GODZILLA Unmade: The History of Jan De Bont’s Unproduced TriStar Film – Complete
Author: Keith Aiken
Special Thanks to: Please See ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Below
A SCIFI JAPAN EXCLUSIVE
On May 16, 2014, Warner Bros. Pictures released GODZILLA, a $160 million American adaptation of the long-running Toho Co. franchise. Co-produced by Legendary Pictures and directed by Gareth Edwards, the film finally gave many fans what they had long hoped to see… a big-budget, Hollywood take on the King of the Monsters with state-of-the-art visual effects. Well-received by critics and audiences, the new GODZILLA was a box office success, with a sequel announced for 2018.
The generally positive reviews for the 2014 film were a sharp contrast to the reception given the first Godzilla movie made by an American studio. In October 1992, TriStar Pictures (a subsidiary of Sony Pictures Entertainment) announced that they had signed a deal with Toho to produce an American Godzilla film with “A-list stars, screenwriter, and director” which could potentially launch a series of sequels. On May 19th, 1998 — five and a half years after that announcement — TriStar’s GODZILLA finally opened on a record-breaking 7,363 theater screens across the United States.
Co-written by director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin, the team behind the blockbuster INDEPENDENCE DAY (1996), produced for a reported $130 million and backed by a year-long, $50 million domestic advertising campaign, GODZILLA was widely expected to break box office records on its way to becoming the top grossing film of the year. But moviegoers were unimpressed by the filmmakers’ interpretation of Godzilla, which strayed far from the look and character of the near-indestructible, city smashing monster seen in the Toho movies.
TriStar’s GODZILLA finished its US theatrical run at $136 million, with foreign box office bringing the worldwide total to $374 million… a respectable sum, though far less than industry analysts or (more importantly) Sony Pictures had anticipated. While not the financial bomb it is often reported to be, the film failed to deliver what audiences, exhibitors, licensees or the studio wanted and effectively killed the franchise at Sony. TriStar initially considered moving forward with a GODZILLA 2, but eventually abandoned those plans and let their Godzilla film rights revert back to Toho in 2003, allowing Warner Bros. and Legendary to make a new deal with Toho in 2010.
But, as many Godzilla fans are well aware, Devlin and Emmerich’s GODZILLA was actually the result of TriStar’s second serious attempt to produce a Godzilla film… and the first version — while taking some liberties — would likely have resulted in a Godzilla much closer to the classic Toho character, nearly two decades before the Gareth Edwards movie.
In July of 1994 the studio had signed director Jan De Bont (SPEED, TWISTER) to film a Godzilla story by screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio (the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN series). Character designs for an updated Godzilla, a new opponent called the Gryphon, and additional creatures were sketched and sculpted; storyboards were drawn; designs for sets and locations were created; a production team was assembled; casting choices were discussed; construction started on the first set… and then everything fell apart when TriStar canceled the project, supposedly over a budget dispute with De Bont.
Between 1992 and 1995, the announcement, evolution, and sudden death of Jan De Bont’s GODZILLA were covered in a handful of short articles and news bites in film industry trades, entertainment magazines, sci-fi publications and fanzines. As more information and images were gradually revealed in bits and pieces over the years, many Godzilla fans came to view De Bont’s GODZILLA as a major lost opportunity; a missed “once in a lifetime” chance to see a beloved icon brought to cinematic life with the latest in FX technology.
While the 2014 GODZILLA may have softened that blow for many fans, there is still strong interest and many questions about the American GODZILLA that almost came to be. SciFi Japan is pleased to offer a look back with some never-before-seen gems detailing the origins of the TriStar GODZILLA, the surprising amount of work done for the Jan De Bont version, the first attempt to revive GODZILLA after De Bont’s departure, and how the project eventually evolved into the Roland Emmerich film.
- FACE TO FACE WITH THE MISSING LINKS
- DEVELOPING THE STORY
- THE SCREENPLAY
- DIRECTOR HUNT
- THE FIRST FX TEST
- JAN De BONT
- PRE-PRODUCTION BEGINS
- CONCEPTUAL DESIGN, ROUND ONE: GOJIRA PRODUCTIONS and STAN WINSTON
- DIGITAL EFFECTS
- CONCEPTUAL DESIGN, ROUND TWO: WINSTON STUDIO
- FINAL PREPARATIONS: CASTING plus MINIATURE and PRACTICAL EFFECTS
- THINGS FALL APART
- THE REWRITE
- THE DISCONNECT
- GODZILLA (1994) CREDITS
FACE TO FACE WITH THE MISSING LINKS
2004 marked a half century since the original GODZILLA (ゴジラ, Gojira, 1954) had launched an entire genre of Japanese monster movies. To celebrate that milestone, the American Cinematheque in Los Angeles, CA hosted the “Godzilla 50th Anniversary Tribute” film festival at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood from June 24th – 29th, 2004. The event featured screenings of more than a dozen Godzilla and Toho movies, plus appearances by Godzilla filmmakers Masaaki Tezuka (director of GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA and GODZILLA: TOKYO SOS, both premiering at the festival), Yasuyuki Inoue (legendary FX technician with credits going back to the first GODZILLA), and Akinori Takagi (FX artist on the Showa and Heisei Godzilla movies).
As a ‘thank you’ to the Japanese guests attending the festival, the Cinematheque and guest liaison Oki Miyano arranged private tours of several Hollywood FX houses. On June 25th, I was part of a small group invited to visit Stan Winston Studio, the Oscar-winning FX company responsible for some of the most famous creatures, characters, and movie machines in modern cinema. The tour began in the Winston Studio conference room where the visitors met with Mr. Winston and were shown an amazing display of models and props of some of the studio’s top creations. As the group mingled and looked over various life sized Terminators, the Predator, an Alien and Facehugger from ALIENS, the Penguin (BATMAN RETURNS version), Lestat (INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE), the Kothoga from THE RELIC, Edward Scissorhands, Thermian aliens from GALAXY QUEST, CONGO gorillas, and some JURASSIC PARK Velociraptors, a Spinosaur, and few Tyrannosaurus rexes, we spotted one maquette of a character that never made it to the silver screen… the Gryphon from TriStar’s unmade GODZILLA.
Naturally, a group of Godzilla fans and filmmakers were surprised and excited to see this beast that almost got to co-star with the King of the Monsters. This led to an obvious question, so I asked Winston Vice President Brian Gilbert if the studio still had their Godzilla maquette. They did, and Brian had some members of the staff get the model out of storage for us to see later in the tour. Godzilla was set up in a room where the crew were building suits and props for the then-upcoming Jon Favreau movie ZATHURA (2005) so no photos could be taken, but we were allowed to snap some pics of the Gryphon since that maquette was in a more public area of the studio.
Finally being able to examine both Godzilla and the Gryphon, up close and with my own eyes, so many years after the film had been canceled was a revelation. It also inspired me to research the development of the Jan De Bont GODZILLA for a possible article. I thought that would a simple task; the movie was never made and had only been in active pre-production for about six months so not that much work could have been done. All I would have to do is interview the handful of people involved and track down some pics for a short report.
But I quickly realized that was a foolish assumption on my part. A considerable amount of work went into GODZILLA both before and after Jan De Bont was attached to direct it, which meant many more people were involved than I initially expected. And when De Bont signed on he dove right into the project, hiring a full crew of artists, production designers and FX technicians. The short article became a long one, and then a multi-part piece as I spoke with dozens of people who had worked on the aborted version of GODZILLA and discovered that much of what had been reported about this project over the years was wrong. I look forward to sharing the filmmakers’ own words about what truly went on behind the scenes, along with an array of GODZILLA production art, storyboards and photos, many of which have never been publicly revealed until now.
This article would not have been possible without the cooperation of many of the people attached to GODZILLA during its early development, among them director Jan De Bont; Brian Gilbert of Stan Winston Studio; former TriStar President of Production Chris Lee; screenwriters Terry Rossio and Don Macpherson; concept artists Carlos Huante and Ricardo Delgado; storyboard artists David Russell and Giacomo Ghiazza; Winston creature effects artists Mark “Crash” McCreery, Joey Orosco, Paul Mejias, Mark Maitre, Jim Charmatz, David Monzingo, Mike Smithson, Ken Brilliant, Jackie Perreault Gonzales and Bruce Spaulding Fuller; scannable maquette sculptors Jeff Farley, Dirk Von Besser and Chris Bergschneider; mechanical effects supervisor John Frazier; casting director Risa Bramon Garcia; miniature effects supervisor Mark Stetson; digital effects supervisor Richard Hollander; production designer Joseph Nemec III and special effects supervisor Boyd Shermis. All answered questions about GODZILLA, and many provided photos and/or artwork from their time on the film.
Thanks also to Oki Miyano, Dennis Bartok, Gwen Deglise and the American Cinematheque for arranging the Winston Studio tour in 2004; and to Oki and David Chapple for supplying photos taken during our visit to the studio. Matt Winston and Casey Kelly from the Stan Winston School of Character Arts provided GODZILLA photos from the Stan Winston Studio archive, and Matt also set up interviews with some of the Winston artists. Terry Rossio and his assistant, Stacey Collins, sent storyboards from Rossio’s personal collection. Tim Enstice of Digital Domain answered some questions about the project, while Lee Joyner of the Cinema Makeup School helped track down some leads. Fong Sam, general manager of the auction house Profiles in History, offered photos of the Godzilla maquette taken shortly before the model was sold. Jim Ballard, Justin Aclin, Jilly Wendell and Jonathan Shyman gave photo assists. Michael Schlesinger provided some details on Sony Pictures’ Godzilla rights. Phil and Sarah Stokes of the Official Clive Barker Website also supplied details from Mr. Barker regarding his early story proposal for GODZILLA. David Kayser at Casarotto Ramsay & Associates helped arrange the interview with Don Macpherson, while Wild Plum owner Shelby Sexton did the same with Jan De Bont.
Steve Ryfle originally covered the development of TriStar’s GODZILLA for various magazines back in 1994-95 followed by an expanded overview in his highly-recommended book, Japan’s Favorite Mon-Star (1998). Steve graciously shared his research for this article, including quotes from his interviews with Henry Saperstein, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, and producer Cary Woods, as well as a plot synopsis of the first draft GODZILLA screenplay.
Richard Pusateri was instrumental in preparing the GODZILLA materials Jan De Bont shared from his personal collection.
Comic book artist Todd Tennant (American Kaiju, It Came From Beneath the Sea… Again) provided information and leads. A longtime enthusiast for this unmade film, Todd is currently collaborating with Terry Rossio on an American Godzilla ’94 online graphic novel based on the Elliott and Rossio GODZILLA screenplay. Anyone interested in a visual representation of the story should definitely give it a look.
Additional information was culled from numerous publications. Please see the footnotes for a complete listing.
“For ten years I pressured Toho to make one in America. Finally they agreed.”
“He was like, ‘Godzilla, the fire-breathing monster?! Yesss!’”
–GODZILLA (1994) producer Cary Woods
According to producer Cary Woods, the credit for getting an American version of GODZILLA off the ground belonged to Henry G. Saperstein, the head of United Productions of America (UPA). Woods recalled that Saperstein “had been contacting all the major studios in town, trying to put a deal together for some time.”1
Henry Saperstein’s long history with Godzilla and Toho Co., Ltd. began in the early 1960s. A decade before, he got into film and television distribution by providing syndicated programming to the independent TV stations popping up all over the United States. Saperstein’s initial offerings were mostly westerns and other low-budget movies, but he soon began developing his own educational and sports shows. Looking to produce cartoons for television, in 1959 he bought UPA, the Academy Award-winning animation studio behind MR. MAGOO and GERALD McBOING BOING. Saperstein also continued to acquire films for distribution to television through UPA, and looked into making his own movies for theatrical release. “I am known in this business for my nose. I am known to smell when the time is ripe for a deal, for a trend in entertainment, for a development with dollar potentials,” he told Variety in 1963.
After receiving requests for more science fiction programming, Saperstein contacted Toho in early 1964 and acquired the US theatrical and television rights to the studio’s next Godzilla movie, MOTHRA VS GODZILLA (モスラ対ゴジラ, Mosura Tai Gojira). Both parties soon agreed to a multi-film co-production deal in which Saperstein would invest production money, supply story ideas, and occasionally provide American actors for upcoming Toho movies in exchange for distribution rights in North America. This partnership resulted in such fan favorite daikaiju films as MONSTER ZERO (怪獣大戦争, Kaiju Daisenso, 1965) and FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD (フランケンシュタイン対地底怪獣バラゴン, Furankenshutain Tai Chitei Kaiju Baragon, 1965) which both starred Nick Adams (REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, THE REBEL), and WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS (フランケンシュタインの怪獣 サンダ対ガイラ, Furankenshutain no Kaiju: Sanda Tai Gaira, 1966) with Russ Tamblyn (WEST SIDE STORY, THE HAUNTING).
