved Godzilla since I was a kid, watching it on the Sci-fi Cannel, playing the video games, using the action figures to destroy my Legos. When I did my first film, Straight Outta Compton, I listed my five heroes that weren’t my father and Godzilla was at the top of the list, so I’ve been waiting for this my entire life and I just happened to be lucky enough to get this audition and knock it out.
Brown: I’ll be honest, I was definitely not a fan of Godzilla — which is a good thing! Because my character isn’t. My character is just a teenage girl who’s learning about Godzilla and the Titans as she goes along, she doesn’t really know how she feels about him. I think that her love and affection towards him grows during the movie, and also during Godzilla vs. Kong.
Are you in that movie?
Brown: Yes I am. They were like, do you want to be in the movie? I was like ugh, I guess! No, of course! Of course! It was amazing.
Thomas Middleditch: We didn’t get that call.
Brown: Yours is coming!
What was your relationship like with director Mike Dougherty?
Jackson Jr.: Once I realized he’s a fan of Godzilla, how much he cares about Godzilla, I realized they gave us the keys to the car.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is now playing in theaters.