Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, and Elizabeth Olsen Talk ‘Godzilla’ and the Creature’s Lasting Appeal

Bryan Cranston and Aaron Taylor Johnson Godzilla Interview
Bryan Cranston and Aaron Taylor-Johnson in ‘Godzilla’ (Photo © Legendary Pictures Productions LLC & Warner Bros Entertainment Inc)

With the 2014 version of Godzilla, Warner Bros Pictures is hoping to resurrect the gigantic creature and capture a new generation of monster fans. They’ve also got to be hoping that it’s been long enough now since Hollywood’s last major Godzilla film that older audiences – and Godzilla fans – will be willing to take a chance on the new creature feature.

Directed by Gareth Edwards (Monsters) and starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, and Elizabeth Olsen, Godzilla won’t be stomping his way into theaters until next May, however the Godzilla director and cast showed up in San Diego for the 2013 Comic Con to answer a few questions about the new film, why we still love Godzilla, and life on the set of the big-budget action film.

Godzilla Cast and Director Interview

Why are we still fascinated with Godzilla?

Gareth Edwards: “I think it’s the fact that you can’t answer that question. You can’t just define it in a sentence When we first tried to figure out the film, we thought, ‘What is it that makes Godzilla, Godzilla?’ You go through all these different things and you actually find, after lots and lots of conversation, that it’s undefinable to an extent. There have been so many movies that it’s evolved and changed over the years and I think that’s why it’s stood the test of time. We felt when we were doing this film we found that, apart from having Godzilla in the movie, you’ve got an infinite canvas and it’s such a rich universe. Once you kind of accept the fact that there’s giant creatures, you can kind of do then anything you want. I think that’s why it’s stood the test of time. It’s so ripe for reinventing and revisiting. It’s not a single story. It can be any story you want.”

How challenging is it to keep from revealing the creature too early?

Gareth Edwards: “With these films, you’re going to sit in the cinema for two hours and you want to see Godzilla and you want to see him fight something else. If you just do it straight away and everything is all the way up to 11 the whole time, it might as well be at zero because it has no effect. And so it’s all about contrast. We tried to build the structure and rhythm of the movie we tried to create in such a way that the climax is more and more and more and more. By the end of the film, hopefully it’s as powerful as it can be, when you get all of those moments, which come throughout the movie. In classic movies like Jaws and Jurassic Park, they don’t actually show the monster [early].”

What was the first time you discovered Godzilla and what was your reaction?

Bryan Cranston: “My discovery of Godzilla was back in the ’50s when the Raymond Burr movie in ’56, I think, came out the year I was born. Watching that on TV as a kid, it was astonishing, even for its time. It was amazing to see those special effects that were state-of-the-art at the time. I just loved it. For a boy to watch that, it was great destruction and a wonderful use of miniatures. But, our tastes have become more sophisticated since then and certainly now. That’s what’s so great about this version of Godzilla is that there was careful concern to develop the plotlines and intricacies, and the character development. Without us, as actors and performers, getting into our roles, the audiences wouldn’t be invested either. That’s what makes it more interesting for me is that I believe audiences will truly be invested in these characters, and riding with them through the tensions and fears and anxieties that the characters are going through. You’ll feel it more, and it will ultimately be a better experience for you.”

What was it like to have to work with the effects for this film?

Gareth Edwards: “I think the trick is not to view them as effects. You just go, ‘Okay, this really happened. There really are giant monsters. What would be the most story that we can think of to tell?’ It always involves humans, so you come up with those characters and you try to create that story. I don’t separate the two in my mind. You just picture the movie. What was so refreshing was that we would shoot scenes that sometimes had the creature elements in and sometimes didn’t. We desperately tried to make it work from an emotional point of view on its own, and then you have the advantage of this creature. And then you start reviewing stuff with the visual effects companies, as they start putting the special effects in, and you’re like, ‘Oh, my god, I completely forgot that there’s this whole other layer going on this.’ We painstakingly worried about characters and their journey, and then suddenly you think about this spectacle that’s going to be embedded in the whole film and it makes you feel really good. We really want to get it right with the whole character side of things.”

Aaron Taylor-Johnson: “The thing that I found really interesting about a film that’s a special effects movie, my idea was that you’re going to be in a studio filming these green screen monsters. There was, maybe, a couple of days of that, but the majority of time we would go film on location. It gave it just a whole other depth, and you forget about it. We’d be on location with destruction everywhere and people were injured, and it came to life. It felt natural and realistic. The way we shot it, it’s just kind of with you on this journey, from our perspective point of view. When you do get a glimpse of Godzilla, you’re looking up from a car window or from a military helicopter, so you really feel, as an audience, that you’re totally involved in it. That you’re on this mad roller coaster journey with us.”