In the 1970s, Saperstein also began acting as Godzilla’s “agent” in the United States, setting up merchandising and licensing deals for the character with a wide range of companies. He continued in this role into the mid-1990s, licensing Godzilla for the Marvel comic book series, Mattel’s Shogun Warriors toy line, a Hanna-Barbera cartoon show, a product line from Imperial that included a six foot tall inflatable Godzilla, home video releases of the Godzilla films, the Trendmasters toy line, advertising campaigns with Dr Pepper and Nike, and more.
But Henry Saperstein’s greatest Godzilla-related dream was to turn the Japanese monster into a Hollywood movie franchise, asserting, “For ten years I pressured Toho to make one in America. Finally they agreed.”2 With Toho’s blessing, Saperstein began pitching Godzilla to the major American film studios and production companies.
He eventually met with two young producers, Cary Woods and Robert N. Fried, who had a production deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment. Cary Woods had started out as an agent at the William Morris Agency, representing the likes of Uma Thurman, Sam Kinison, Tim Robbins, Matt Dillon, and Gus Van Sant, and helping develop indie films such as HEATHERS (1989) before joining Sony Pictures as a vice-president for studio head Peter Guber. Guber quickly realized that his VP was champing at the bit to produce his own movies, so he paired Woods with Robert Fried — a former Orion Pictures executive and a recent Oscar winner for the short film SESSION MAN (1991) — to develop films for the company’s Columbia and TriStar divisions. Their early titles for Sony included the Mike Myers comedy SO I MARRIED AN AXE MURDERER (1993) and the sports hit RUDY (1993). Independently, Woods also produced the controversial KIDS (1995), SWINGERS (1996), SCREAM (1996), and COP LAND (1997), while Fried had his own successes with cult favorite THE BOONDOCKS SAINTS (1999) and the box office hit COLLATERAL (2004).
Cary Woods and Robert Fried had initially met with Henry Saperstein to discuss the possibility of doing a live action feature film version of MR. MAGOO. But as those talks fizzled (MAGOO would eventually be optioned and released by Walt Disney Pictures), Saperstein mentioned that remake rights for Godzilla were also available. The producers immediately recognized Godzilla’s name value — the older Toho movies had been seen all over the world, and the character was currently starring in Nike’s successful GODZILLA VS CHARLES BARKLEY advertising campaign in the US — and believed the franchise was perfect for a Hollywood update with state-of-the-art special effects techniques. “Here was one of the great characters of the movie business,” Woods declared to Variety editor in chief, Peter Bart. “A character that was beloved even though he wreaked damage and destruction. Godzilla was the James Dean of monsters. He caused trouble wherever he went, but he was misunderstood.”3
The pair also felt the subject matter should be treated seriously, with a story that captured the “anti-nuke/war” spirit of the early films. “I think the raw material is there to make Godzilla a very, very serious and engaging sci-fi character,” Woods insisted.4
But when Cary Woods and Robert Fried initially presented the idea to Sony Pictures, they learned that studio executives saw Godzilla in a different light. “We pitched the idea to Columbia and they passed outright. Their response was they felt it had the potential for camp”, recounted Woods.5
The two producers had no better luck with Columbia’s sister company. “TriStar did originally pass on the project,” Fried explained. “The people who were running the studio at that particular time may not have seen commercial potential there, may not have thought that it would make a great film.”6
The only positive response they received came from Chris Lee, a vice president of production at TriStar. Lee had joined the company in 1985 as a freelance script reader, working his way up the ranks as both a story editor and director of creative affairs. Raised in Hawaii, he had grown up watching Godzilla movies at the (now defunct) Toho Theatre in Honolulu. “I saw the original Japanese version there, as well as the subsequent ones, and I always thought that I’d love to see another Godzilla movie,” said Lee. “It was a film that I always wanted to do.”7
Lee agreed with Fried and Woods’ take on the property, telling them, “The creature was not just menacing, he was also mythic.”8 He felt that a new GODZILLA should be done “in the spirit of the first movie, which was not campy. I wanted to reflect not what the movie [series] had become but how it started out. I loved the goofier Godzillas too, but I knew a new version was about taking it seriously. You can’t consciously set out to make it campy.”9 But despite his faith in GODZILLA as an American production, he did not have the power to green light the movie.
Getting nowhere fast, Woods took a mammoth gamble, going over the execs’ heads and taking GODZILLA directly to his former boss, Peter Guber, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Sony Pictures Entertainment. “I was lamenting my futility to my wife, and she asked, ‘have you pitched Guber?’,” he recalled. “I explained that I can’t pitch Guber — he’s the boss, the head of the company. He doesn’t want to get involved in production decisions. She just stared at me and said, ‘Pitch Guber’.”10
Over his long career, Peter Guber had been involved in a number of critically and commercially successful films such as SHAMPOO (1975), TAXI DRIVER (1976), THE DEEP (1978), CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1978), AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981), RAIN MAN (1988) and BATMAN (1989). But he also had a reputation as a better self-promoter than a producer, and had what at best could be called a “strained” relationship with several top filmmakers, among them Steven Spielberg (who banned Guber from the set of THE COLOR PURPLE) and Tim Burton (who described making BATMAN as “Torture”). In 1989, Guber was hired by the Japanese electronics company Sony Corporation to run Sony Pictures. During his reign at Sony, Guber was seen as being more interested in the general outlook of the company rather than individual productions, and executives and producers would increasingly complain about their difficulties in getting projects approved at the studio.
Cary Woods decided approaching Peter Guber at the office would most likely not work… and would also draw unwanted attention from the studio execs who had already rejected GODZILLA. Instead, he flew from Los Angeles to Florida — where Guber had a speaking engagement — and surprised the CEO at the event with a direct pitch. Half-expecting to be reprimanded for breaking protocol, Woods was relieved when Guber began talking about Godzilla as an “international brand” that could support not just one movie, but a series of films for years to come.11 “Peter got it; he saw the movie in his head,” Woods reported. “He was like, ‘Godzilla, the fire-breathing monster?! Yesss!'” 12
Peter Guber set up GODZILLA at TriStar (which had been struggling to match Columbia’s high-level output) and contacted Norio Ohga, Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures’ parent company — the Japanese electronics giant Sony Corporation — to discuss the most effective way to license the Godzilla rights from Toho. TriStar Vice Chairman Ken Lemberger was sent to Tokyo to personally oversee the deal, and negotiations with Toho launched in mid-1992.
“The timing was pretty good,” Robert Fried revealed. “Internally [Toho] were beginning to have discussions that if the right idea came along they would entertain it. And they were happy with the proposal that we made. We said that the time was right to do a big budget American version, a high-end special effects summer release version of the film, and that we would take it seriously and that we would be respectful of the legend. And they appreciated that approach and decided to take it a step at a time.”13
For Toho it was a no-lose situation; Sony Pictures was offering a $300,000-400,000 advance payment plus an annual licensing fee to use the Godzilla character for a large-scale American production with “A-list talent”. Toho would also receive production bonuses, be given distribution and merchandising rights to the film in Japan, and a percentage of profits from international ticket sales and merchandising. In addition, Toho could continue to make their own Japanese Godzilla movies — which had been doing big business back home — while the TriStar film was in development.
Even so, Fried conceded that the step-by-step negotiations with Toho were “a painstaking process.” TriStar wanted to develop an original story, unconnected to any of the other Godzilla films, and the character and appearance of this new take were of great concern to Toho. “They even sent me a four-page, single-spaced memo describing the physical requirements the Godzilla in our film had to have. They’re very protective,” he said.14
Toho wanted the new Godzilla to closely resemble the Japanese version, so they prepared a list of “Do’s and Don’ts” for TriStar to follow. The lengthy document — which was reportedly expanded to more than 75 pages — set down a series of rules defining the monster’s background (Godzilla must be created by a nuclear accident), behavior (Godzilla does not eat people), appearance (Godzilla must have three rows of dorsal fins, Godzilla has four claws on each hand and foot, Godzilla has a long tail) plus such key stipulations as “Godzilla must not be made fun of” and “Godzilla cannot die”.
Toho’s Tomoyuki Tanaka, co-creator of Godzilla and producer of the Godzilla film series, affirmed that, “TriStar has promised us they will maintain and preserve the character of Japan’s Godzilla. I’m looking forward to seeing Godzilla created by the American people. We’d like to have Godzilla go out to the world.”15
Under the terms of the contract between Toho and Sony Pictures, Toho would grant usage rights to the “character and likeness” of Godzilla for an American movie to be produced, marketed and distributed by TriStar. Sony would own rights to the picture worldwide except for Japan, where Toho would have ownership and handle distribution. The two studios would maintain these rights in perpetuity, guaranteeing that the film — and the creature created for it — would forever be copyrighted and trademarked worldwide as “Godzilla”. This key point would later become a major irritation for many Godzilla fans.
In addition, Sony Pictures also acquired merchandising rights outside Japan, would be allowed to produce an animated spin-off show for television (this would eventually result in the Saturday morning cartoon program, GODZILLA: THE SERIES) and was granted usage rights to most of the monsters from the first 15 Godzilla films produced by Toho from 1954-1975. While sequels were not guaranteed in the agreement, the American studio was granted an option for additional Godzilla films which would be handled on a picture-by-picture basis with Toho.
As the creators and owners of Godzilla, Toho would control the character and likeness rights to the American Godzilla. Therefore, Sony would need Toho’s permission to use the new Godzilla in any manner not stipulated in the contract (Toho would later nix a Godzilla cameo in Sony’s animated series BIG GUY AND RUSTY THE BOY ROBOT). On the other hand, Toho would be free to include TriStar’s Godzilla in their own productions once their deal with Sony Pictures had concluded.
But as the Sony/Toho deal came together in Japan, Cary Woods started feeling the heat back in Los Angeles. His direct appeal to Peter Guber had gotten GODZILLA off the ground, but had also created a lot of anger and resentment among the studio executives he had bypassed along the way. Woods recalled that, “Mike Medavoy, then president of TriStar, phoned me to say, ‘I don’t want to talk to you. If you feel you can go directly to Guber for decisions, be my guest, but stay off my phone list’.” When Peter Guber learned of the conversation, he advised Woods, “Don’t let Medavoy scare you. He may be off the lot before long.”16
On October 29, 1992, Variety publicly broke the news that TriStar and Toho had signed a deal for GODZILLA. TriStar announced GODZILLA as part of a slate of big budget, high profile “tentpole” productions they expected to start releasing in 1994… the lineup also included MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN (1994), TAKING LIBERTY (never produced), Terry Gilliam’s CARTOONED (never produced) and James Cameron’s SPIDER-MAN (made without Cameron and released by Columbia in 2002). Mike Medavoy told the magazine that studio executives had been looking for franchise properties, observing, “It is obvious that TriStar has embarked on the strategy of putting its own large pictures into the mix.”17
Robert Fried stated that GODZILLA was being fast-tracked for development, with offers going out to writers and directors in the next few months. He added that a best-case scenario would lead to production beginning in late 1993.
In an amusing note, on the exact same day the Variety article ran, the Los Angeles Times published their own report on the TriStar GODZILLA. Medavoy refused to answer reporter Ryan Murphy’s questions, but other sources confirmed that the project “has been in top-secret planning stages for weeks” and was tentatively scheduled for a Christmas 1994 release.18
Both the Variety and Los Angeles Times articles mentioned a rumor — the first of many — that had been circulating about GODZILLA. Unaware that the project had begun with Henry Saperstein, Cary Woods and Robert Fried, some supposedly “knowledgeable industry sources” had suggested that GODZILLA (a Japanese property) had been forced on TriStar by their owners at Sony Corp. (a Japanese business). “When Sony took over TriStar and Columbia, the big joke around town was ‘we’re gonna see a lot of Godzilla and kung fu movies’,” one unnamed source told the Times. “But Sony officials were adamant at the time that they would not enforce their taste on the American popular culture. The decision, then, to make a Godzilla movie is priceless. The whole project smells like somebody in Tokyo had an idea.”19
TriStar reps quickly denied the claims, insisting, “That’s just ridiculous. There’s been no interference from them at all… That’s a very paranoid disillusion. [Godzilla is] a worldwide phenomenon and a very well-known character. He’s the ultimate monster. Therefore, if this is done well, and it will be, it could be a sensational movie.”20 Cary Woods further set the record straight, telling Variety that GODZILLA was “a clear example of the kind of synergy that can exist when American producers and an American studio want to pursue something that is uniquely Japanese. It’s an example where something got done with their help, as opposed to their insistence.”21
Another TriStar associate would later maintain that, while the idea to remake GODZILLA originated in America, the head office in Japan recognized the inherent possibilities. “This is exactly the kind of movie that defines why Sony got into this business,” he said. “It’s a piece of fluff that can be exploited in every single way: CD-ROMs, ride films, talking books, electronic media, everything. It’s definitely an event film.”22
TriStar officially announced GODZILLA in November 1992, with trade ads in industry publications proclaiming a worldwide release for 1994. With Steven Spielberg’s highly anticipated JURASSIC PARK set for May, 1993, TriStar saw GODZILLA as the perfect vehicle to exploit the expected audience demand for similar big budget, high-tech dinosaur/monster movies. The budget for the film was anticipated to be in the $40 million range; roughly four times the amount Toho had recently been spending on their own Godzilla movies in Japan.
