Gareth Ed­wards tells Tara Brady about cre­at­ing a monster in Godzilla,

Fan­boys every­where re­joiced when Gareth Ed­wards, di­rec­tor of the in­die hit Mon­sters, was named as the man to re­boot Godzilla. His mum, how­ever, was a lit­tle less ex­cited, the di­rec­tor tells

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FRONT PAGE - Tara Brady

“Up from the depths, 30 sto­ries high, breath­ing fire, some­thing, some­thing, some­thing…”

We’re de­lighted to learn that Gareth Ed­wards, the new­est cus­to­dian of the Godzilla fran­chise, can sing most of the theme song from the much loved 1978 an­i­mated se­ries. Re­mem­ber the cartoon? Re­mem­ber the cut­sey-pie In­fant Godzil­lasaurus, God­zooky? Gareth Ed­wards does.

“I’m older than you think,” he laughs. “As soon as my friends found out I was work­ing on Godzilla they all started singing the ‘God­zooky’ part of the theme song. Un­for­tu­nately, I played along and so did my phone. So I ended up send­ing some emails to ma­jor stu­dios with Godzilla au­to­cor­rected to God­zooky. Which can’t have looked good. Not when they’ve just hired me to work on their ma­jor sum­mer block­buster.”

In 2010 Ed­wards, a vis­ual ef­fects artist, won ac­claim and cult hero sta­tus as the first time writer-di­rec­tor of Mon­sters, a spir­ited and in­ven­tive alien in­va­sion pic­ture. The film was sub­se­quently nom­i­nated for a Bafta, won three Bri­tish In­de­pen­dent Film Awards and made $4,242,978 back from its minis­cule $500,000 budget.

A se­quel, Mon­sters: Dark Con­ti­nent, pro­duced by Ed­wards and ris­ing Mon­sters star Scoot McNairy (more re­cently of Lenny Abra­ham­son’s Frank) started shoot­ing in March.

Still, no­body, in­clud­ing the film-maker, could have guessed that his sopho­more pic­ture would be the $170 mil­lion-bud­geted Godzilla. How did that phone call go? “It was all a bit strange. I was on a pro­mo­tional tour of Northamp­ton – I think – with Mon­sters. And I got a call from Leg­endary Pic­tures ask­ing if I had any ideas to con­trib­ute. But I was so busy do­ing in­ter­views and in­tro­duc­ing screen­ings that I didn’t re­ally have a spare sec­ond to think about it. I didn’t end up with time to pre­pare any­thing. But I must have said some­thing right.”

Movie fans likely re­call that the last time Leg­endary Pic­tures tapped up a hot new Bri­tish talent, he turned out to Christo­pher Nolan. Ed­wards ought to have been able to cel­e­brate his en­vi­able new po­si­tion. But in­stead, bound by the se­crecy that shrouds all ma­jor tent-pole re­leases, he couldn’t even tell his par­ents.

“I went home that Christ­mas and all my fam­ily are ask­ing me ‘How’s it go­ing?’ and ‘You work­ing on any­thing?’ And in my head I’m shout­ing: ‘I’m work­ing on Godzilla!’ But I couldn’t say it. So months later, I get a phone call from my agent telling me that the story has been leaked and that it’s all over the bl­o­go­sphere. So I called my mum and told her ‘I’m work­ing on Godzilla’. And be­cause she’s my mum and be­cause I said it ner­vously, she as­sumed I was in ter­ri­ble trou­ble. So her first re­sponse was: ‘Can you get out of it?’ She and dad thought it was like jail or some­thing.”

Born in Nuneaton and schooled in Sur­rey, Ed­wards had no ob­vi­ous con­nec­tion to the world of the $100 mil­lion spec­ta­cle. But the 37-year-old, who cites Ge­orge Lu­cas, Steven Spiel­berg and Quentin Tarantino as his pri­mary in­flu­ences, has al­ways been a dreamer on a mon­strously big scale. From the age of six, he watched Star Wars: A New Hope ev­ery day. Af­ter col­lege, he joined the BBC as a hand­made SFX whizz, work­ing on the his­tor­i­cal part-works se­ries, He­roes and Vil­lains, and on the Sun­dance win­ning doc­u­men­tary, In the Shadow of the Moon.

