Not unlike the ‘Big G’ himself, our coverage is unstoppable! Up next is an interview with Aaron Taylor-Johnson from the set of Warner Bros. and Legendary’s upcoming May 16 release of Gareth Edward’s reinvention of Godzilla, stemming from our visit to the Vancouver set last June.
Emanating from director Ishiro Honda’s classic 1954 original of the same name, the 2014 Edwards-helmed Godzilla features actors Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”), Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass), Juliette Binoche (The English Patient), David Strathairn (The Bourne Legacy), Elizabeth Olsen and Ken Watanabe, in a script by Max Borenstein, Dave Callaham and Frank Darabont, which pits the world’s most famous monster against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity’s scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence.
Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Mary Parent and Brian Rogers produce alongside executive producers Alex Garcia, Patricia Whitcher, Yoshimitsu Banno and Kenji Okuhira.
(Writer’s Note: Spoilers ahead so proceed at your own discretion.)
“They’ve kept it very classic to the original,” Taylor-Johnson, sitting down with us on the massive soundstage, told us between takes of the look of the titular character.
“I never really saw any of the other versions really, but I guess it went more dinosaur/T-Rex. This has gone back to the way it looked in the Toho version. I think Toho has approval to use the original creatures. I think people will be happy.”
As for the narrative of Legendary’s Godzilla, the film takes place in three separate time periods: the 1950’s (in which the U.S. Navy discovers the last surviving member of an ancient radioactive amphibious species surviving under the waters near the Marshall Islands and metes out a failed attempt to kill it with nuclear weapons), the 1990’s (in which the creature arises to smack the crap out of Japan) and in 2014, in which the appearance of creatures known as ‘M.U.T.O.’s’ (kaiju who look vaguely reminiscent of the creature at the center of the feature Cloverfield) appear, which in turn elicits the return of Godzilla from the depths of the ocean.
At its center however is the estranged relationship between Cranston’s character, a scientist obsessed, and his son, ‘Ford’ (Taylor-Johnson), an explosive ordinance disposal expert in the U.S. Navy, whose lives are displaced emotionally and geographically by the appearance of Godzilla and the ramifications of such.
“I think there’s a lot that relates to family in the relationships (of the characters),” Taylor-Johnson offered of the dynamic between his role of ‘Ford Brody’ and Cranston’s patriarchal ‘Joe’.
“You know, I play a father in this also. I guess we’re aiming for a pretty strong story that people can relate to. To make it feel like we can feel sympathy, or feel something towards these characters, and that we can embark on a journey (with them).”
We queried Taylor-Johnson as to whether the introduction of his character in Godzilla takes place during his childhood years, which he confirmed.
“A kid, yeah. And then we jump ahead fifteen years. In the years, in story terms, is when the radiation thing is happening. The monster is generating over that time period.”
As for his preparation in portraying a U.S. Navy specialist, “We have a Marine Sergeant Major, Jim Dever, who has worked (as a military technical advisor) on many films before onset,” said the actor.
“He did Black Hawk Down and Man of Steel, the next ‘Superman’ movie. He does a lot of movies like that, and is working really closely with us. There’s a lot of military stuff going on throughout this (film), so he keeps an eye on everyone. I spent a bit of time with him. It was really great fun; a new experience for me altogether. We have Navy captains on set to approve things and for us to see how they go about doing things. Everything is as accurate as can be.”
Regarding the physical demands inherent, “It’s a very demanding role, so you have to be pretty fit,” stated the twenty-four-year-old British actor.
Obviously a massive undertaking in regards to production, we asked Taylor-Johnson if he himself felt it a ‘massive movie’.
“Not really,” he answered.
“When you think about Gareth Edwards and his ethos of working and what he’s done before, it’s really just as small and intimate as an independent would feel like. It’s very family oriented in a sense. It’s a small group of people and we’re all working together to create great relationships with the filmmakers and producers and the cinematographer (whom) I’ve worked with before. This is my third one with Seamus McGarvey. It doesn’t feel like it’s on a huge scale, and I don’t think I’ve really done much green screen, considering the amount of special effects that will be needed. We’re shooting on location and they put it in afterwards. It’s not being shot in 3D. You don’t get a sense of this huge blockbuster type of feel(ing), but it’s got a raw and intimate energy.”
Given the subject matter, we asked if there is a glimpse of humor within the narrative.
“Not really. It’s more sort of thriller (with) drama and passion,” stated the actor.
“Emotionally in scenes I think I’ve been challenged more so in this than most dramas I’ve been in, which is kind of the reason I wanted to be a part of it. I knew Gareth had such a strong idea of having it full of heart and soul, and he wanted to attack those emotions. It’s really my journey in trying to get my family back together with this thing causing havoc across the world, where you do anything for the one you love.”
As for his perspective of Godzilla itself, “It’s more from the POV of people. You’d be in a car and see it through the (window). It’s like kind of ‘feeling it’. You’re a part of it, the audience. You’re starting to see it, and then it comes on to a TV screen or a news channel. It’s trying to sort of break it up a bit, so it’s not just ‘here’s great big monster fights.’”
We questioned him in regards to the military response to the threat.
“You know, I think it’s the usual thing of being given orders to take something down,” Taylor-Johnson offered.
“They’re also experiencing for the first time how these creatures respond to our weapons and things like that. It’s ongoing. I think the only one who has a different perspective on Godzilla is Ken Watanabe’s character, who is a science technician who has kind of been following it. So you see that through his point of view, what the creatures are capable of.”
Concerning his working relationship with Cranston, “Um, Bryan’s fucking brilliant,” he stated.
“He’s the most professional actor I’ve worked with in a long time. He brings so much energy and preparation (and) he’s always exploring new bits within a scene and giving ideas. It’s what you want, really; someone who will always kind of be there on the other side of the camera to act off of. He’s very giving (and) a warm, wonderful man. He’s really incredible (and) super funny. It’s been great (and I) couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
Given the digital aspects of the production, we queried him on his approach to acting with Godzilla itself.
“There was one time when we were on location… a lot of it is on location, but this is the first time we’ve seen the monster rise up, and I remember saying to Gareth, ‘Well, how big is it then?” And he says, “It’s about 300 feet.’”
Stay tuned for more from producers Alex Garcia and Mary Parent coming soon.
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