Toho was thrilled at the prospect. “We’re really eager to see how a Godzilla film made by Americans will turn out,” company rep Takashi Nakagawa commented to the Associated Press. “It’s great news for all Godzilla fans.”23
Nakagawa’s enthusiasm was echoed by several people who had worked on Toho’s Godzilla films. “I’m pleased,” original Godzilla suit actor Haruo Nakajima told interviewer David Milner. “I hope that a competition will spring up between Toho and TriStar.”24 Koichi Kawakita concurred, saying, “I have great expectations. I’m looking forward to seeing it, not only because I direct special effects for Godzilla films but also because I am a movie fan.”25 FX director Teruyoshi Nakano (GODZILLA VS HEDORAH, THE RETURN OF GODZILLA) said, “I’m pleased that a new approach will be taken,”26 while director Jun Fukuda (GODZILLA VS THE SEA MONSTER, GODZILLA VS MEGALON) added, “I can’t imagine what Americans would do with it. I think that Godzilla films must be produced by Americans.”27 And Ishiro Honda, director of the original GODZILLA and many of Toho’s classic FX films, gave his approval, feeling that, “It will probably be much more interesting than the ones [currently] being produced in Japan.”28
But Toho actor Kenji Sahara (RODAN, KING KONG VS GODZILLA) was a bit more hesitant. “I have mixed feelings about it,” he admitted. “I am looking forward to seeing the film, but since I take part in the production of Toho’s Godzilla movies I also have some trepidations about it. I think it will have a tremendous effect on all the people involved in the production of Toho’s Godzilla films.”29
Years later, actor Akira Kubo (SON OF GODZILLA, DESTROY ALL MONSTERS) expressed his own concerns about an American GODZILLA remake. “There have been leaps and bounds in filming techniques, in the way that they use computer graphics. In fact, I’m afraid that it might be too real,” he warned. “Unlike the old films, little will be left to the imagination. How can you have a Godzilla that does not require you to dream?”30
DEVELOPING THE STORY
“You can only hope that what you’ve done is respectful, and is at least as legitimate as what was done before.”
–GODZILLA (1994) screenwriter Terry Rossio
“The Big Mo” — short for the Big Momentum — was Peter Guber’s catchphrase. He felt the best way to get a movie made was to pile on so many positives (base the film on a hot property, get big stars, sign a name director) that no one in upper management could stop it. With the GODZILLA contracts now signed, Guber admonished Cary Woods and Robert Fried to do just that. “I’ve done my bit,” he told Woods. “Now it’s up to you to get this thing rolling. You have to give it momentum.”1
The first order of business was to hire a writer and work out the story. There was never any intention of doing a direct sequel to any of the Toho movies; TriStar wanted a film that would be accessible to a worldwide audience beyond hardcore Godzilla fans. That necessitated a fresh start with an original story and characters. Fried felt that their GODZILLA would remain true to the classic series by cautioning against nuclear weapons and runaway technology, recurring themes in the Japanese movies.
The producers also had to decide how Godzilla would be portrayed in the new film. In the 1954 GODZILLA the monster had been a terrifying menace, but as the movies of the 1960s and 70s were increasingly aimed at younger audiences Godzilla gradually evolved into a heroic character. In the 1980s, Toho relaunched the series and returned Godzilla to his aggressive roots, but with enough leeway to allow audiences to sympathize with the monster.
FX director Koichi Kawakita was one of architects of the newer Toho films featuring an antagonistic Godzilla. “Godzilla has many overseas fans, but there’s probably a big gap between their perception of him and ours,” he said. “They know him primarily from the sixties and seventies films, where he’s the lovable, comical figure. They really don’t know the changes we’ve made in him in the later movies.”2
But Henry Saperstein was an avid supporter of Godzilla as a good guy. “Oh, they’re trying to be a little more villainous in the last two [Toho] films, but that’s not the way the new [American-made] feature is going to be,” he argued. “It’s going to be pure Godzilla as we know and love Godzilla — corny, lovable, klutzy, effective, a little scary, a little comedic. There’s a lot of humor in Godzilla.”3 Saperstein added that, “He comes forth reluctantly to battle the evil forces, whether they’re outer-space aliens, or bacteria, or people.”4
Cary Woods was leaning towards the “destructive but likeable” interpretation of Godzilla as seen in the recent Toho movies. In early 1993, he and Robert Fried invited a number of filmmakers — including Tim Burton and PREDATOR screenwriters Jim Thomas and John Thomas — to TriStar to pitch story ideas for GODZILLA. That March, they also asked famed British horror writer/filmmaker Clive Barker (Books of Blood, HELLRAISER) for his take on the property. While Barker did not write a full treatment, he did meet with the producers and presented a few pages of notes for a Godzilla story set around New York in December, 1999.
The project took its first significant step forward when Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio were hired to write the GODZILLA screenplay in May, 1993. While Elliott and Rossio have become two of the most commercially successful screenwriters in Hollywood — their credits include THE MASK OF ZORRO (1998), SHREK (2001), and all four PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movies — in 1993, they had only two notable credits… the Fred Savage/Howie Mandel comedy LITTLE MONSTERS (1989) and a rewrite for Disney’s ALADDIN (1992). LITTLE MONSTERS had been produced by Vestron Pictures, which went out of business shortly after the film tanked at the box office. “It was a great credential,” Elliott joked. “We could say that our script was the project that bankrupted Vestron.”5
But Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio had a supporter in Cary Woods, whom they had worked with during his time at William Morris. As Rossio described to SciFi Japan, “The way agencies work, a client often has more than one agent. For example, perhaps one agent for film, another that specializes in television. Or, one ‘junior’ agent and then a ‘senior’ agent to help out if needed. For a brief time, Cary Woods played that role for us — not our primary agent, more of an advisor.” Woods knew that they had written well-received screenplays for two unproduced Disney sci-fi films; A PRINCESS OF MARS (an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ first John Carter novel) and ROBERT A. HEINLEIN’S THE PUPPET MASTERS (the film would be rewritten and released in 1994). “I guess we already had a reputation of handling franchise-type titles, such as ALADDIN and ZORRO,” explained Rossio.
Ted Elliott recounted that, “Cary called and said ‘Have you given any thought to your next project?’ and we said, ‘We’re looking around.’ He said, ‘Well, I’ve got one word for you: Godzilla.’ And we said, ‘Uh, do you have any other words?’ We actually turned the project down about two or three times because we weren’t sure we knew what to do with it.”6
While neither writer was particularly enthusiastic about writing a GODZILLA screenplay, Cary Woods convinced them to come to TriStar and discuss the project. Elliott and Rossio wrote a three and half page GODZILLA story outline that got them the job. “You have to come up with a story that draws them in and excites them, then they give you the assignment,” Rossio said. “Having gotten the assignment doesn’t necessarily mean anything; it just means you can write a script.”7
Robert Fried expected that Elliott and Rossio would deliver a high-quality Godzilla story. “The writers of the screenplay are very talented sci-fi buffs and they were hired to write a very serious kind of sci-fi thriller,” he enthused. “They weren’t engaged to write a schlocky type of movie. Another reason we’re excited about GODZILLA — apart from the chance to spend large amounts of money on the effects, which everyone is expecting — is because we’ve put a lot of time, thought and finance into the screenplay. So I think we’ll have a better thought-out storyline for our version of GODZILLA than you may have seen before.”8
As TriStar began the task of finding a suitable director, Rossio and Elliott went to work on their first draft. Surprisingly, it was one of Toho’s many rules that helped the writers find a foundation to start from. “Toho insisted we not make light of the monster. That helped us find the right tone as well as the social and political implications,” Ted Elliott stated.9
Terry Rossio explained, “Our intent was to take it quite seriously, in the sense of treating it like a legitimate science fiction story. We wanted to create an experience that would involve some true feeling for the audience in terms of being mystified or scared or awe-inspired, as opposed to having more of a comic approach.”10
“Nobody’s doing the highland fling, let’s put it that way,”11 Elliott remarked, referring to Godzilla’s infamous victory dance in the Toho/Saperstein co-production, MONSTER ZERO.
“I think it would be a mistake to get totally away from some humanistic things [in Godzilla’s personality],” Rossio added. “As an example, if a submarine happened to shoot something at him, and he got hit from behind and turned around… that’s right on the edge, giving him a look like he’s pissed. But it would also be a mistake to completely humanize him. I felt you would not be happy going to a Godzilla film if you weren’t scared by Godzilla. There’s no getting around the fact that, if Godzilla’s in a fight people are probably going to root for Godzilla. But we felt it was really important that you be scared, that he be intimidating, that he be this force of nature. That you weren’t going to buddy up to Godzilla, you know, that you wanted to be scared by this giant thing. Thematically, Godzilla could be a metaphor for death, for example, for death is something you can’t stop. It’s destructive, it’s powerful.”12
“I have a friend who is a big Godzilla fan,” Elliott said. “He really likes Godzilla, he knows all the other monsters in the series, all that stuff. And he made the observation that became, for me, the key to what the story should be. What he said was, Godzilla’s not really a good guy. He is incredibly territorial, he just doesn’t like other monsters. And since most of the time those other monsters threaten humanity, Godzilla seems to be the defender of the Earth. But no, in fact, he’s just pissing in his own territory, getting rid of anybody who interferes. And that, to me, meant that you could actually present Godzilla on the side of the angels but he could still be a monster.”13
Elliott also wanted Godzilla to be believable onscreen as a living creature. “One of the things we suggested is that he actually have the nictitating eyelid — a secondary eyelid for when he’s underwater — like a crocodile does,” he revealed. “Just little things that can make him seem more realistic. That’s a weird word to use with Godzilla, but that’s the intent.”14
Detailing their concept for the story, Elliott said, “There are two protagonists, a man and a woman. It’s really kind of funny… basically, our approach was to do a Moby Dick story, in which the scientist’s wife or husband is killed by Godzilla in his first appearance. Now this person wants to hunt Godzilla down and kill it. As it developed, it seemed more interesting for it to be a woman character whose husband was killed. And by the time we finished the movie, it occurred to us that it was very similar to ALIENS, in which Ripley’s obsessed — she’s Ahab. So I also wondered if [James] Cameron started with an Ahab story, the same as we did. It’s a story about obsession and redemption… and inappropriate grief response. But a lot of what we wanted to do was give Godzilla to Godzilla fans. And in one movie it does what the first three Toho films did — it takes him from being a horrendous threat to being defender of the Earth.”15
Cary Woods and Robert Fried were extremely pleased with Elliott and Rossio’s first draft. “They wrote a beautiful original screenplay,” Fried raved, “respectful of the organic origins of Godzilla, in some ways a homage to US-Japanese relations. There was a new character, a new foe for Godzilla. They did a really good job.”16
Marc Platt, president of production for TriStar, concurred: “This is going to be a serious-minded monster movie, a large-scope sci-fi film steeped in mythology.”17
But Terry Rossio was curious how longtime Godzilla fans would respond to his and Elliott’s take on the character. “I think it’s a fascinating question, about how a US company treats this franchise versus how it was originally treated,” he acknowledged. “In terms of being disrespectful to the creature, I don’t think we have been and don’t think we could have been, based on the restrictions Toho had put in place, and so far they’ve been approving of everything. You can only hope that what you’ve done is respectful, and is at least as legitimate as what was done before.”18
“Godzilla will kill it.”
–GODZILLA screenplay by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio
On November 10, 1993, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio submitted their first draft screenplay for GODZILLA to TriStar. The following synopsis is taken from that first draft…
In a remote location somewhere on the frozen coast of Alaska, a salvage ship excavates nuclear reactor cores that were illegally dumped at sea long ago by the Soviet Union. Suddenly, something goes awry and a huge explosion destroys a ship. On the shoreline, giant snow banks mysteriously catch fire and a huge crevice opens in the ground, streaming an eerie red-black fluid.
In the middle of the night, Dr. Keith Llewellyn, a government scientist, is flown to the site of the accident, where the military has launched a top secret investigation into the giant fissure in the ground (there’s a scene where he regretfully leaves behind his wife, Jill, and young daughter Tina, both of whom figure in the story later). Soldiers cart away drums full of the mysterious red-black liquid which, tests show, resembles an amniotic fluid (the substance fetuses gestate upon in the womb).
In the underground cavern, Keith sees what at first appears to be a huge stalactite formation but, upon inspection, is actually the claws of a huge creature imbedded in the sediment. Keith finds the head of the perfectly preserved creature — a huge dinosaur — and climbs atop its muzzle to look down the length of its 247-foot-long body. Suddenly, the beast opens one of its eyes… it’s alive!… and breaks free from the ice. Everyone in the cavern is crushed, and the beast destroys the entire military camp, then heads south into the sea. Soon thereafter, the dinosaur appears at the Kuril Islands off Japan and destroys a village. It is seen by a fisherman who believes it is Godzilla, a legendary monster.