“I hon­estly think that if I had grown up in Hol­ly­wood I might not have been so in­ter­ested in mak­ing films,” he says. “Part of the at­trac­tion was that the world of film-mak­ing seemed so ex­otic and far away. The big­gest ap­peal for me was it felt like leav­ing the farm and go­ing to Oz. Most people have im­pos­si­ble ca­reer dreams when they’re young. They want to be a space­man or Spi­der-Man or what­ever; this was mine.”

Post- Mon­sters, crit­ics called him the “Bed­room James Cameron” and in­ter­ested par­ties on the in­ter­net cheered when he signed on for Godzilla. Amidst the ker­fuf­fle, Ed­wards kept on work­ing ex­actly as be­fore.

“As a di­rec­tor, you re­ally only talk to the heads of your de­part­ments and not the 200 or 300 people who are work­ing on the movie ev­ery day. Most con­ver­sa­tions hap­pen be­tween you, your as­sis­tant di­rec­tor, the cam­era­man and your ac­tors. I only re­ally got to know about 20 or 30 people. So you can con­vince yourself that you’re mak­ing a much smaller film with just a hand­ful of friends. If there was a quiz at the end of film­ing ask­ing me about the names of my crew, I’m afraid I’d get a very low score.”

Ed­wards’ Godzilla turns out to be a very dif­fer­ent beast to the one found in Roland Em­merich’s unlovely 1998 reimag­in­ing. Aes­thet­i­cally and the­mat­i­cally, Godzilla 2014 harks back to­ward Ishiro Honda 1954 orig­i­nal ver­sion. The monster is im­me­di­ately recog­nis­able as the crea­ture who emerged from Ja­pan’s Toho Stu­dios some 60 years ago. In fact, Ed­wards tried to imag­ine the beast as a real an­i­mal who emerged briefly in the 1960s, in­spir­ing ter­ror and a se­quence of Godzilla movies.

“When you make a film called Godzilla you should make sure that it is Godzilla in your movie,” in­sists Ed­wards. “Toho, who did the orig­i­nal Ja­panese films, had a list of things that they felt were cru­cial for Godzilla. But

“Be­cause she’s my mum and be­cause I said it ner­vously, she as­sumed I was in ter­ri­ble trou­ble. So her first re­sponse was: ‘Can you get out of it?’”

that list was shorter than my own list.”

Honda’s film ar­tic­u­lated Ja­pan’s post-atomic fears; Ed­wards’ Godzilla sim­i­larly touches on re­cent catas­tro­phes, no­tably the 2011 To­hoku earthquake and the Fukushima Dai­ichi nu­clear dis­as­ter.

“The first film was a metaphor for Hiroshima,” says Ed­wards. “People say that sci­ence fic­tion is not about the fu­ture; it’s about the present. From my point of view, when I sat down and asked my­self what would hap­pen if a monster ap­peared off the coast and then de­stroyed a city, I de­cided it would be har­row­ing and life-chang­ing event. So why not treat it with that kind of re­spect? Un­for­tu­nately we have all seen these events on TV and have ref­er­ence points. We did talk with our Ja­panese part­ners about it. And we all agreed that we should raise ques­tions about nu­clear power.”

Ed­wards’ film es­chews su­per­hero wise-cracking and self-aware snark in favour of real world al­lu­sions. But it equally avoids found-footage tropes, hand­held verite and what David St Hub­bins might deem “Too much fuck­ing per­spec­tive”. This Godzilla is an old-school dis­as­ter pic­ture: be­tween the ef­fects and set-pieces, proper ac­tors – Aaron Tay­lor-John­son, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watan­abe, El­iz­a­beth Olsen, Juli­ette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, and David Strathairn – do prop­erly dra­matic things.

“It’s those same big movies,” says Ed­wards. “The style of film that has in­flu­enced me the most re­flects the big, big movies I grew up: Lu­cas, Spiel­berg, Cameron. If we had a style guide on set, it was some­where be­tween Close En­coun­ters and Jaws. I don’t want to com­pare to those clas­sics. But that was def­i­nitely the kind of film-mak­ing I hoped to em­u­late. I wanted char­ac­ters that you could com­pletely be­lieve in.”

Don’t ex­pect Ghi­do­rah the Three Headed Monster.

Godzilla is out now on gen­eral re­lease and is re­viewed on page 11D

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