In the upcoming remake of Godzilla, director Gareth Edwards took an unorthodox approach to casting: he went for actors that could really act, rather than ones that simply looked good doing it.
Upon hearing this confession, Bryan Cranston, star of Golden Globe-winning series Breaking Bad and Edwards’ lead in Godzilla, storms out of the interview rooms at New York’s Chelsea Piers Studios. He immediately returns, grinning, feigning offence at the apparent slight on his looks. ‘It’s okay Gareth, I know what you really think about me,’ Cranston says, sitting back down and patting the director on the arm. Godzilla is being advertised as a ‘rebirth’ of the origin story explored in the original 1954 production by Japanese film distribution giant Toho. The film will focus on the familial relationship between scientist Joseph Brody (played by Cranston), his wife (Juliette Binoche) and their son, Lieutenant Ford Brody, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass, Nowhere Boy). Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene) plays Ford’s wife.
‘My biggest fear in doing this film was losing hold of its soul,’ says Edwards, the Brit who made his directorial debut with the 2010 indie sci-fi romance Monsters. ‘There’s so much money involved and so many visual effects to worry about that it feels like you could easily forget what it’s really about. So it was really important to have actors that could take the lead in finding their characters and give the
After finding Olsen and Taylor-Johnson (the latter’s performance as a young John Lennon in Nowhere Boy is what convinced Edwards), he turned his attention to the film’s central character. Surprisingly, it was Cranston’s performance as the father in Malcolm in the Middle, not Breaking Bad, which pushed Edwards to call the actor up and ask him to read the script.
‘I loved the film as a boy, much more than King Kong,’ Cranston says. ‘There’s something about it that’s very powerful. When I became an actor I never thought I’d ever be in a Godzilla film, but this one is different. It’s a monster movie as well as a character study. Once I read the script and Gareth told me who was in the cast, I saw it all come together.’
The next move was to modernise the film’s central moral predicament. While the 1954 version referenced atomic bomb testing, the new version will have resonance for a world reeling from a string of climate disasters.
‘Just because it’s going to be a blockbuster monster movie, doesn’t mean it can’t have some meaning,’ Edwards says. ‘Sci-fi and fantasy films have a responsibility to explore big issues like this because they can wrap them up in spectacle.’
Edwards knew he’d need good actors to pull off a film as concerned with political and moral issues as with a giant lizard stepping on stuff. He wanted his characters to react the way normal people would during a natural calamity, without the clichéd theatrics often displayed in other films of this genre.
The final challenge was the beast itself. Edwards spent six months perfecting the monster’s appearance – its scale, its features – before turning to the fundamental question of Godzilla’s inner nature: is it a villain or an anti-hero?
‘Godzilla exists because humans have abused nature for too long,’ Edwards says after a long pause. ‘He’s here to put things right.’
Godzilla is out in cinemas across Dubai from Thursday May 15.
A history of Gozdilla
1954: Ishiro Honda directs the original film for Toho Studios, a metaphor for the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki nine years earlier.
1955: Toho releases sequel Godzilla Raids Again. Twenty-five more movies will follow up to 2004.
1956: US version of Godzilla with new footage involving an American reporter (Raymond Burr) makes $2 million (Dhs7.3 million) in America.
1998: Roland Emmerich remake starring Matthew Broderick is critically demolished and wins two Golden Raspberry Awards.
2014: Garth Edwards version promises a more sober and faithful approach to the source material – fingers crossed, fans.