Fast-forward 12 years later. Aaron Vaught, a pseudo scientist whose theories about dragons and dinosaurs have made him a best-selling author, and Marty Kenoshita, his assistant, sneak into a Japanese mental hospital to visit Junji, the fisherman who saw Godzilla. Junji shows Vaught his drawings of Godzilla, images that come to him in his dreams. In one picture, Godzilla is locked in battle with a Gryphon, leading Aaron and Marty to theorize that if Godzilla exists (as they think he does), he must have an adversary. Just then, military police arrive to escort Vaught and Marty out of the country. The men think they’re being busted for sneaking into the hospital, but actually the government has a mission for them.
Meanwhile, in rural Kentucky, a huge fireball plunges into Lake Apopka, eerily raining fish and frogs on a nearby town.
Jill Llewellyn, Keith Llewellyn’s widow, is now director of the top-secret St. George Project in Massachusetts, a military effort to find the beast that caused the Alaska disaster. The monster was last seen six years ago, when it destroyed an oil tanker. Jill is not pleased to learn that Vaught, the dragon enthusiast, who she dismisses as a “folklorist”, will be co-director of the project with her — Jill’s superiors hope Vaught’s popularity will help the project get funding from Congress. In the midst of this conflict, Jill gets a call from the base police: Tina, now 16, is being detained for trying to steal a car. The relationship between the working mom and rebellious teen is loving, but strained.
Back at the “Godzilla womb” site in Alaska, where a military installation has been established, two guards see streams of peculiar light streaming from a yet-unexplored ice cave and illuminating the sky.
At the same time, a mysterious alien probe — metallic, yet alive — is stirring at the bottom of Lake Apopka. Flowing like liquid chrome, the probe enters a cave, grabs dozens of bats, and absorbs them into its own matter. The probe then forms dozens of “Probe Bats”, evil creatures with 12 foot wingspans that sail out of the cave and into the night sky.
Vaught, Marty, and Jill fly to Alaska and discover that red-black amniotic fluid has been flowing from Godzilla’s womb, and Aaron deduces that today is — or was supposed to be — Godzilla’s birthday, had the monster not been released prematurely. The trio enters a newly opened ice cave, which is lined with intricate organic formations, a strange remnant of an ancient civilization with advanced biotechnology. No one notices when a microscopic alien organism swoops down and burrows into Marty’s neck, not even Marty.
Another chain of events: In Kentucky a stable of milk cows is slaughtered overnight, their carcasses removed of limbs and organs; in the Pacific Ocean, three fishing boats are capsized when Godzilla, pursuing a school of fish, passes beneath at 40 knots. Another sighting is reported when Godzilla passes beneath an oil tanker, and the military figures he is heading for San Francisco.
Jill and Vaught go to the Presidio, where a command post is set up, but Marty has become ill and is taken away for medical care. Two missile carriers, a battleship, and a submarine are sent to intercept Godzilla, but the monster easily destroys two planes then submerges and throws one of the missile carriers out of the sea, cracking it in half. Godzilla finishes off the ships by emitting a fiery breath that turns the hulls to molten metal.
The military considers using a small nuclear bomb to stop Godzilla, but Vaught believes it won’t work: Godzilla is a living, breathing nuclear reactor — evidence by the fact he breathes not flame, but something so hot it actually ionizes oxygen.
Jill concludes that the red-black fluid that encased Godzilla was not food, but actually a tranquilizer that kept the monster in hibernation. Barrels of the fluid are brought to San Francisco and a plan is concocted to stop Godzilla using the red-black stuff. Fire trucks spray the surface of the water entering the bay with the fluid, and as Godzilla arrives, he swims right into the trap. He bolts upright and slowly comes ashore, then, roaring weakly, collapses on the south side of the Golden Gate bridge.
Using six super-helicopters, the military transports Godzilla, suspended from cables, to Massachusetts, where it is stored in a huge hangar, the tail sticking out one end. One night, young Tina sneaks into the hangar and suddenly realizes that mom’s job for the past 12 years has been hunting the beast that killed her Dad. Tina, wise beyond her years, says Godzilla is a force of nature and should be respected. Her mother sends Tina to Manhattan to stay with an aunt for a while.
At a military hospital, Marty’s infection is consuming his internal organs, and has turned his face into a flat, eyeless surface. Whatever has invaded his body is taking over, and begins speaking through him. Before he dies, Marty tells Jill about an alien race colonizing the universe by sending out probes that create a “doomsday beast” out of the local genetic material — by the time the alien colonists arrive, the beast has already conquered the planet. An ancient, biotech Earth civilization guarded itself against these invaders by creating Godzilla out of dinosaur genes, placing him in suspended animation to awaken when the alien probe arrives and kill it before it can reproduce. Meanwhile in Kentucky, the alien Probe Bats keep absorbing critters and bringing them back to the cave, where a mysterious creature is slowly taking shape.
Vaught deduces that Godzilla was headed for the spot where the huge fireball landed, and immediately goes to Kentucky. There, Vaught is driven to Lake Apopka by Nelson Fleer, a local storekeeper (who keeps using the phrase, “weird shit,” for comic effect). The men don diving gear and explore the lake bottom, and discover a tunnel that leads to a series of caves. Vaught finds what first appear to be a giant paw and, upon further inspection proves to be attached to the Gryphon, a giant monster with the body of a cougar, wings of a bat, and a tongue of snakes, created by the alien probe out of the smaller creatures. The dormant monster is awakened when Fleer clangs one of his diving tanks against a rock. The men submerge and swim for safety, and the huge monster’s roar is heard behind them; when they reach the lake’s surface, all seems normal for a moment until the monster rises with a roar and takes to the air.
Flying north the Gryphon terrorizes Clarksburg, Virginia, where it derails a train, kills people, and fires energy bolts that destroy a gasoline storage tank. Back in Massachusetts, Godzilla senses his rival’s appearance and awakens, despite a constant stream of amniotic fluid being force-fed to him. The great beast destroys the hangar and walks to the shoreline, where he drops down on all fours before going into the water.
The arch-enemies are heading straight for each other and if they hold course, they’re set for a showdown in New York City. As Manhattan is evacuated, Jill tries desperately to drive into the city, hoping to save Tina. When Godzilla steps on the Queens Midtown tunnel, Jill is briefly trapped under water, but she swims to safety and, just as she reaches dry land, Godzilla’s foot comes down, narrowly missing her. As the battle of the monsters begins, Jill finds Tina and they try to figure out how to get off the island safely.
The Gryphon takes flight and crashes into Godzilla, knocking him back to the shore. Godzilla wraps his tail around the frame of an under construction building, then pulls the Gryphon near and bites its leg. The Gryphon’s wounds heal instantly, miraculously, and the beast then retaliates with energy bolts that knock Godzilla back into the rows of buildings. The Gryphon keeps charging, scratching Godzilla with its talons. Helicopters circle the city, while the Gryphon flies overhead, hunting Godzilla. The two beasts again slam into one another and begin to wrestle, tumbling into a skyscraper. The Gryphon double-kicks Godzilla in the belly, sending him flying into another building, which falls on both monsters.
Vaught says Godzilla can’t beat the Gryphon because of a restraining device implanted in the monster’s neck by the military, which gives him a constant dose of the fluid and prevents him from breathing fire. Using gunship helicopters, the military diverts the Gryphon while Vaught and Fleer remove the device from Godzilla, who lays stunned next to a building. From a helicopter, the men are lowered on wires onto Godzilla, but the Gryphon blasts the chopper and the men are stranded atop the monster. As Fleer and Vaught rig explosives to destroy the restraining device, Jill and Tina stall the Gryphon briefly by crashing a gasoline tanker into the monster. The restrainer is removed from Godzilla just before the Gryphon arrives; now Godzilla fires his breath at his opponent, wounding him, and pursues the fleeing Gryphon more vigorously.
The battle royal takes place in the East River. Godzilla breathes fire across the water’s surface, creating a steam cloud that blinds the Gryphon and causes it to crash into the Brooklyn Bridge and get tangled in the cables. Godzilla bites one of the Gryphon’s wings off but the monster’s healing properties instantly reattach the limb. Then the Gryphon climbs skyward, turns around, and power dives. Godzilla waits for his foe, then suddenly bends forward at the last moment and the Gryphon is sliced open on Godzilla’s dorsal plates. Godzilla pulls his adversary into the river, rips its head off and sets fire to the body. Godzilla, though badly wounded, roars victoriously and sets out for the sea.
Jets move in to kill the wounded beast, but Jill convinces the military commander to call off the strike. She has finally forgiven the monster. From the shore, Jill, Tina, Aaron, and Fleer watch Godzilla go home.1
After Jan De Bont joined the project, Rossio and Elliott revised the script based on the director’s input. Among the changes: the timeline of events was condensed to a single year rather than 12, both Jill and Keith are flown to the Arctic site, Keith first spots Godzilla’s teeth (rather than his claws) buried in the ice, and the alien probe crash-lands near Traveller, Utah instead of Kentucky.
The complete final draft of the GODZILLA screenplay (dated December 9, 1994) can be read and downloaded at Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott’s website, Wordplay.
“It seemed like a natural, but you’d be surprised how many writers and directors passed on the project initially.”
–GODZILLA (1994) producer Robert Fried
“I was never a big Godzilla fan.”
–GODZILLA (1998) writer/director Roland Emmerich
In their first article on TriStar’s GODZILLA back in October 1992, the Los Angeles Times reported that, “Several directors have reportedly already expressed interest in the project… BATMAN’s Tim Burton is among the names mentioned in connection with the project.”1 But in mid-1993 producers Cary Woods and Robert Fried found that things were not turning out as expected. They wanted a recognizable “name” director, but GODZILLA was again proving to be a tough sell.
Based on a recommendation from Chris Lee, Woods and Fried first offered GODZILLA to Roland Emmerich and his writing/producing partner Dean Devlin. After directing a handful of English language films in his native Germany, Emmerich had come to the United States and made his first American movie — the sci-fi action film UNIVERSAL SOLDIER starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren — which TriStar distributed in 1992.
Years before, Emmerich had pitched one of his German productions, MOON 44 (1990), to Lee and (while Lee had passed on the movie) the two had become friends. Lee had a knack for recruiting and nurturing new filmmakers at Sony, and Emmerich would turn to him as a sounding board for potential projects. The two would occasionally meet at TriStar to chat, and Chris Lee often brought up his interest in doing an American GODZILLA film. But Emmerich couldn’t understand Lee’s enthusiasm for the property. “I was never a big Godzilla fan,” acknowledged Emmerich. “They were just the weekend matinees you saw as a kid, like Hercules films and the really bad Italian westerns. You’d go with all your friends and just laugh.”2
He was further surprised that Sony thought the project would interest him. “We got approached with GODZILLA, and Dean was really in favor. I said, ‘Are you crazy? Have you seen a Godzilla film? How does the monster look? They put a guy in there.’”3
Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin quickly rejected the GODZILLA offer. “We just thought, ‘How do you overcome the cheese factor?’,” Devlin recalled. “We talked about it and all we could see was farce. We could see the joke… we couldn’t see the movie.4 We really didn’t know how to make it properly, and so we passed on it.”
One name that kept popping up in the early GODZILLA news reports as a possible director was Tim Burton. The quirky Burton was definitely the type of A-list filmmaker Woods and Fried were looking for; he had directed a string of box office hits that included PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE (1985), BEETLEJUICE (1988) and EDWARD SCISSORHANDS (1990), and produced THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993). More importantly he had made two certified blockbusters — BATMAN (1989) and BATMAN RETURNS (1992) — which had earned a combined total of $683 million worldwide. And Burton was known to be a Godzilla movie fan, even using Godzilla and King Ghidorah for a comedic cameo in PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE.
“I know that Tim Burton was interested and was called in to pitch a version,” screenwriter Terry Rossio said. But there were concerns among some of the crew about how he would have handled the material. “I actually think Tim Burton wouldn’t have been right for this movie. If he did a GODZILLA film, he might intentionally make it campy or a guy in a rubber suit. We took a totally different approach, which was to say, ‘Let’s take it all seriously and imagine that you could wake up one morning, walk out your front door, look up at the horizon and see Godzilla there, stomping towards you’.”5 Talks with Burton stalled, and the director moved on to other projects such as ED WOOD (1994) and MARS ATTACKS! (1996).
The producers also approached Joe Dante, who had directed the cult favorites PIRANHA (1978) and THE HOWLING (1981), as well as the hit GREMLINS (1984). While many of his films featured monsters and sci-fi/fantasy elements, Dante expressed skepticism over GODZILLA as a major Hollywood production. “They asked me about it but I haven’t seen anything. I don’t know what the story is yet,” he revealed in the summer of 1993. “They have quite a job ahead of them trying to turn Godzilla into what they’re talking about, which is a movie that will attract major stars. I don’t know what you do with that time-worn plot that can be ‘new’ enough to make it something special, but the jury’s out.”6 Dante would later be attached to direct GODZILLA REBORN, a proposed American sequel to Toho’s GODZILLA 2000 (ゴジラ2000 ミレニアム, Gojira Nisen Mireniamu, 1999).