Elizabeth Olsen: “It’s kind of funny to go, ‘Okay, so in that corner up there is this thing. Is it like a unicorn or like a spider?’ So, you know, it’s kind of a weird. It’s fun. It’s like you’re playing hot lava as a kid or something. You’re trying to go deep into your imagination, like, ‘Yeah, that’s a monster! It’s going to kill me unless I run fast!’ So, it’s fun.”

Aaron Taylor-Johnson: “There were times as well that it’s hard to get the imagination of something, but it is a frightening prospect. It was really helpful [because] Gareth would – without knowing – we’d have a scene where we’d see something happen from one of the creatures and Gareth would play something on the microphone so we’d get the sound of Godzilla, or somebody playing around with the special effects. That was really great, to kind of hear something. You’re envisioning it through your consciousness and then you’re hearing something through the giant speakers around you. Sometimes he would do it without you knowing it and it would give a totally different layer.”

Gareth Edwards: “It was on my iPhone. I would desperately try to get to this clip with this sound and go, ‘That’s not it. That’s not it. That’s not it,’ and they’d go, ‘You’re wasting camera time.’ And I’d go, ‘I gotta find that noise!'”

Aaron Taylor-Johnson: “There was one time where it was like a walrus meets a tiger meets a hippo farting. [Laughing] It was so bizarre.”

Gareth Edwards: “You just gave it away…that sound effect.”

Bryan Cranston: “And also the other monster in the movie.”

Elizabeth, can you tell us about the character you play and whether she is suited or unsuited to face what she is facing?

Elizabeth Olsen: “I feel like my character’s role serves a purpose in the hands-on interaction of chaos in the city and how you deal with that, as well as having a child who needs to not be part of the chaos. I think that’s the perspective you get, and what ends up happening after these things occur, and there’s an overflowing hospital and people have to get from point A to point B, so it’s just kind of the practical part of it. It references any time some sort of natural disaster happens in a city. There’s a real truth to it, as opposed to a fantastical thing.”

Elizabeth, what is it like being in a big budget film because we are used to seeing you in low-budget, indie films?

Elizabeth Olsen: “I was really expecting to wait in a fancy trailer for three hours until they were ready for a lighting setup or something, but what ends up happening was on set until lunchtime, then until we wrapped. The crew felt really intimate. I think Legendary [Pictures] does a really good job of creating this incubator of creativity. They pick people that they trust, put them in an incubator, and then they put their heads together and figure out what they want to do to get done what they said they were going to do, and they allow you to do it. They’re not controlling things. It was just as creative of a process as anything else, honestly.”

Gareth, are you already set to direct a sequel, if that were to happen?

Gareth Edwards: “I had a blast and it’s not over yet, obviously. What’s so fantastic about Godzilla is that we’ve created a playground that I would love to play in again. If I was lucky enough to be invited back to the party, I would jump at it. I think it’s such an honor to do one of these movies with this character and to work with this cast. I would definitely be interested in doing another film.”

What were some of the biggest challenges during the shoot?

Bryan Cranston: “Getting Godzilla to come out of his trailer. He was an ass.. He was a real assh*le. He really was.”

Gareth Edwards: “He never came out. We’re going to have to CGI the whole thing.”

Bryan Cranston: “And when he came out, he would eat all the food at craft service and he would wreck everything. But boy when the cameras rolled, he’s good. That’s why they keep making Godzilla movies. He’s really good.”

What was it like to be able to spend so much money?

Gareth Edwards: “On day one, you drive along to the set and you’re like, ‘Oh, no! We’ve picked a really bad time to go to the location. There’s some kind of convention going on.’ There are 400 cars and all these trucks and you’re like, ‘Oh, no! Did no one check this?’ And then, they’re like, ‘Gareth, it’s your crew. There are 400 of them.’ And there really were 400. And you go, ‘Okay. All right.’ What was so amazing, and I’m not proud of this, but we wrapped and if you did a test with me to name my crew and tell you what they did, I would fail miserably. You never actually deal with these people. You’re kept in this little bubble. You get dropped off in a car and you’re next to the cameraman and the actors, and then, at the end of the day, you get picked off and driven off again.

You’re kind of just protected, or whatever the word would be, and so it felt to me like a small, intimate movie. I was only ever talking to about six people, throughout the whole experience. You see trees move and lights move, and things that are requested just arrive. You get quite addicted in a way. It’s a power trip.”

What sort of tone does this film have?

Bryan Cranston: “I think it’s cautionary, actually. You look at the tale and you see the scope of it, and it’s relevant to today’s times. It’s about harnessing power, messing around with Mother Nature. Can you actually do that and get away with that? How long can you get away with that? Disbursement of waste…that sort of thing. I think living in that milieu is this creature that emerges from the muck and mire. It’s very exciting.”