The latest attempt at the classic Japanese terror, “Godzilla,” is coming to a theater near you this May 16. I had the opportunity to sit down with director Gareth Edwards, and some of the cast – Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Ken Watanabe – who told me why they decided to become part of the project, the meaning behind Godzilla, and what new things audiences can expect from this remake.
Mariana Dussan (MD): Gareth, how did your first film, “Monsters,” prepare you for taking on a franchise of this magnitude?
Gareth Edwards (GE): It probably prepared me in the sense that it’s an all-consuming marathon … If you read the pros and cons of doing a low budget film when you do a high budget one, you just swap them over. Things that were really hard to do when you have no money are really easy to do with lots and things that are really easy to do when there’s just three of you are hard when there’s 300 of you. I found that the thing you spend most of your time on, rightly so, is trying to craft a 2 hour experience so that you don’t get bored, it’s not repetitive, and in a way you get pulled into the screen and sucked into the characters. That’s identical whether you’ve got ten cents or a hundred million dollars. I think that’s the same for everyone, that’s why there are not that many classics being made every year.
(MD): Tell us about the conception of Godzilla’s opponents, the MUTO, because they are mind-blowing.
(GE): We knew we had to try and come up with a new creature. Everyone who does a film like this tries to come up with a new creature so it makes it really hard to try and find this unique result so we tried lots of different things … I believe the best characters look good as silhouettes. You know when you have a warning Godzilla crossing sign, you know what that character is because it becomes like a logo. So we went for something more graphic [and gave] very angular lines to the creature because you get a lot of really rounded lines in nature. We figured we’d go nearly robotic with it and our justification for it was that those creatures use electromagnetism to see the world and hear the world … So we looked at birds because one of them flies, but we [also] looked at stealth bombers and things like this for the angular silhouettes. I felt it symbolically appropriate at the time, there’s a subconscious association with stealth bombers and that they deliver nuclear missiles and things like that.
(MD): Can you speak about working with the cast?
(GE): Everybody was amazing. I was very very lucky. We had a list – I didn’t really write beyond the first choice because you’re just like: “We’ll deal with that when they say no.” You say” “It’s ‘Godzilla’” and to be honest nearly all of them, their first reaction is: “Yeah I’m not sure I want to do that,” and you say: “No, no, no, no, no, we’re not making that film that you’re picturing, we’re trying to do something serious.”
(MD): Elizabeth, Ken and Aaron, what convinced you to sign on?
Elizabeth Olsen (EO): Yeah, first [I] was like: “Godzilla?” I’m not from a generation, I don’t think, that had a Godzilla experience and certainly I don’t think there was an American one that was such a classic that your parents show you – at least not my parents – and so I didn’t really have any history with it. What I learned … from Garret’s interpretation – which is honoring the original story of human neglect, [and] about Hiroshima – but translating that to something modern today with nature, [trying to] control it and not being able to. That made the story interesting and then for him to say: “It’s not really a fledged out story yet, but basically we need this family to be the core, we need them to separate and we need them to get back together, and we need that relationship to be rooted and strong in order for anyone to care.” You can always watch a story about aliens and monsters and still enjoy it, but you want there to be some sort of grounded connection as well.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson (ATJ): I was definitely like: “A monster movie? That’s kind of not what I was thinking of doing next.” But then they said: “The director is this young guy, he’s Gareth Edwards, and he did this thing called ‘Monsters.’” I’m like: “I saw that, I remember that.” It was beautifully shot and it was a really lovely story about these two guys, the opposite of what a monster movie is. I’m like: “Yeah, I’ll sit down with him.” And that’s how it kind of started. I just think he’s an amazing filmmaker and he’s a brilliant director, he understands actors. He had a really strong vision for it and by the time I walked out I was like: “I will fucking do this movie!”
Ken Watanabe (KW): When I met Gareth he has great vision back to the original feelings of  film. He has some vision that is really [an] entertainment, blockbuster monster movie, but inside its a really deep theme and feelings. He respected the original [and] … as a Japanese actor I wanted to join.
(MD): Ken, Can you talk about what Godzilla means to you and people in Japan?
(KW): When I was a child, I didn’t understand … the deep meaning about why Godzilla exists. This year marks [the] 60th anniversary of Godzilla. After World War 2, the Godzilla was born out of fear that people become fascinated by nuclear weapons. Then we had some hard experiences in Japan three years ago, nuclear power plant … collapsed … due to major earthquake and tsunami. [So] after 60 years we have the same fear about nuclear disasters and even after all those years, the things that terrify us have not changed.
(MD): Aaron, Bryan Cranston is one of the most prominent actors at the moment. What was it like to play the father/son relationship with him on screen?
(ATJ): It was hard because obviously he’s not an asshole. He’s a really loveable guy and my whole thing was to be like: “I fucking hate you dad.” With Cranston you just think” “Oh God, I wish he was my dad,” he’s so awesome you know.
(MD): So you and Elizabeth will also star together in “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” how was it having to work together again in another film?
(ATJ): There are some actresses I’ve worked with that I would never again. Lizzy, on the other hand, is just cool, super down to Earth and a great actress as well. I think we are similar in the sense that we do every line different so we are reacting new every time. She’s cool. I was like: “We are going to be brother and sister man … lets try and make these characters so different,” and it was cool to be playing Eastern European as well.
(MD): Elizabeth, did working with Aaron on this film, make it easier to work with him on “Avengers”?
(EO): Totally, I mean it was such a funny coincidence, we just finished “Godzilla” and then we’re the two people approached for “Avengers” and it was pretty random, but we were like: “That sounds awesome, like let’s do it again.” And it’s easier, we have a much closer connection in “Avengers” actually because we’re these brother and sister who never leave each other’s side, and in “Godzilla” the whole point is that we’re apart. So it’s totally different and nice to have known him, his family and him as a person as well as an actor before doing that.