Among the directors Woods and Fried said that they and TriStar considered were three future Academy Award winners. James Cameron had a strong track record of movies such as TERMINATOR (1984), ALIENS (1986), and TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (1991) that were both financially successful and critically praised. In 1993 he was directing TRUE LIES (1994) and developing SPIDER-MAN. Asked about GODZILLA, Cameron related that, “It was presented to me as an interesting script,” but was not something he ever considered directing.7
The project was turned down by Ridley Scott, the director of the sci-fi classics ALIEN (1979) and BLADE RUNNER (1982), and mainstream hits like the recent THELMA & LOUISE (1991). BACK TO THE FUTURE trilogy (1985-1990) and WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT director Robert Zemeckis also passed.
In a surprising note, the directing team of Joel and Ethan Coen had been possible candidates for GODZILLA. The Coen Brothers seemed like an odd choice… while displaying a unique visual sense they had never done a sci-fi movie, alternating instead between violent, noirish tales like BLOOD SIMPLE (1984), MILLER’S CROSSING (1990) and BARTON FINK (1991), and quirky comedies such as RAISING ARIZONA (1987) and THE HUDSUCKER PROXY (1994). Their body of work includes a number of acclaimed films, among them FARGO (1996), THE BIG LEBOWSKI (1998), OH BROTHER WHERE ART THOU? (2000), NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007, for which they won Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director) and TRUE GRIT (2010).
“That was my idea,” Cary Woods admitted. “I had just seen THE HUDSUCKER PROXY at Sundance and thought they could give GODZILLA a cool, young twist. Then when HUDSUCKER came out and did no business whatsoever the studio wanted to put me in a straightjacket.”8 Sony never made an offer to the Coens. “They weren’t going to put them on a $120 million movie,”9 Woods said, admitting that it was unlikely the brothers would have even agreed to a meeting for a Godzilla movie.
Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam was also considered. Gilliam had co-directed the classic MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL (1975) and directed TIME BANDITS (1981), BRAZIL (1985), and THE FISHER KING (1991). He was known for his talent, for being meticulous, and for sticking to his guns when dealing with studios… which often made executives extremely wary about hiring him for big budget productions. Regardless of his reputation, Terry Gilliam was already busy at TriStar on CARTOONED and developing projects such as 12 MONKEYS (1995) for other film companies.
Also looked at were some up-and-coming filmmakers that hadn’t (at that time) achieved the status of a James Cameron or a Ridley Scott. Cinematographer-turned-director Barry Sonnenfeld had scored hits with THE ADDAMS FAMILY (1991) and it’s sequel, ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES (1993), and would go on to do MEN IN BLACK (1997), the biggest box office hit to date for Columbia Pictures. Sam Raimi was known for his EVIL DEAD trilogy (1981-1992) and DARKMAN (1990); his future would include the blockbuster SPIDER-MAN trilogy (2002-2007) for Columbia. Former FX artist Joe Johnston had directed HONEY I SHRUNK THE KIDS (1989) and THE ROCKETEER (1991), and would find further success with JUMANJI (1995), JURASSIC PARK III (2001), THE WOLFMAN (2010), and CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011).
GODZILLA was not offered to Steven Spielberg. The director had praised the original film, saying, “GODZILLA, of course was the most masterful of all the dinosaur movies because it made you believe it was really happening.”10 But Spielberg was busy with post-production and publicity for JURASSIC PARK and prepping to shoot SCHINDLER’S LIST, making him unavailable for the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, British director Alex Cox (REPO MAN, SID AND NANCY) applied for the GODZILLA gig, but not to the producers or TriStar. Rather, he sent an open letter to the prestigious Japanese film magazine Kinema Junpo (Cinema Jump) requesting the job from Toho. Cox wrote, “Godzilla is one of the most important icons of the post-atomic age. Perhaps she is the most important. I assume Godzilla is a she, given that she has produced at least one son. And perhaps this has something to do with her great popularity: who could not love a giant, angry, fire-breathing dinosaur who was also a mother?”
Alex Cox’s gender-confused efforts proved unsuccessful, but did launch rumors — repeated for months in Godzilla fan circles — that he would be directing TriStar’s film. The attention Cox received would later result in some Godzilla assignments of a different sort; he wrote a four-issue story arc for the Godzilla comic book series published by Dark Horse in 1996, and served as narrator for the 2008 documentary BRINGING GODZILLA DOWN TO SIZE from Classic Media.
As 1993 wound down, changes were brewing at the Sony Pictures offices. On January 7, 1994, Mike Medavoy was fired from his post as chairman of TriStar Pictures and replaced by Mark Canton. A former vice president of production for Warner Bros, Canton had been brought to Sony in October 1991 by his old friend Peter Guber and made chairman of Columbia Pictures. His reign at Columbia had been decidedly hit and miss; in 1993 alone he had two very expensive box office failures — LAST ACTION HERO and GERONIMO: AN AMERICAN LEGEND — but he, unlike Medavoy, got along well with Guber and that made all the difference. With Medavoy’s removal, Mark Canton would oversee both Columbia and TriStar as head of production for Sony Pictures. There was a brief pause in GODZILLA’s development as Canton was brought up to speed on the project and requested some minor changes to the screenplay.
But before long Cary Woods and Robert Fried were back on the hunt. In early May 1994, TriStar put the word out via the industry trades that they were still looking for a filmmaker to take on GODZILLA. The studio set a May 20th deadline to find a suitable director, but that date came and went with no deal in place. The “Big Mo” Peter Guber wanted for the project was slipping away.
The producers were growing increasingly frustrated by the drawn-out process. “The thinking was to take a classic legend that was renowned for its campy effects and make it seriously, applying big-budget, American technology,” Robert Fried vented. “It seemed like a natural, but you’d be surprised how many writers and directors passed on the project initially. They just didn’t realize the commercial potential. And many simply lacked an inspired idea for how to make it, an approach to the material that was unique.”11
Back in Tokyo, executives at Toho expressed their own frustration. The Japanese studio had planned to end production of their own Godzilla movies with the 1993 entry GODZILLA VS MECHAGODZILLA II (ゴジラVSメカゴジラ, Gojira tai Mekagojira). But with no American GODZILLA in sight, Toho decided to forge on. “No one knows when it will be released,” observed Godzilla series producer Shogo Tomiyama. “Every year we waited to see if TriStar would produce its Godzilla film before deciding to produce another one of our own. We got tired of doing that.”12 Toho would eventually make two more Godzillas — GODZILLA VS SPACEGODZILLA (ゴジラVSスペースゴジラ, Gojira tai SupeesuGojira, 1994) and GODZILLA VS DESTOROYAH (ゴジラVSデストロイア, Gojira tai Desutoroia, 1995) — before bringing the series to a temporary end.
Henry Saperstein was more upbeat, declaring, “I guess my crowning glory will be when TriStar’s movie is released sometime in mid-Summer 1995.”13
THE FIRST FX TEST
“[Sony] wanted to keep the classic, original design and define his body structure with more musculature.”
–GODZILLA (1994) scannable maquette sculptor Jeff Farley
As the search for a GODZILLA director continued into June 1994, Sony Pictures Imageworks (CONTACT, STARSHIP TROOPERS, SPIDER-MAN trilogy, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN series) prepared their bid to do the digital effects for the film.
Established in 1992, Imageworks had created visual effects for a handful of movies, including shots of a bus jumping a gap in a freeway overpass for director Jan De Bont’s hit, SPEED. As a division of Sony Pictures, the company seemed an obvious choice to work on the studio’s GODZILLA but was still required to apply for the assignment with a CGI test.
Imageworks needed scannable maquettes of Godzilla for the test, and they needed them quickly so art director Jon Townley turned to artist and model maker Michael Hood (STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, THE ABYSS, TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III, ULTRAMAN: THE ULTIMATE HERO) at Precision Effects to sculpt prototypes of the monster’s head and entire body. With only a few days to do both maquettes, Hood quickly decided to share the workload with Jeff Farley and his team at Obscure Artifacts.
Despite the incredibly tight deadline, Farley was very happy for the opportunity to be involved in a Godzilla film. “It was my love of Godzilla, Ray Harryhausen and the genre as a whole that spurred me to consider a career in the special effects industry,” he told SciFi Japan. “I recall hearing about the original film from my mom and dad when I was a kid. It was running on a local TV station late one night and they let my brother and me stay up to watch it. I was hooked and started to watch every kaiju film I could find. One station used to run them 6 nights a week and I’d watch them every single night. These films are a part of so many peoples childhood dreams and I am no exception.”
Jeff Farley grew up in Glendale, CA. As a youngster, he became friends with Forrest Ackerman, creator of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, and with Forry’s support he began contacting professional FX artists like Jim Danforth (WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH), Dennis Muren (STAR WARS), David Allen (EQUINOX) and Rick Baker (AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON). “I started to call and bug them. They were incredibly nice and answered all of my questions and would invite me over to meet them, so I had this very lucky childhood. One of the editors of STAR WARS, Richard Chew, also lived a few houses away from mine and I would spend a lot of time there. I could see that it not only took talent, but sheer determination to enter the industry so I made it my one driving force.”
Farley was an apt pupil, and broke into to the FX business while still in high school. “It was my connection with Forry that got me my first job,” he explained. “Meeting Ray Harryhausen put me in touch with a guy named Douglas Barrett Jones who had been working at The Burman Studios. He was then working on KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS and invited a couple of my friends and me to help make background spiders.”
From there, Farley worked and trained at a handful of effects houses, eventually ending up at director and special effects artist John Buechler’s (TROLL) shop. His work with Buechler took him to Italy for the sci-fi film ARENA, where he volunteered to help Screaming Mad George (PREDATOR, THE GUYVER) and Steve Wang (PREDATOR, KAMEN RIDER DRAGON KNIGHT) on the effects for Sloth, one of the film’s many alien creatures.
He was next hired by George for the Japanese production TOKYO: THE LAST WAR (帝都大戦, Teito Taisen, 1989), the sequel to the live-action film version of TOKYO: THE LAST MEGALOPOLIS (帝都物語, Teito Monogatari, 1988). “From my understanding, George was required by production to bring three American crew members to Japan and I was lucky enough to be one,” Farley recalled. “That was quite an experience. Having that opportunity was a dream come true. We were working through a production company called EXE, though I recall we had to go to Toei Studios to view dailies. Our director was Takashige Ichise who has gone onto a great career as producer of many J-Horror films [Ichise’s credits include THE RING and JU-ON/THE GRUDGE franchises] and he was great to work for… very energetic and fun. And to cap it off, we got to work with Japan’s top stars at that time, Masaya Kato and Kaho Minami, as well as Kyusaku Shimada reprising his role from the first film as the evil Yasunori Kato. Having Tetsuro Tanba and Yoshio Tsuchiya — who need no introduction — was also a treat, and best of all, it was distributed by Toho.”
During his time on TOKYO: THE LAST WAR, Farley heard that Toho was ramping up production on GODZILLA VS BIOLLANTE (ゴジラvsビオランテ, Gojira Tai Biorante, 1989). “We were informed that our physical effects guy’s next job was the next Godzilla film. I practically begged to work on that! But, unfortunately for me, it wasn’t in the cards. I admit that was a longshot, but I had to try,” he conceded.
In 1994, he did get his first Godzilla assignment; sculpting Toho monster figures for the toy company Trendmasters. “Michael Hood knew I was a Godzilla fan and he recommended me for the job. It was to prototype bendy figures of King Ghidorah, Rodan, Mothra and Mechagodzilla. Luckily, I had just picked up some great reference books and proceeded to ignore Trendmasters’ designs which I felt weren’t on the right track. Chris Bergschneider and Dirk Von Besser worked on those with me and we spent a couple of weeks sculpting. After Trendmasters received the prototypes, they changed some of the details closer to their designs of Rodan and King Ghidorah, though Mothra and Mechagodzilla weren’t changed much.”
It was while working on the bendable figures that Jeff Farley learned Michael Hood had endorsed him to Jon Townley for the Sony Imageworks Godzilla test. Farley observed that, “This was again thanks to Michael Hood. Mike was originally contracted but, since he had so little time, had me hired to produce the full body sculpture while he worked on the larger scale head.”
“At that time, I had been serving as the shop coordinator for Mike’s studio,” Chris Bergschneider recounted. “The job was a bit too small for the studio to make money on it, so Mike referred Jeff onto it. Jeff and I had supervised some other sculpts for Jon on another job, so he had dealt with us before.”
Farley added, “Since Jon knew Chris and myself, he felt comfortable to let us do the maquette. I was awarded the job a few weeks before I left for Romania on David Allen’s THE PRIMEVALS so it’s a time I remember well… it was boiling hot in my studio!”
