Snickers Satisfies Godzilla
Godzilla is awesome. Except when he’s hungry. You’re Not You When You’re Hungry. SNICKERS Satisfies.
The marketing tie-in campaign for the new GODZILLA from Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures kicked off early this year with a television commercial for Snickers candy bars. The latest entry in the brand’s popular “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” advertising campaign, the spot was released online on February 28 and made its television debut during the live broadcast of The Academy Awards on March 2, 2014.
While the new Godzilla is a computer animated creation, the Snickers commercial brings the monster to life using the classic “suitmation” FX of the Toho films. Performing in the Godzilla suit is Douglas Tait, an actor and stuntman whose credits include the feature films STAR TREK (2009), LAND OF THE LOST (2009), THOR (2011) and KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM (2013). Douglas recently spoke with SciFi Japan about his career and his role as the latest suit actor to play the King of the Monsters…
SciFi Japan: Please tell us a bit about your background and how you became a suit actor (as well as a bit/supporting actor in general). Were you a fan of monster movies growing up, and did you always want to play aliens and creatures on film and TV?
Douglas Tait: I started out my Junior year in High School pursuing acting. I took classes, worked as an extra in films, and got a job at Universal Studios Hollywood playing Frankenstein and other classic monsters. Growing up I was a huge fan of monster movies, especially FRANKENSTEIN, and I would dress up as Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees and perform on Halloween.
It was so surreal when I stepped behind that infamous hockey mask in FREDDY VS JASON and got to work with Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger). I never thought of a career acting behind special fx makeup; I was pursuing a career as a serious actor. Working at Universal Studios is where it all started. I had a natural ability to bring these characters to life at the theme park, and I had the endurance from my athletic background and height (I’m 6’5″) to handle the intense heat.
I think being a fan growing up gave me an understanding of how these monsters acted and moved. From my work at Universal, I would get recommended for small projects and commercials playing creatures and monsters. This led to other things and when I played Jason in the ending of FREDDY VS JASON, it gave me some status among filmmakers. Then I went on to do ZATHURA with Stan Winston Studios, and LAND OF THE LOST with Mike Elizalde’s shop Spectral Motion.
All this time I was pursuing a regular acting career and working on shows playing bit parts. It wasn’t until I played the Long Face Bar Alien in STAR TREK that people really started to know my name. Barney Burman won the Academy Award for makeup on the film and he featured my character in all of the press he did, and people started to ask who the guy was behind that makeup. Star Trek opened the door to amazing opportunities in my career, and I have been blessed with consistent work ever since.
SciFi Japan: How did you get the assignment to play Godzilla?
Douglas Tait: Anytime a role comes up that has prosthetics or a creature suit, my name is usually in the mix. This is a beautiful thing as there is only a small group of us that are known for this kind of acting.
I got a call to audition for the Snickers Commercial with 100+ tall actors with hopes to play the iconic character. Some I knew, some I didn’t, some were in shape, some were not. Since this kind of work is extremely difficult, producers are very wary of hiring an actor who has never worn a full creature suit. They can lose a lot of money if an actor couldn’t handle the intensity of the suit, or became claustrophobic.
This works in my favor as my resume is full of creature roles in recognizable films, and I have worked with the shop that built Godzilla, (Legacy FX) on numerous projects. Legacy FX was formerly known as Stan Winston Studios and the same talented folks that ran Stan’s run Legacy. When it came down to picking the right actor to play Godzilla, my body of work and the fact that Legacy highly recommended me, made me a shoe-in for the role.
SciFi Japan: How soon after getting hired did you begin working on the commercial. Was there much time to prepare?
Douglas Tait: I was cast on November 14th and right away I started doing fittings for the suit at Legacy FX. We did 7 fittings at the shop plus a rehearsal day, and the first day of shooting was on December 2nd, 2013. This was a very quick build for such a huge suit.
Since I am working consistently as characters like this, I have a very rigorous training regimen which includes calisthenic exercises, yoga, and animal movements while wearing a weight vest. Physically I am ready to go, but it is nice to have more time to play with the character and see the limitations of the suit. I like to train on things that will help me with the character, and when I have time to play in the suit, I get a feel for what those limitations will be.
