GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS Exclusive Interview With Director Michael Dougherty

To mark the UK release of Godzilla: King of the Monsters on digital and physical platforms, we recently talked to director Michael Dougherty and you can find the full interview with the filmmaker here...

Godzilla: King of the Monsters delivered plenty of jaw-dropping Kailju action while also setting the stage for what comes next in Godzilla Vs. Kong. Last week, we had the opportunity to talk to director Michael Dougherty about the movie and he had plenty to say about working on a franchise he clearly grew up a massive fan of. 

From what goes into creating a movie monster to a scrapped post-credits scene and whether there was any pressure to up the ante in terms of action after the quieter first instalment, Dougherty delves deep into a number of different topics, and this is a must-read for fans of the sequel. His comments about Mecha-King Ghidorah, however, are particularly noteworthy.

In case you missed it, you can find Dougherty's comments about superhero movies by clicking here and an update on Trick 'R Treat 2 by clicking here. We obviously want to say a huge thank you to the filmmaker for taking the time to talk to us about those and Godzilla: King of the Monsters!

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is on Digital Download now and on DVD, Blu-ray™, 3D Blu-ray™ and 4K Ultra HD October 14.

You created a lot of new Titans for King of the Monsters, so what would you say goes into dreaming up a new iconic movie monster?
Hmm...good question! It was important to me that they felt like they might have always been part of that Toho Monster Universe. I feel like there's a very particular look and presence that a good Kaiju has. Obviously, they're massive but they also embody different kinds of animal traits. The core thing is that they're always animals at the end of it. When you first see them on screen, the team's main requirement was always debating whether they were updated Toho monsters [or something new]. In the case of the Behemoth, which is the mammoth style creature, I wanted to create a new mammal monster. Rarely do we get that other than Kong and King Caesar. Usually, Toho monsters or Kaiju are a combination of insects and reptiles so I really wanted to introduce one that felt like it could have existed during the Ice Age. 
I've loved seeing the concept art you've been sharing on Twitter; as a filmmaker, how important is artwork like that for what ends up on screen?
Hugely important. I started off, even before I was an animator, as a kid, we didn't have iPhones and iPads to make our own short films so the best I could do was make frames! Part of my tradition growing up as a kid was to watch Godzilla movies and draw my own version of them in their monster battles and things like that. Production design, concept art, and creature design, that's my favourite part of the process because you aren't constrained by budget or schedules and you can just come up with the most insane images and designs possible. We then try to translate a lot of those key images to the big screen and we're constantly referencing the concept art with the VFX artists. 

What led to you making some of those changes to Godzilla's appearance in the movie?
He changes in every film. That's what's great about the character. He evolves and changes with every incarnation. I don't think there are any two Godzilla films where he's completely identical. I felt like we were just continuing that tradition. It's always totally recognisable as Godzilla but if you look at every single one put side by side, you'll notice all these amazing changes and what I really love about that with the character is that it embodies the themes and messages of the film. He's mother nature's 800 tonne gorilla, so to me, he's evolution in the flesh. 

Where did the inspiration come from to include the "super" version of Godzilla in the movie's final battle?
Part of it was that I've always loved Fire Gozilla or whichever term you prefer in the old movies because traditionally, people think of his atomic breath as being his key, signature finishing move and Gareth had done that brilliantly in the first film. I'll never forget when you finally saw his tail and back light up and he finally got to use that atomic breath. They held it off wonderfully and I had no idea it was coming so when it did, it felt like a real applause moment. We couldn't just repeat that but we also had to come up with a way that would allow him to defeat King Ghidorah in a satisfying and visually impactful way. That's where I posed the idea of looking at his burning form as a solution. It also made sense with the story and characters with the idea that he's been evolved after Serizawa's sacrifice.
The first movie came under fire from some fans for not featuring enough action, so did you feel under pressure to really up the ante with this sequel?
I wouldn't call it pressure to add more action but it seemed like a natural evolution. I had heard the complaints about not enough Godzilla and not enough action and I'm not trying to dismiss those opinions. Everyone is entitled to one but I also feel like it's a symptom of society that we're overstimulated and just want more action added to everything. I love and appreciate movies that you can call a slow burn. I feel as if we don't get enough of those kinds of films anymore and it's almost like, 'Put your f*cking phone down and sit quietly and pay attention and enjoy the build-up.' I thought it was a really brave choice for Gareth and the studio to take that route and to hold back similar to Jaws and Aliens and a lot of other films we claim to love with The Thing being a perfect example of that. I wish we could make more of those kinds of movies and I'm really glad Gareth's film got to take that route but it didn't make sense with the sequel not to turn up the volume and increase the velocity a little bit but we would have done that no matter what the previous film had done. 