Asked about his co-sculptors, Jeff Farley enthused, “Chris is one of the industry’s unsung heroes with a credit list a mile long. He and I did a lot of work together years ago but unfortunately have moved our separate ways. He has provided top-notch work tirelessly to such projects as TMNT-COMING OUT OF THEIR SHELLS TOUR, SUPER MARIO BROTHERS, THE TIME MACHINE and A.I., to name just a few. He and I also were Full Moon’s effects crew heads on RETRO PUPPET MASTER, BLOOD DOLLS and WILLIAM SHATNER’S FULL MOON FRIGHT NIGHT. Dirk worked both in the makeup effects industry on such films as HOUSE, SCANNER COP 2 and TO DIE FOR 2 and the animation industry on THE IRON GIANT, HE-MAN & THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE and COOL WORLD. He too has not received the credit he deserves for his work. We are still working together to this day.”
“From my understanding, this was a possible look for a new Godzilla,” Farley recalled. But, even so, he saw no need to dramatically Godzilla’s design, choosing instead to base the sculpt on the monster’s appearance in the then-current Toho films. “I am a traditionalist when it concerns an iconic character such as Godzilla and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sony felt that way also. They wanted to keep the classic, original design and define his body structure with more musculature. They were very easy to work with and I can’t recall any problems.”
With only three days available to produce the maquette, Sony offered the team a Godzilla vinyl figure — sculpted by Steve Wang and released by Horizon — to use as a starting point. This was because it all had to be produced in such short measure and it was the only solution,” Farley disclosed. “We then reworked the piece substantially to suit the requirements of Sony. To make sure we met our deadline, the sculpture was broken down into 3 parts… I handled the head, Chris Bergschneider the body and Dirk Von Besser worked on the tail.”
“Chris made an armature that we could break down into the separate pieces. We made an alginate mold and did a clay pour. Sony Imageworks wasn’t concerned with detail, just form, so we smoothed down the clay pour, broke it down and started to work. And believe me, despite the shortcuts, we had a lot of work to do!”
“The Godzilla model was done as Jeff stated,” Bergschneider affirmed. “My only real talent is making things fit together; I had a bit of input on the breakdown armature and its keying. The work is just the process of constructing the armature with ‘plugs’ and ‘sockets’ for arms, head and tail that will reposition together. Sometimes this method is used for difficult sculpts that have to be molded, and the breakdown makes molding the individual parts much easier! The plugs just pop in place.”
“Along with the emphasised musculature, I decided to give the face a meaner look,” Farley said. “I gave the brows a furrow and downturned the corners of the mouth which instantly gave our design an evil look. It was a very easy but effective change which everyone loved. That was my main alteration and design tweak.” Jeff’s modifications also influenced Mike Hood’s work on the larger-scale Godzilla head. “His sculpture was more along the lines of the original 1954 design but once the producers saw where my head sculpture was going, asked him to follow my lead. That surprised me tremendously.”
Chris Bergschneider added, “I remember the one small bit of conflict came as three sculptors had to fuse their individual ‘styles’ as to the look of the spine plates. We did have a bit of input each on that part. And getting the bend in the elbows to keep a bit of that ‘suitamation’ look. I think our version really had a LOT of lean toward a man-in-a-suit physiognomy… something I personally feel is necessary respect for the source material.”
“Once we got the pieces worked out, we put it back together and cleaned it up a bit more,” Jeff Farley recalled. “As a matter of fact, we were instructed to only work on one side as the digital team would add any details and clone the half we did to make a complete version. All of the finishing was done by the artists at Sony Imageworks in post-production.”
The finished maquette stood approximately 13-14 inches tall, while Mike Hood’s larger scale Godzilla head was 9-10 inches long. “Once the sculptures were delivered, they were packed in dry ice and shipped to Utah to be scanned.”
Viewpoint DataLabs in Salt Lake City, Utah scanned the maquette and created the computer-generated model of Godzilla for the FX test. The company would later digitize various sizes of Godzilla models made by Patrick Tatopoulos’ studio for the Dean Devlin/Roland Emmerich version of GODZILLA. Shortly before the release of the 1998 film, Walter Noot, vice president of production for Viewpoint, recalled their role in the early days of GODZILLA at TriStar: “Sony Imageworks was thinking about doing it for awhile and we were involved in building the creature for them, which was really based on the original look. So that was cool, we built that and we had some other experiences building Godzilla models.”1
Once the CG Godzilla was delivered to Sony Imageworks, the studio went to work on the test. “Though I have never seen the final product,” reported Jeff Farley, “I was told by Jon Townley that they had our Godzilla trampling the parking lot at MGM Studios [the studio lot was acquired by Sony Pictures in 1990] for their test. I’d love to see it still. I’ve Googled it but can’t find anything, so if anyone has that footage or knows where it is, I’m very interested in seeing it.”
As a fan of Toho’s FX films, Bergschneider enjoyed his brief time on GODZILLA. “Personally, I have always been a ‘physical effects’ fan — stop-motion, miniatures, wires, etc,” he disclosed. “The original Toho films were some of the best examples of miniature sets, props, and high-speed photography, even in the ‘shaky’ beginnings of the genre. They were totally different from the ‘known’ stop-motion techniques familiar to many at the time. I was always blown away by the incredible details of assembly of their miniatures, specifically for their absolute destruction! It’s like setting up a huge domino maze… days/weeks to build, fractions of seconds to destroy!”
Farley concurred, adding that he was pleased to have been involved in the early stages when the creature was planned to resemble Toho’s version. “I was thinking one day about how lucky my friends were to have worked on the 1998 GODZILLA film and I wished that I could have also. It was then that I recalled that I had been involved in the 1994 Jan De Bont production… talk about bad memories! I am incredibly proud to not only have that under my belt, but to love the genre as a whole. I am just lucky to have had this career. I feel blessed.”
JAN De BONT
“It’s like some people fall in love with westerns or other things. I loved Godzilla movies.”
–GODZILLA (1994) director Jan De Bont
Cary Woods and Robert Fried’s first-look production deal with Sony Pictures expired in June 1994 and, eager to pursue their own separate projects, the two decided not to renew their contracts. Fried signed a multi-year deal with Savoy Pictures while Woods negotiated with Disney to develop and produce films for Hollywood Pictures and Miramax. Despite the end of the Woods/Fried partnership, the producers continued to work together on the films already in development at Sony, and finally — after months of false starts and headaches — scored a major coup when Jan De Bont signed on to direct GODZILLA in the first week of July, 1994.
Born in Eindhoven, Netherlands, De Bont had studied at the National Film Academy in Amsterdam, becoming proficient in the techniques of cinematography, sound engineering, production design, and editing. While in school, he started working professionally as a documentary filmmaker. After graduation he became a cinematographer, working most notably for director Paul Verhoeven (ROBOCOP, STARSHIP TROOPERS) on films such as TURKISH DELIGHT (Turks Fruit, 1973) and KATIE TIPPEL (Keetje Tippel, 1975).
De Bont’s camerawork caught the attention of American film companies. Moving to the US, he eventually became one of the most highly-regarded cinematographers in the business, with credits that included the box office hits THE JEWEL OF THE NILE (1985), DIE HARD (1988), BLACK RAIN (1989), FLATLINERS (1990), THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER (1990), LETHAL WEAPON 3 (1992) and BASIC INSTINCT (1992, reuniting with Paul Verhoeven).
Jan De Bont finally got his chance to direct with the Keanu Reeves/Sandra Bullock action movie SPEED (1994). Produced for $37 million, SPEED was both a critical and commercial hit, earning $125 million in the US and another $229 million internationally. De Bont was suddenly in high demand as a director, his name attached to projects like THE DISCIPLE, an Arnold Schwarzenegger thriller in development for Walt Disney’s Caravan Pictures division. But on June 15th — less than a week after SPEED’s release — he signed a two year deal with 20th Century Fox, giving the studio the first option on his next film. As part of the Fox agreement, De Bont was expected to direct OVERKILL for Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions.1 “It was right after SPEED had come out, so everybody in town wanted him. He was the hot director,” observed Chris Lee.2
But despite the Fox deal, De Bont was very interested in GODZILLA… one of the key reasons being that he was an abiding fan of the Toho films. “It’s like some people fall in love with westerns or other things,” he told SciFi Japan. “I loved Godzilla movies.”
“I first saw the original GODZILLA film in Amsterdam when I was a kid,” De Bont recalled. “It’s one of those movies that stick with you.”3 But seeing all of the other movies in the series required some effort. “The ones that were shown in the United States were also shown in Holland. There were also some compilations of Godzilla movies, these VHS tapes you could get at the time that were montages of three movies together that were very interesting. But mostly I got them from Japan or from people I knew.”
SPEED’s success suddenly gave De Bont the opportunity to do his own Godzilla movie. “I had asked to read the script for many years, because I really loved Godzilla movies as a kid and thought a new version could be really great. Of course, the never wanted to give it to me because they wanted a so-called ‘A’ director. After SPEED came out, all of a sudden they called and asked if I was interested in reading the script and I said, ‘Yeah, I’ve been interested in reading the script for two years’.”4
The director reported that he had “positive feelings about the project” after speaking with Robert Fried.5 He also praised the Ted Elliott/Terry Rossio screenplay, describing it as, “extremely exciting and very well-written. They have an incredible imagination. I read a script of theirs two or three years ago called A PRINCESS OF MARS, which Disney had, and I said to them, ‘You have to let me direct this movie’ because it was such an imaginative script. It was also, unfortunately, very expensive, and Disney said no. Now, of course, they want me to direct that film, but it’s a little late.”6 He liked that the GODZILLA screenplay was so different from the other films he was being pitched at that time. “I was being offered a lot of violent scripts. This was a chance to do a fantasy movie, one that makes you feel good at the end.”7 He added that, “There’s a good chance the monster will survive.”8
Knowing Jan De Bont’s enthusiasm — and with the understanding that he would return for a sequel to SPEED — 20th Century Fox decided to keep the director happy and let him out of his option with the studio so he could make GODZILLA. TriStar and De Bont quickly agreed on a two year/one picture deal that would pay the director $4.2 million plus percentages, a substantial increase from the $150,000 he was paid to direct SPEED.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, TriStar president Marc Platt said, “I’m thrilled that Jan has chosen GODZILLA as his next project. His visual style and flair for large-scale action are the perfect match for the film.”9 Platt also spoke to Variety, stating, “There’s a worldwide expectation of what an up-to-date version of GODZILLA could be. It’s exciting to combine that with a great new talent like Jan De Bont.”10
Cary Woods was equally enthusiastic, declaring, “Jan is one of the great visual stylists in cinema today, and has a real strong feeling for suspense and big action pieces. I think the choice of Jan makes a statement about the kind of movie we want to make. He has not been associated with any action pieces that you would call campy or schlocky, or anything but first-rate.”11
Screenwriters Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott were also pleased that De Bont was aboard. “At the time,” Rossio recalled, “the inside scoop was that De Bont was responsible for the look and feel of the highly successful John McTiernan movies [DIE HARD, THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER], where De Bont worked as his cinematographer. Given McTiernan’s lack of success without De Bont, that may have been the case. We were jazzed.”
But the news caught some of the filmmakers who had turned down GODZILLA by surprise. “In Hollywood, when you pass up a project and then a really big director says yes to it, you immediately go, ‘Ohhh, noooo!’ We thought we had really screwed up,” Dean Devlin bemoaned.12 “You suddenly go, ‘Wait a minute, what did he see that we didn’t see? What did we miss?'”13
Unlike his partner, Roland Emmerich was indifferent about the situation. “I always thought, how could we remake that? I had no clue,” he remarked. “Then I heard that Jan was doing it and I thought, oh, Jan’s a clever guy, that’s good.”14
With the contracts signed, De Bont was eager to make his GODZILLA on a much larger scale than the Toho movies. “They still make those films like that for a couple of million dollars in Japan, and there’s a small crowd that likes it that way,” he said in a 1994 interview. “But I think audiences are more sophisticated, and I would like to make Godzilla and his adversary a lot more realistic. I’m not going to make it less funny — there’s going to be a lot of humor in the movie — but it must be amazing to see a monster that’s that big, 250 feet tall, that looks real. And when you make it that convincing, you’re going to accept it, like the dinosaurs in JURASSIC PARK. That’s the way we want to do this movie — to have a real monster.”15
But the director still saw Toho’s Godzillas as the true inspiration for his own film, rhapsodizing that, “I liked how they were made. There’s a bad side and a tiny little good side to Godzilla, and you have to show those sides. He was born out of an accident… a horrific situation that brought him to life. So he’s kind of fighting that, as well, and you have to feel that a little bit. And they surrounded him with so many creatures… Mothra, the three-headed Ghidorah… but if you see them together they all make sense.”