SciFi Japan: In the Toho movies the suits were usually built to the measurements of the actor playing Godzilla so it would fit and perform properly. Was that the case here? If not, was the suit modified at all to better fit you?
Douglas Tait: The suit was custom built to fit me from a full cast of my body. The Director and producers wanted me to be much taller than the other actors in the commercial, so the suit was built to be 9 feet tall.
In the scene we shot in Downtown Los Angeles where I am angry and I flip the taxi, they shot me against a green screen to make me appear as the size of the tall buildings.
SciFi Japan: It looks like there was a pretty big animatronic rig for Godzilla’s head sitting on your own head and shoulders. Was it difficult to work with? I imagine it would make it hard to maintain your balance while moving in costume.
Douglas Tait: There was a backpack that I wore and the head rig came off the backpack. Most all of the weight was on my shoulders and it weighed over 120 pounds.
It was difficult to work with; these huge monsters are always a challenge. That is where my intense training comes in. The weight of the suit is not the only challenge; there is a certain mental element that comes in to play while performing inside a creature suit. You go into it mentally prepared knowing its going to be tough, then you have to sell the performance no matter how miserable you are. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it.
It is great to work with a shop like Legacy FX because they are the best at what they do. I know going into it that they are going to make it the most comfortable it can be.
SciFi Japan: How were shots like the one with Godzilla on the ATV accomplished? Was that done practically or as a CG or composite shot?
Douglas Tait: The ATV scene was shot practical. There is a triangle piece in my neck which was removed during the scene for better vision. When they shot the closeup, they put the head on a camera rig and the puppeteers moved the face, but I wasn’t in the suit for that.
To accomplish the waterskiing shot I was on a moving gimbal against a green screen. Stuntman Tim Soergel wore my Godzilla feet and waterskied with them. When they edited the spot, they superimposed me to look like I was waterskiing. It would have been a disaster to try to waterski in that huge suit.
SciFi Japan: How long was the commercial shoot?
Douglas Tait: We shot over a 5 day period, working long hours everyday.
SciFi Japan: When and where was the commercial filmed?
Douglas Tait: It was filmed on December 2nd-6th 2013 at several different locations. The waterskiing and beach scenes were shot at Pyramid Lake. The ATV scene was shot at an ATV track in Gorman Ca, the dance scene was shot in a house in Los Angeles, and the destruction scene was shot in the middle of Downtown Los Angeles.
SciFi Japan: Did the commercial premiere on TV during the Oscars?
Douglas Tait: Yes. It was originally going to air during the Super Bowl, but they held it until The Academy Awards.
SciFi Japan: As a suit actor, what was it like playing Godzilla? Were you a fan of the character before you got to play him?
Douglas Tait: It was very exciting to play such a well-known creature. I always thought Godzilla was cool, but I didn’t grow up watching him like the Universal classic monster movies. Now I know how huge the Godzilla following is. I have received numerous Facebook messages about the commercial. Apparently Cleve Hall and myself are the only American actors who have worn a full Godzilla suit. Another iconic character to add to my resume!
SciFi Japan: Since the Snickers commercial is tied in with the new movie, did you play Godzilla for anything beyond that one spot? Will there be any print ads, or additional online videos, etc as part of this campaign? Nike did posters for their “Godzilla vs Charles Barkley” commercials and Dr Pepper did supermarket displays with Godzilla back in the 1980s. I’m curious if Snickers has any plans along those lines.
Douglas Tait: We only shot the vignettes for that one spot. Although I did do a lot of improv; some made it into the commercial, and some did not. They shot the behind the scenes “making of” the commercial that has not been released online yet, and there is also a print campaign that will be released soon.
