This Godzilla stomps its way from... the Philippines! | Inquirer Entertainment
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This Godzilla stomps its way from… the Philippines!

By: - Columnist
/ 12:03 AM May 11, 2014

BRYAN Cranston (left) plays a dad to Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s character.

LOS ANGELES— “Initially, the entire movie was set in the Philippines, starring an all-Filipino cast but…,” “Godzilla” director Gareth Edwards joked when I asked how the retelling of the monster’s tale came to begin in the Philippines. Yes, this 21st-century “Godzilla” starts in the Philippines—in a collapsed mine deep in the jungle.

As written by Max Borenstein (from a story credited to David Callaham), here’s how “Godzilla’s” tale unfolds: When a mine deep in a Philippine jungle collapsed, it revealed that underneath were the fossilized, highly radioactive remains of a gigantic creature. Two scientists, Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins), trek to the site to inspect the strange relic.


Serizawa, who has spent his life searching for Godzilla, hopes the huge cave will yield clues about the monster’s existence. The scientists discover that the cave did contain the carcass of a monstrous creature. In fact, the cave turns out to be a giant ribcage. They also learn that something blew out the mountain from within, pulverized its way across the jungle and headed to the ocean.


“GODZILLA” director Gareth Edwards PHOTO BY RUBEN V. NEPALES

The Hawaiian island of Oahu subbed for the Philippines. “Actually, that scene was initially set in Siberia,” said Gareth, who made his feature directing debut with the acclaimed indie “Monsters,” in a recent interview at the Essex Hotel in New York. “What happened was, we found out that the ‘Man of Steel’ movie had a similar ice-based scene at the time. So we changed [the setting] to the Philippines. Whatever the cause of them (monsters) coming back, I wanted it to be born out of man’s abuse of nature.”

The British director added, “So the idea that you have these beautiful rain forests and within it is this big scar, this quarry—because we’re trying to take from the planet and through that action, we uncover this demon—felt very appropriate.”

He revealed, “There was a scene that didn’t make it to the movie but it’s in Tagalog, with translation, where a dying man talked symbolically about how people came, raped the earth and scarred her flesh and now she has given birth to a demon. Man versus nature is a big theme within the film.”

In DVD version

Gareth told me that this sequence will be restored in the movie’s DVD and Blu-ray disc version. He does not remember the name of the actor who played the dying old man. He said that Tagalog-speaking actors were flown from the US mainland to the set in Hawaii. He also said the collapsed mine and cavern cost a staggering $900,000 to build.

The filmmaker, who earned a Bafta Awards nomination for Best Debut for a British Director or Producer for “Monsters,” admitted that the key actors he approached for “Godzilla” were hesitant at first to say yes. The cast includes Elizabeth Olsen, David Strathairn and, in short roles, Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche.


When he asked actors, “Do you want to be in ‘Godzilla?’” Gareth said, “All of them were like, ‘Hmmm, I’m not sure. Not really.’ We would say, ‘No, no, no, I understand. I know you think you know the film but we’re not making that movie. We want to make a different type of film.’ What I said to them was, ‘A lot of actors have their personal, artistic movie and then they have a commercial movie.’

“I said, ‘You have to view this as your personal movie. Like do a commercial movie afterward but this is your personal one. Because it’s really important that the performances and the film feel like any drama. It just happens to have a giant monster in it.’ They all really liked that.” He quipped with a grin, “They fell for my trick and signed up.” He quickly added, “No, we got everybody we wanted for our first choices. I was very lucky.”

Second feature

“Godzilla” is Gareth’s second feature directing job. “I got very lucky,” he remarked about being a relatively new filmmaker and yet he landed a big-budgeted epic to direct. “I guess because my other film was a monster movie and it had characters that were driving the story. Maybe that was why but the main thing is that when we met (with producers), we all felt the same way about fantasy and science fiction films. As I grew up, I loved those early Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott and James Cameron movies.”

A chameleon

On why he chose Aaron Taylor-Johnson to play Ford Brody, a US Naval officer specializing in disarming bombs and whose father is a power plant scientist (Bryan) in Japan, Gareth explained, “There are lots of different actors that you could go to for that kind of role. I didn’t want someone who’s going to bring a lot of baggage into the role, where you’re going to see him and go, ‘Oh, that’s so and so from that other movie.’ You want to feel like, that is Ford.”

The director, who wanted to become one as early as when he was 6 years old, added about the British actor, “Obviously, there’s a lot of people who know Aaron but he’s such a chameleon with his looks. He totally changes, like you don’t recognize him from ‘Kick-Ass,’ ‘Savages’ or ‘Anna Karenina.’ I don’t think he looks the same at all. For me, it was what he did in the film called ‘Nowhere Boy’ where he plays John Lennon. There’s a lot of soulful looks in his eyes and the way he looks like—he’s thinking, having a million thoughts and processing everything.

“In the film, Ford doesn’t say much dialogue. He’s often in situations where he’s looking, thinking and doing something. I needed an actor who could say a lot with just little dialogue and with just his looks. ‘Nowhere Boy’ really made him stand out. He had done an American accent in ‘Savages.’ I didn’t recognize him from ‘Kick-Ass.’ He plays an American in ‘Kick-Ass’ too so it felt like, yeah, this could work.

First time

KEN WATANABE plays a scientist tasked with inspecting a strange relic.PHOTO BY RUBEN. V. NEPALES

In another interview, also at the Essex Hotel, Ken recalled the first time he saw Ishiro Honda’s original “Godzilla” which was released by Toho Co. Ltd. 60 years ago, in 1954. “Godzilla” and the subsequent monster movies that followed were often seen as representing the darker aspects of human nature and fears of the uncontrollable. The Toho cult classic, released nine years after bombs were dropped in Japan during World War II, fed into the fears and horrors of the atomic age.

Dark, scary

“When I was maybe 23 or 24, I saw the original version on VHS, not DVD,” said the actor whose Hollywood credits include “The Last Samurai,” “Inception” and “Memoirs of a Geisha.” I was so surprised because when I was a child, I thought of the movie as a monster movie—about monsters fighting. I didn’t realize about the theme, about the deep feelings. When I saw the original movie, I was so surprised because it was so dark, deep, scary and a little political. This first one, the original, was made in 1954, after World War II. There was fear about nuclear power and weapons in the Cold War.”

Ken, who said he has visited the Philippines “a couple of times,” added, “When I was offered this film, we had a big disaster in Japan which collapsed a nuclear power plant—there was a major earthquake and tsunami. It has been 60 years ago, but we still have the same fear from the original.”

(E-mail the columnist at [email protected]. Follow him at

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