As we come to the end of our three-part interview series with the cast of GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS, what better way to finish then with the man behind the creation of this latest film, director Michael Dougherty, as well as Ken Watanabe, who returns once again to portray Dr. Ishiro Serizawa.
With GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS being the follow-up to 2014’s Godzilla, it was important to continue expanding the world that was initially created. “I loved what Gareth [Edwards] did in the first film, it felt like the most realistic and grounded Godzilla film that I always wanted to see,” explains Dougherty. “I had a habit of imagining Godzilla entering the real world and that’s what Gareth Edwards film felt like. At the same time, I realized there was still room to grow it from there. Gareth presented this wonderful vision of what Godzilla in the real world could feel like, but what if you threw King Ghidorah and Rodan into it? What would the most grounded realistic version of those creatures be? Once you start getting into the three-headed dragons and giant moths, you have to embrace some of the more mystical, fantastical qualities of it, and it stops being pure science fiction and starts to become more science fantasy. At the same time, Gareth’s template was the perfect springboard for that and so I just dove right in.”
Also returning from Gareth’s Godzilla was Ken Watanabe who portrayed Dr. Ishiro Serizawa. “Last movie was the first Godzilla for me in my career,” stated Watanabe. “After 2014’s Godzilla I heard about this project from my agent. After I read the script, it was so great because of the change of storytelling [with the] scientists at its core. Godzilla’s story is more deep-themed with an underlying message. I think each Godzilla movie has a different kind of theme, some kind of fear of humankind with the Cold War, WWII, the atom bomb and nuclear weapons. This Godzilla is kind of like a natural disaster and we cannot control natural disasters, same thing as we can’t control the Titans.”
Michael Dougherty explained further about the importance of having Dr. Serizawa return for GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS. “I was adamant about bringing Dr. Serizawa and Dr. Graham (played by Sally Hawkins) back because they were my favorite characters from the first film,” explained Dougherty. “As much as I enjoyed the G.I. Joe adventure that Aaron Taylor-Johnson was on, the scientists that were actually studying these creatures and knew more about them I wanted to shift the focus on them. I feel like we don’t have enough heroes in big-budget movies that are just scientists. Let the smart people take the spotlight from us. It was important to me that Ken’s character has a dash of the original ‘54 character. For a minute, I was toying with the idea of putting him in an eye patch, as if something happened to him in the five years in-between the movies, but I realized it would look too much like Nick Fury. His big scene with Godzilla was a purposeful reflection of the climax of the original ‘54 film and in my mind, this was the right setting for Dr. Serizawa.”
The science of GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS was one that was very important to Michael Dougherty. “I feel like in another life, I would have been a scientist. I grew up loving biology and animals and the natural world. In high school, I used to work in the science museum which was very inspired by my love of Godzilla movies,” stated Dougherty. “What I love about, going back to the original, the heroes of a lot of Godzilla movies are scientists, which is something we don’t get as much in Western movies, it’s all about superheroes. It was important to me that Dr. Serizawa and the Monarch crew are the heroes of the movie and are the eggheads. They are eggheads who are willing to put their lives on the line. The science of it is important to me because I think Godzilla as a legacy has had so much to say about scientists, both good and bad, the benefits of science but the potential dangers of it as well. I felt like depicting these creatures realistically also meant that we had to have some believable science in it. Obviously, you have to suspend your disbelief a little bit if you’re going to believe that there are radioactive monsters but you try to make it as plausible and realistic as possible.”
Besides Godzilla, fans were also excited to see the other Titans come to life, especially that of King Ghidorah. “He’s the joker to Godzilla’s Batman,” explains Dougherty. “What I love about them in the old films is that you sense the rivalry. I don’t know if it’s inherent in the design of the creatures or what but they look like two creatures that would absolutely hate each other. I’m a huge fan of Eastern Dragons and we’ve never seen a really good Eastern Dragon in movies and I thought King Ghidorah should be the one.” Watanabe was quick to agree stating, “If I think back as a child I loved King Ghidorah, boys love a strong villain.” Though there were 17 Titans to chose from, it made sense why Dougherty chose what he chose. “Mothra, Rodan, King Ghidorah and Godzilla – that’s the original Kaiju team up,” explains Dougherty. “They were the first ones that you saw cross paths back in the ‘60s and they kept crossing paths ever since then. I think that alliance is one that was not only embraced by Godzilla fans but even people who aren’t Godzilla fans or at least vaguely familiar with Mothra and the three-headed one. They don’t always know the names and the details and the history but the recognize those creatures so it only made sense to bring to those to life in this film.”
I remember when I first saw the trailer for GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS and the excitement I felt when I noticed a Dunkin Donuts sign get decimated on top of a building. As a born and raised Massachusetts gal who only lived 20 minutes outside of Boston, it was a rare treat to see Godzilla and his foes tear the city apart.
“My writing partner Zach Shields and I chose Boston because I think getting destroyed in a Godzilla movie is a badge of honor,” explains Dougherty. “It means your city matters enough to be destroyed in a Godzilla movie. We’ve seen New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, all the other places so many times, so why not Bean Town?” The prominent location within Boston that was shown is that of the famed Fenway Park, which has notoriously been difficult in letting people film there. So how did Dougherty and team go about securing the location? Dougherty explains, “It was a combination of location shooting, background plates, and digital set extensions, so it’s pretty seamless. The scene of Millie [Bobby Brown] actually entering the field with all the evacuees was all done in Atlanta and then merged with actual background plates shot in Boston. But the Fenway group were a dream to work with and they were enthusiastic. I think they understood, again, that getting your city trashed by Godzilla is an honor.”
Badge of honor aside, GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS was the summer blockbuster movie I had been waiting for and if you want to check out our additional coverage of the film, make sure to read more interviews with the cast here and here and check out our review here! GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS is now in theaters.