SNICKERS – “GODZILLA”
Godzilla: Douglas Tait
Godzilla Puppeteers: Michael Manzel, Bruce Mitchell
Girl on Beach: Adrienne Rusk
Godzilla Friend #1: Jermaine Williams
Godzilla Friend #2: Arnie Pantoja
Godzilla Friend #3: Matt Mider
Godzilla Friend #4: John Druska
Client: Snickers, Mars North America
Brand Director, Snickers: Allison Miazga-Bedrick
Sr. Brand Manager, Snickers: Steve Finnie
Agency: BBDO, NY
Chief Creative Officer, Worldwide: David Lubars
Chief Creative Officer, New York: Greg Hahn
Creative Director/VP: Alex Taylor
Creative Director/VP: Jason Stefanik
Creative Directors: Gianfranco Arena, Peter Kain
Producer: Amy Wertheimer
SVP, Senior Account Director: Kathryn Brown
Executive Music Producer: Loren Parkins
Account Director: Josh Steinman, David Rolfe
Production Company: Smith and Jones
Director: Ulf Johansson
Executive Producer: Philippa Smith
Line Producer: Justine Madero
Production Supervisor: Tim Kreis
Assistant Production Supervisor: Andrea Panda
1st AD: Sean Cotter
2nd AD: Ian Stoker
2nd 2nd: Mitch Jones
Director of Photography: Andrejz Sekula
Camera Operator: Matt Baker
1st AC ‘A’ Cam: EJ Misisco
1st AC ‘B’ Cam: Paul Santoni
2nd AC: Tyler Emmett
DIT: Will Chung
Key Costumer: Matt Goldman
2nd Costumer: Lindy McMichael
Key Make-Up: Jane Choi
Production Designer: Chris Gorak
Assistant Art Director: Tracy Gaydos
Leadman: John Goetchius
Set Dressers: Doug O’Conor, Erik Mulet
On Set Dresser: Jesse Mexia
Drivers/Set Dressers: Eric Erslan, Glen Kennedy
Propmaster: Chris Wright
Prop Maker: Mark Summit
Assistant Props: Gilles De Baillenx
SFPX Coordinator: Dave Petersen
Editorial: Mackenzie Cutler
Editor: Ian Mackenzie
Assistant Editor: Nick Divers
Director of Operations: Biz Lynskey
Producer: Evan Meeker
Script Supervisor: Lisa Bobonis
Visual Effects: MPC NY
VFX Supervisor: Alex Lovejoy
Director of Business Affairs/VFX Producer: Camila De Biaggi
Godzilla Suit: Legacy FX
Legacy Techs: Richard Haugen, Patrick Gerrety
VTR: Kevin Hawks, Brad Huffman
Sound Mixer: Bob Dreebin
Boom Operator: Mike Fredriksz
Music: South Music & Sound Design
Head of Production: Dan Pritikin
Creative Director/Composer: Jon Darling
Music: AKM Music
Audio Mix: Heard City
Mixer: Keith Raynaud
Telecine: Company 3
Colorist: Tim Masick
For more information on Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures’ GODZILLA, please see the earlier coverage here on SciFi Japan:
- GODZILLA RETURNS!
- Legendary Pictures Previews GODZILLA and PACIFIC RIM at Comic-Con
- Legendary Pictures Sets GODZILLA Release Date
- Warner Bros and Legendary Announce Cast and Start of Production for GODZILLA
- GODZILLA (2014) Press Release
- Warner Bros Releases Trailer and Poster for GODZILLA
- Warner Bros Releases High-Res Photos from GODZILLA
- GODZILLA Textless Poster and French/Canadian Trailer
- New GODZILLA Poster and Textless Art from Warner Bros.
- New GODZILLA Roar from Warner Bros.
- New GODZILLA Trailer from Warner Bros.
- GODZILLA International Trailer
- GODZILLA (2014) Photo Gallery
- GODZILLA (2014) TV Spots
- GODZILLA (2014) Extended Look
- GODZILLA (2014) Licensed Product Guide
- GODZILLA Publicity Banners from Warner Bros.
- GODZILLA Production Notes and Images
- GODZILLA Final Credits
- GODZILLA (2014) Asia Trailer
- GODZILLA (2014) Video Clips
- GODZILLA Screens in Hollywood
- GODZILLA (2014) NYC Press Junket Report: It’s Big and Terrible
- GODZILLA Premieres in Hollywood
- “Godzilla Craves Italian” in FIAT Brand Commercial
- GODZILLA (2014) Review
- GODZILLA (2014) Cast Interview Videos