Set Visit Coverage: Producers Alex Garcia and Mary Parent Talk Godzilla from the Set
In this last article for our extensive coverage from my June, 2013 set visit to the Warner Bros. /Legendary production of Godzilla, executive producers Alex Garcia and Mary Parent weigh in on the Gareth Edwards-directed film, which is due in theaters May 16. Read on!
“It's steeped in realism,” Garcia (who previously produced the fan-favorite flick Trick r’ Treat) stated of their approach to Godzilla, “but yet there's a beauty in realism. You can look at footage of disasters and it's stunning, so it's ‘documentary’ in that everything comes from realism. You can watch those early Speilberg movies, like Close Encounters, and it feels like, ‘Wow this is a real family; this actually happened.’”
Emanating from director Ishiro Honda’s classic 1954 original of the same name, the 2014 Edwards-helmed Godzilla features actors Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”), Aaron 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, Parent and Brian Rogers produce, alongside executive producers Garcia, Patricia Whitcher, Yoshimitsu Banno and Kenji Okuhira.
(Writer’s Note: Spoilers lurk ahead, so proceed at your own discretion.)
“(It has a) semi-documentary (feel) in that it's really 'real',” stated producer Parent.
“Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a good tonal and visual (comparison), if you had to pick a touchstone. It looks very different from when you go back and actually look at Close Encounters, but it does have a 70’s vibe. How Gareth is dropping you in, where the camera is being placed, so it feels like you're being dropped into this real event that is happening. But it's not ‘found footage’.”
“It's beautifully cinematic,” chimed in Garcia, “but (it) never betrays that realism. A big theme of the film (is) overhanging nature and hubris, and also a heavy thematic of family getting past difficult events.”
“(And) nature; man trying to control nature, which sadly is becoming incredibly relevant,” added Parent.
“There's a Black Hawk Down aspect to it,” she expounded, “like when you get dropped into this stuff, but it's all so incredibly visceral because it's all so real. There's nothing campy or heightened; it's as though this really happening. Gareth has done a really good job of making you believe that this could happen, and if it were to happen how people would react and behave and what those set pieces would look like.”
We saw this executed in person later in the day when we paid a visit to the second unit, shooting against a football field-length, four-story tall green screen erected a mile or so away. Constructed in the foreground was a scaled down version of a demolished Golden Gate Bridge, the flight deck and command tower of an aircraft carrier dubbed the USS Saratoga, and a considerable amount of rubble, in which military-garbed actors assisted civilians free themselves from the debris, ostensibly a result of Godzilla’s recent presence.
With 2013’s Pacific Rim having been the most recent American-produced kaiju film (and one on which Parent produced), we asked if there were any similarities to Godzilla.
“One is very much about world creation,” she said.
“Pac Rim is set slightly in the future (and) even though there's a reality to it, it's very much about world creation and twenty-five-story tall robots vs. monsters. What's different and great about this is we're now on the ground with it. That's why I was saying Black Hawk Down, (because) it's incredibly visceral in how Gareth drops you into the middle of this battle in our world (and) in our time period. (Pac Rim is) very different (tonally]; it's a more operatic piece, (in that) there's incredible wish-fulfillment in being connected to a device that melds man and machine, and so (in that) the fights are never from the ground, they're always one on one.”
Given the grim aspects of the ‘Hall H’ Godzilla trailer which had premiered at Comic-Con 2013, we queried the pair on the film’s narrative ties to nuclear proliferation.
“It quotes Oppenheimer as one of the fathers of the atomic bomb, and he very much ties into the DNA of where Godzilla came from thematically, and again for us that was a palette cleanser; resetting the expectations of what one would do with this IP and what one would fear we would do with this IP. It's very grounded,” stated Garcia.
As for the death toll, “It's real but it's not gratuitous,” stated Parent.
“It's not like there's any softening; you'll feel the reality of the situation, and you do see people that die, but I don't think we'll have any trouble with our rating. People do die but you don't see Godzilla step on a kid or anything. There's a lot of monster action too, and I think you've figured out there are other creatures.”
Concerning Frank Darabont’s contributions to the script, “He’s a great writer,” said Parent.
“Gareth worked very closely with Frank,” added Garcia.
“Gareth had such a specific vision,” continued Parent.
“He knew what he wanted so Frank was able to come in and help him realize that. Frank had a window, and frankly we had a window, and it worked.”
“He brought in some great ideas,” offered Garcia of what Darabont delivered, “that we really embraced, so it was just fleshing that out.”
“The good news is we're trying to make a good first film,” finished Parent, “and hope it works (so that we can) make more.”
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