A lot has been said about how quickly Sally Hawkins' character was killed off. Was there ever a version of the movie where her character had a larger role?
[Laughs] Yeah. There was never a version where she was in the film longer. She died that early going back to the initial treatment because I wanted to find a way to establish how cruel and vicious King Ghidorah was and to really seal the deal on this guy being the villain. I partially did it because I loved Sally's character from the first film so much and Serizawa and Dr. Graham were my favourites because to me, they had the ideal job that I would have wanted. They were the Godzilla experts! Because she was the sympathetic and endearing, heart-warming character, what better way to establish your villain than to have them kill that person? It's a throwback to Janet Leigh's character in Psycho. You spend all this time setting up a certain character as a heroine or major character and then in a shocking way, they kick the bucket. I was tapping into my horror movie roots with that one. I remember hearing some of the criticism saying, 'Why would King Ghidorah do that? She's such a tiny little thing?' I'm sorry but if you've been frozen in the ice for potentially tens of millions of years, you're hungry! [Laughs] If someone froze you in the ice for millions of years and you saw tiny little things currying across the floor, I guarantee you would want to go after it for a snack! 

The post-credit scene is awesome; what was your thought process behind that apparent Mecha-King Ghidorah tease and were you setting him up to return in that form one day?
That wasn't a direct set up of Mecha-King Ghidorah, no. I'm not saying it's not but if you think about King Ghidorah and what's he capable of, regeneration being a key one and the ability to call the other Titans, he's a gold mine of opportunity. That DNA is an untapped resource as far as Charles Dance's character is concerned. A few scrapings of cells and who knows what you can create with it...
How closely did you work with Adam Wingard to get Godzilla where he needed to be for Godzilla vs. Kong and did that change any of your plans at all? 
I had complete freedom. Adam came by set for a day and then we would sort of text and chat while I was in post-production here and there but we didn't have to bend over backwards to line our stories up. My writing partner and I, Zack, we actually did a pass on the Kong vs. Godzilla script to tighten some screws here and there just to make sure things did line up but it was all very easy, natural, organic process to get the films to flow into each other.
Were there any scenes you shot or wanted to shoot that didn't make the final cut?
Originally, we were going to have two post-credits scenes. There's the one we shot with Charles Dance buying King Ghidorah's head but there's a second one that we had written, boarded, and even had the locations scouted out and costumes ready to go. It basically involed Zhang Ziyi's character and it's set in the aftermath of the film. She's in Tokyo and goes into some sort of restaurant or bar and goes down a set of stairs and ends up in what looks like an ancient temple that is eerily similar to the one we saw at the beginning of the film in China.
Then, she meets up with her identical twin sister and the twin sister is expressing her concerns about whether they should go through with this or not, that these girls are so young, and they're not sure if they're ready. Ziyi says, 'So were we once' and they emerge into this giant chamber where we reveal a second Mothra egg and in front of that are two little girls, maybe three or four years old, also identical twins and they're singing the Mothra song to the egg to get it to hatch. I was heartbroken that we didn't get to shoot that because it would have confirmed that she was playing the Mothra twins which is a deep cut reference from the original films.

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