“And I loved the way that the locations always played such a big part in the Godzilla movies. Destroying Tokyo in the first movie, that was one of the things Godzilla had to do because it was those people who basically created him and it was a little bit of payback. I loved all those parts… it makes me smile when you look at those old movies.” He felt the the Elliott/Rossio screenplay, “made it understandable why this film takes place in the United States, which never happened in the other movies. And I thought we’re doing it in the United States and having a reason for him to be here… you can make those amazing available locations that we have here play to our own advantage in the movie. Make those places almost like a worthy opponent for Godzilla to deal with.”
No budget had yet been set for GODZILLA, but industry trades rumored that the production would cost between $50 million and $65 million, roughly what had been spent on JURASSIC PARK the year before. “The studio is willing to spend whatever it takes,” De Bont told United Press International.16
Toho flew Jan De Bont out to Japan for meetings at the studio, where he was greeted by a performer in a Godzilla suit holding a sign that read ‘I know you’re gonna make me a Hollywood monstar’.17 For the lifelong Godzilla fan the trip was great fun but also a bit of risk… he knew it was vitally important to have Toho’s blessing. “To get the movie made, Toho had to approve it,” he explained. “I had to go there because they could say ‘no’ to Sony. And, rightfully, they worried about what would happen to their character. That was their livelihood; they had made over 20 of these movies which were very profitable in their own market. It’s even more amazing that you can make so many movies about one creature and keep drawing so many people watching how the monster destroys their country.”
“I went to Toho and we had a big meeting in a gigantic room with the directors and executives and lawyers there. And what they wanted to hear about was why I loved Godzilla. They had some issues with the scale [I wanted for Godzilla]. They didn’t like him to be that big, because when you’re working with men in suits there’s only so big you can with the scale without losing detail in the models. It’s tricky, and they learned that by making those movies and seeing what can go wrong. And I got them on my side by telling them ‘I don’t want to change the character of Godzilla. I want to use CGI for some of the Godzilla effects, but I don’t want to change his size or what he looks like.’ And that’s what made them trust me.”
“I spent quite a few days there and met all the people. I met some of the directors. There’s a dedication to the character that you don’t see very often. In the United States it’s just like a job and you do the best you can, but you don’t understand all the meaning that character has for Japan. I met the guy in the suit… he was at the studio when I arrived there… ‘Welcome Jan De Bont. We love that you love Godzilla.’ And it was really all fantastic. And then the lawyers at Sony started screwing it up.”
The director had won over Toho, but — much to his surprise — he discovered that he now had to do the same with the upper management of Sony Pictures. Even though the studio had licensed Godzilla, the executives who had initially rejected the idea were still squeamish about doing the picture. “The studio was very worried about a movie like that; the Japanese subject matter,” De Bont explained. “There were endless meetings. [Executive vice president of production] Amy Pascal was the lead, and I don’t think she understood anything about Godzilla. She kept asking more people to come to the meetings and give their opinions. They always believe that nobody knows anything… they thought that nobody had heard of Godzilla. And they were very worried about that.”
“So we wanted to clear the way with a really good script that they basically couldn’t refuse. That’s what we thought, anyway,” he said. “I felt Ted and Terry did such a good job on GODZILLA. They came up with a really great script, and that’s when the problems really started.”
“You need an effects supervisor who is excited and loves to work with new things and new challenges.”
–GODZILLA (1994) director Jan De Bont
On July 27, 1994, Chris Lee registered Gojira Productions, Inc. as the group that would produce GODZILLA. Jan De Bont and his core staff were assigned Suite 206 in the TriStar Building on the Sony Studios lot in Culver City to begin pre-production for the film.
De Bont said he had very little interaction with Cary Woods or Robert Fried once the work began. “I met with them, of course, but I don’t know what their function was, to be honest. I don’t have any negative feelings about them, but my dealings were mostly with Barrie Osborne. Barrie is an incredible line producer. And ultimately when you make a movie, the line producer’s the only one who is important. The other ones are just paper pushers.”
Barrie M. Osborne is an industry veteran, having worked on APOCALYPSE NOW (1979), FACE/OFF (1997), THE MATRIX (1998) and THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, winning an Oscar as producer of the third film, THE RETURN OF THE KING (2003). “He was there all the time on GODZILLA,” De Bont stated. “I really liked him, and the crew liked him. He understood what had to be done and in what order. He understood where to simplify things, and he loved what we were trying to do… to see if mixing animatronics and CGI would be beneficial. Would it be good for the movie? Would it even work?”
De Bont started by meeting with Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott — who had already been doing script revisions for months — to discuss the story and make his own recommendations. The writers found him a joy to work with. “De Bont was a great interpretive director… clarifying, emphasizing, making changes for momentum, adjustments for the intricacies of production and for budget. We had a great time,” remembered Rossio.
“Ted and Terry were amazing,” declared De Bont. “They loved talking together about GODZILLA and they understood completely what I was after. They were so pleasant to work with, and everyone was so open. Often it’s a competition between the director and the screenwriters, but the only competition should be the movie. They totally believed in that. And then you start to appreciate each other and you can start to come up with ideas. And they can go ‘Oh, this is great’ or they can go ‘Well, we had this idea’ and you see that their idea was better. There were no camps, and in that regard it was an extremely pleasant experience.”
“I really love those guys, and we stayed friends later. And after GODZILLA they made all those big hits. They became much bigger writers and nobody could afford them anymore, almost,” he joked. “They have been one of the best writing teams in the United States for decades; I couldn’t praise those guys enough. And who am I to recommend them? They have proven themselves to be so good that they don’t need any recommendation from me.”
In assembling a crew for GODZILLA, one of the first people De Bont brought aboard was his frequent collaborator Boyd Shermis, who was tapped to be the visual effects supervisor for the film. “I had done several commercials with Jan over a couple of years,” Shermis told SciFi Japan. “He asked me to do SPEED with him. And then as we were doing another round of car commercials, Jan asked me to do GODZILLA.”
Shermis began working in the visual effects field in 1985, spending most of his first five years in the business at Apogee Productions, the Van Nuys FX house founded by Oscar winner John Dykstra (STAR WARS, BATMAN FOREVER, SPIDER-MAN, SPIDER-MAN 2). There he worked on commercials; coordinating, producing, supervising and eventually directing visual effects for a number of Clio and Mobius Advertising Award-winning spots.
While at Apogee, Boyd Shermis co-directed and supervised several commercials with Jan De Bont. The two worked well together, and De Bont hired Shermis to design and supervise the visual effects for SPEED. Following that film, both De Bont and Shermis returned to making commercials while De Bont began looking into his next movie project. Shermis recalled that he joined TriStar’s GODZILLA, “That same summer… I think in July. Jan and I were doing a package of Dodge car/truck commercials that summer and we started on GODZILLA at that time.”
Jan De Bont was pleased that Shermis was eager to experiment with visual effects technology. “Boyd was very intrigued in doing new things. In those days, a lot of effects had to be done with a locked off camera and plate shots, and then you would put your elements in there. No handheld, nothing. But I wanted to shoot with handheld cameras, really super loose, because when you panic you cannot have those constructed shots. I like a very choreographed chaos, but it has to be chaotic when something horrific happens. Nobody has time to step back and say ‘How can we get a nice, beautiful shot here?’. That wouldn’t work.”
“And with GODZILLA, things would happen unexpectedly, and I wanted the viewer to be in a position of being able to run away and look around and be afraid by it. If it would all be locked-off shots you would lose some of the emotion of it, some of the drama. Boyd was very open to that. Many supervisors at the time were not able to do that yet; they didn’t think it would work. So you need an effects supervisor who is excited and loves to work with new things and new challenges.”
GODZILLA was only Boyd Shermis’ second feature film, and as visual effects supervisor he would be in charge of an absolutely mammoth production that would combine live-action footage, digital effects, animatronics and miniatures. So one of his initial tasks was to design the film’s action sequences via previsualization techniques, which in 1994 would primarily entail drawn storyboards rather than computer animatics. Shermis also had to do a breakdown of the visual effects scenes and figure out which techniques would work best for a given shot, and from there determine the necessary budget for the effects; an amount Jan De Bont could realistically work with and that TriStar would approve.
The sheer amount of FX required meant that Shermis would have to hire several different companies and split the work between them depending on their skills and resources. “We needed to break the movie up into several different pieces so that each vendor would not have been overwhelmed,” he explained. An additional benefit would be reduced costs, as Shermis and De Bont would be able to choose from FX companies bidding for assignments on GODZILLA.
Once companies were signed for the film, Shermis would then guide and oversee all of the teams from start to completion. He would also need to supervise on-set the filming of scenes involving effects, and later work with the movie’s editor on those scenes.
Another key early addition to the GODZILLA crew was production designer Joseph Nemec III. Unlike Boyd Shermis, Nemec had not worked with Jan De Bont before. But he had a long list of television and film credits, starting as an assistant art director and art director on titles such as V (1983), THE GOONIES (1985), THE COLOR PURPLE (1985), ALIEN NATION (1988) and THE ABYSS (1989). Leading up to GODZILLA, Nemec had been production designer on number of large scale productions, including TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY, PATRIOT GAMES (1992) and THE SHADOW (1994). After GODZILLA, Nemec would work again with De Bont on TWISTER and SPEED 2: CRUISE CONTROL. More recent credits include the remake of THE HILLS HAVE EYES (2006), A PERFECT GETAWAY (2009), the Jason Statham action film SAFE (2012) and RIDDICK (2013), the latest film in the CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK series.
Joseph Nemec told SciFi Japan that he joined GODZILLA, “I believe it was in the autumn of 1994. I got the assignment through a traditional interview process.” His role was to help select and work with the artists who would create concept art for the monsters, and also personally design many of the sets and locations to be seen in the film.
“Joe knew not to make things too pretty,” said Jan De Bont. “Unfortunately, when we see destruction it’s always photographed to look pretty. I don’t know why people do that. Destruction is not pretty, definitely not for the people whose property it is, whose valuables or family is in there. Don’t make it pretty; make it as real as possible. It should be chaos, not perfectly designed destruction. The realness of it is what makes a film special.”
Nemec disclosed that, during his time on the film, “Both Godzilla and the Gryphon were designed, along with the Japanese fishing village, the ice cave where Godzilla re-appeared from, and some of the military spaces.”
Among the locations Nemec personally worked on was the Japanese fishing village, which briefly appears in the screenplay when Godzilla comes ashore during a storm. Jan De Bont was particularly fond of that scene, describing it as “a little bit in Japan, a very small visit to [Godzilla’s] motherland.”1 He intended to make it the first scene he would shoot for the film.
“The fishing village sets were to be built in Brookings, Oregon,” Nemec recalled. “In addition, there had been location scouting in Alaska for the snow/ice caverns and under glacial rivers, and some scouting done in Utah and Arizona.”
Jan De Bont said that Nemec and his team were very efficient. He recounted that, by the time GODZILLA was canceled, “we had all the sets designed, we had models made of the sets, we had a whole gigantic room filled with miniature sets. It looked extremely impressive. We scouted all the locations, we got permissions for all the locations, and that’s pretty far along in movie terms.”
Variety reported that the filming of GODZILLA was now set to begin in November 1994.
CONCEPTUAL DESIGN, ROUND ONE: GOJIRA PRODUCTIONS and STAN WINSTON
“It would have been the first time that Godzilla was reimagined so that was really exciting for us.”
–Stan Winston Studio Godzilla designer Mark “Crash” McCreery
“If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”
–GODZILLA (1994) concept artist Ricardo Delgado
Shortly after signing the deal to direct GODZILLA, Jan De Bont met with Stan Winston, the four-time Academy Award-winning FX artist whose Stan Winston Studio had designed and built the full scale dinosaurs for Steven Spielberg’s JURASSIC PARK. Winston was eager to do Joseph Nemec recalled that Winston’s pitch to do GODZILLA’s creature effects came at the very start of pre-production, saying, “Stan was already involved when I came on board.”
“He was already involved then, and that had to do with what could be created with animatronics,” De Bont revealed.
During a November 1994 interview for Movieline, Winston recalled his inspirations for becoming an FX artist: “As a kid, I couldn’t wait to see movies like THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and THE WIZARD OF OZ. Watching men dressed up in big rubber suits, like in GODZILLA, was fun but they weren’t convincing to me. They were too strapped by a lack of artistic and technical ability to really create live, believable monsters. The stop-motion movies, the ones where we could see real dinosaurs and real characters, like KING KONG and THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS, were my favorites. But, in my innocent mind, I always thought, ‘Gosh, wouldn’t it be nice not to know it was animation? For this to be really real?’ Those are the things that pushed me in the direction that I eventually went in.”1
Winston’s skill at creating realistic creatures was on full display in JURASSIC PARK. He first became involved with the project in December 1990, as Universal Pictures was growing increasingly concerned that the cost of doing the life-sized dinosaur effects required by the story would make the film financially unfeasible. But Winston felt the dinosaurs could be done with animatronics… and he wanted to be the one to do it. He assigned one of his studio’s top conceptual artists, Mark “Crash” McCreery, to draw a number of detailed sketches of the dinosaurs featured in the original novel. “We didn’t have a contract, we didn’t have a job,” Winston acknowledged. “There were constant rumors that JURASSIC PARK was not going to get made or that Steven had decided not to do it. Through it all, we just kept plodding forward, hoping to make the picture happen for both us and the studio.”2
Crash McCreery proved to be the right choice. A lifelong dinosaur enthusiast, McCreery went to work for Stan Winston after graduating from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena in 1988. He quickly established himself as one of the best concept artists in the business with credits that include PREDATOR 2 (1990), modifying Tim Burton’s sketches into the final design for EDWARD SCISSORHANDS (1990), James Cameron’s TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY and the Penguin for Burton’s BATMAN RETURNS (1992). His artwork for JURASSIC PARK — depicting the animals looking and acting according to modern paleontological theory — highly impressed Universal. The combination of the designs and Stan Winston’s insistence that he could create effective (and affordable) full scale animatronic dinosaurs helped convince Universal to green light the film.
Stan Winston Studio was now hoping to repeat that successful formula with GODZILLA, and had once again turned to Crash McCreery to do the studio’s first take on the monster. “It would have been the first time that Godzilla was reimagined, I think, so that was really exciting for us,” McCreery told SciFi Japan.
“We did our part to try to get that show. We really did,” said Joey Orosco, a lead character designer for Winston. “Stan wanted it so bad, we wanted it so bad. Crash did this beautiful, beautiful drawing of Godzilla shooting fire out… it was a really cool rendering he did.”
“One of my strong points in working with Stan was creating artwork that captured the essence of what they were hopefully looking for as far as the tone and attitudes towards the film,” recounted McCreery, explaining that his initial approach to Godzilla was, “not unlike what I had done for JURASSIC PARK. One of the first pieces I had done sold Steven Spielberg and Universal on having Stan and his guys design the dinosaurs. The anatomy wasn’t really there, the detail wasn’t really there, but it kind of captured an action and a tone. And the first drawing that I did for GODZILLA was kind of like that. It depicted Godzilla in a pose that was not reminiscent of the original at all; it was much more animated and animal-like and less human. It depicted some jets flying in and used under lighting which I always thought was classic Godzilla, him being so huge the lighting was always coming from underneath. So I retained as much of the classic look of Godzilla as I could, but I added some of my own — especially after working on JURASSIC PARK — dinosaur and character qualities.”
Stan Winston presented McCreery’s artwork to a very impressed De Bont. “Crash… talk about artists! If you look at his archive, it deserves museum shows,” raved the director.
Winston didn’t yet have the GODZILLA contract, but that didn’t mean the sample work was provided at no charge. Asked if the concept art would have done solely on spec, Winston Studio artist Bruce Spaulding Fuller replied, “That’s highly unlikely. The artwork generated may have been part of trying to coax more money out of the studio — but don’t hold me to that. I don’t know really, but I’m sure Stan got paid.”
While Winston Studio worked on their pitch, Jan De Bont and his crew selected a handful of artists to work in-house at the GODZILLA production offices, crafting some early concept art and storyboards. One of their first hires was Ricardo Delgado who, like Mark McCreery, was both a graduate of the Art Center College of Design and a dinosaur buff. In 1993, Delgado created the Dark Horse Comics mini-series Age of Reptiles which won Eisner Awards (the comic book industry’s equivalent of the Oscar) for Best Limited Series and Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition. He had also worked as a production illustrator and storyboard artist for the television series STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE (1993) and SEAQUEST 2032 (1993) and the feature films BEVERLY HILLS COP III (1994) and TRUE LIES (1994).
“I got into this project based a lot on my dinosaur comic, Age of Reptiles,” Ricardo Delgado explained. “I saw an article in The Hollywood Reporter that Jan was going to direct the movie and I had once interviewed with Jan to do storyboards for SPEED. So I called his office, told them that I had done a dinosaur comic and faxed over some samples. Subsequently, I was invited to come to his production company, Blue Tulip Productions, on the Fox lot. I believe I interviewed with Joe Nemec, but Jan was there, too.”
Even before the job interview, Delgado had some strong ideas on how to approach the character of Godzilla. “I had just been so impressed with the Tyrannosaur in JURASSIC PARK — in all the dinosaurs in that film — and it was one of those things where I really felt that Godzilla needed that modern, textural interpretation of what a creature that size would be like in reality. But it wasn’t just taking advantage of the new technology… I really wanted to create that character because I’m a big fan of Godzilla. I watched all the films when I was a kid.”
“I prepared for the interview by doing a few Godzilla doodles of my own. One pencil rendering was my version of the monster… that was one of the pieces I first showed to Jan. And then I had a second, color piece featuring a Godzilla-like monster in a city. Those were done out of my enthusiasm for the subject matter — I wouldn’t have done that for many other shows but a project like GODZILLA or CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON would have inspired me.”
“I showed Jan the various Godzilla drawings I had done and I also showed him my comics. And that made him and Joe Nemec feel that I’m ‘the reptile guy’ — that I can handle that sort of thing. They seemed to like that, and a couple of weeks later I got a call to come work on the film.”
“I felt really flattered to get an assignment like GODZILLA so quickly in my career,” Delgado asserted. “GODZILLA might have been my fourth or fifth film; I was still pretty young. I graduated in 1989 and five years later I was working on this film. That’s a pretty quick rise for a concept artist. It was really cool, and it was my honor and my pleasure to get on it and work with everyone. And when I showed up for work the first day, my friend Carlos Huante was there. He’d been hired by Joe to design the Gryphon.”
An extremely talented illustrator and sculptor, Carlos Huante was yet another former student of Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design, where he attended night classes in life drawing. He began work as a layout artist for the animation studios Filmation Associates and Ruby-Spears Productions, finding his niche as a character designer for the GHOSTBUSTERS cartoon series. After working in animation for eight years, Huante transitioned to live action films, creating concept art and character designs for such films as BATMAN FOREVER (1995), MEN IN BLACK (1997), DEEP RISING (1998), MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1998), THE MUMMY (1999), MEN IN BLACK II (2002), SIGNS (2002), HELLBOY (2004), BLADE: TRINITY (2004), WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005), X-MEN: THE LAST STAND (2006) and PROMETHEUS (2012). Carlos also spent several years in the creature design department at Lucas Digital.
Huante recalled how he got the assignment to work on GODZILLA: “Film artists were a tight knit group back then. A friend of mine called while I was working on BATMAN FOREVER to tell me that they were starting to look for a crew for GODZILLA. That’s what we would all do; we would call the guys we knew would be best for a certain job.” He confirmed that he did not produce any concept art of Godzilla, stating, “I was hired specifically to design the Gryphon and Probe Bats.”
“They were great guys,” said Jan De Bont. “Ricardo was a BIG Godzilla fan. We were lucky that we had a team that all liked Godzilla, or came to like it.”
In August 1994, the artists went to work with De Bont and Joseph Nemec at Gojira Productions on the Sony Studios lot. “We were originally in an office near the main entrance, and later moved to the middle of the lot,” Ricardo Delgado recalled. Carlos Huante remembered that, at the start, “Ricardo and myself were the only two artists there,” though the art department would soon expand to include a storyboard crew.
Huante and Delgado were aware that Winston Studio was vying to create the monsters for GODZILLA. “We knew that Stan Winston was involved early on enough to have Crash McCreery generate a couple of images, but we were told to do our versions of the creatures,” recounted Delgado. “Crash had done two drawings that I can think of. One was a profile that was similar to the maquette done at Winston later on in the year, and one was a drawing where Godzilla is fighting and there’s a jet flying in the foreground. Those were before, or maybe concurrent to what we were doing… I think it’s completely possible that we were both working at the same time. We were working for Joe and Jan, and Stan was approaching the design process as well. But I remember vividly — if not accurately — Jan showing me the two Crash drawings during my interview. The drawings that were generated were probably in hopes of getting the bid. If Stan had gotten the bid that early then I don’t think Carlos and I even would have been hired.”
As the production designer, it was Joe Nemec’s task to work closely with the artists while Jan De Bont handled other aspects of GODZILLA’s pre-production. Looking back, Carlos Huante maintained, “We would meet with Jan every once in a while… but thinking about it now, it wasn’t often enough.” Ricardo Delgado remembered that, “I dealt mostly on the show with Joe Nemec, but Jan would come in to see what I was doing when I was working on the GODZILLA stuff. I would just stand there, and he and Joe Nemec would talk about the design.”
Delgado felt the artists were in good hands with Nemec. “Joe, to his credit, was very supportive. There were a few early drawings that I did more in the vein of crossing Godzilla with THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS because that’s kind of a fluid connection for me; it was natural to mix them together a little bit. The early ones felt more reptilian… I think I went through a few different drawings that felt very much like a dinosaur or the Beast with Godzilla fins stuck on the back. And Joe said, ‘That’s cool, but let’s push it a little more towards the Godzilla aspect of it’.”
Jeff Farley, who had worked on a maquette of Godzilla for Sony Imageworks, related the importance of staying close to the classic design. “I feel that came from Jan De Bont’s love of Godzilla. From my understanding, he is a true fan,” he said.
De Bont confirmed this, insisting, “You have to give the team you’re with a good idea of the design and what it will ultimately have to look like. Then they can start working on all the details. It takes time but it totally pays off.”
Following Nemec’s direction, Delgado went for more of a traditional look for Godzilla. Much of his inspiration came from the Godzilla designs Toho had been using in their most recent films at that time. “I had plenty of my own reference material because I was such a fan,” Delgado disclosed. “I had Japanese Godzilla books and magazines that I looked at. I had a few of the Godzilla model kits made by Kaiyodo and Billiken, and those models from the early 90s were very helpful when I was designing the creature’s face.”
“I also looked at some of stuff that Arthur Adams had done [for the Dark Horse Godzilla comic books]. And I looked at what Bill Stout had done for his version of Godzilla [illustrations for the unmade 1983 American production GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS IN 3-D], but I felt what Bill had done was too dinosaurian. With all due respect to Bill — he’s one of my influences — his was more 50/50 dinosaur/Godzilla and I really felt it needed to be more on the Godzilla side with a few accoutrements to sort of streamline it and ‘dinosaurize’ it. And that was a tough line for me to cross… knowing what everyone had done before and what had been realized before.”
“To me, some of the Japanese creature designs were based on calligraphic stuff I’ve seen of animals. For example, in KING KONG ESCAPES, the Toho version of King Kong is almost based on the way calligraphy is done for apes or demons. That’s how I felt Godzilla was depicted a little bit, with some of the facial stuff around the cheeks and toward the snout, and the way the snout was separated into three pieces in front of the nose and on each side of the cheek. So I was really careful in analyzing that, and very reverential. I really respected the Toho design.”
“Taking my ego out of it, I really wanted this Godzilla to be a combination of my meager contribution and Toho’s Godzilla. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?,” Delgado asserted. “If anything, I felt it needed less of whatever I put into it and more of what was already there. I wanted to make it like 80% of what we were familiar with and then 20% new so that the audience would go ‘Oh wow, that’s kinda’ cool.’ It’s different enough where’s it’s still the same thing, essentially.”
Ricardo Delgado finalized his Godzilla design in a trio of sketches drawn in September, 1994. “And out of that comes the drawings that everyone kind of remembers; the crouching Godzilla with the tail whipping around, the portrait drawing, and the crawling drawing. Those are the ones that everyone seems to point to, either with approval or disgust,” he laughed.
“I really didn’t want to change a lot about Godzilla; there’s a few design elements that feel a little different. It had the ponderousness and muscularity of Godzilla but I didn’t want the ‘thunder thighs’ Godzilla [of the recent Toho films]; I felt it still needed to make biological sense without really beefing up the legs too much. There’s a paddle of a tail that feels a little more crocodilian. But the head, the torso… perhaps it’s a little thinner, more muscular than the traditional Godzilla, but if you look at it in silhouette you’d go ‘That’s Godzilla’. You really need to look at the curve of the head, and the way it holds its arms in front of its chest, and the way the spines go back gracefully. And ultimately I really felt that, in those last three sketches, that it all came together to make it feel like Godzilla. I wanted to hit a home run with my design and say ‘That’s the Toho Godzilla with a dash of dinosaur put into it’. And that’s really all that it needed to be.”
Delgado has fond memories of when Jan De Bont and Joe Nemec came to see the Godzilla designs. “Jan asked ‘You like this?’ and Joe didn’t say anything… he just got this happy look on his face and nodded gleefully. So that kind of cemented this version of the creature.”
Terry Rossio also remembered visiting the GODZILLA art department and being very impressed by the creature designs. “I recall one illustration — I would love to have this! — of Godzilla swimming underwater, it was just stunning!,” he declared. “Godzilla looked like Godzilla, but with a dynamic pose and sense of movement we had never seen before.”
Ricardo Delgado’s take on Godzilla reflected how the monster would move onscreen. The artist felt the JURASSIC PARK T-rex had convincingly portrayed both mass and speed, and envisioned the new Godzilla moving in a similar manner. “That was the goal,” he said. “That you would feel its weight moving around, but when it had to move for the story it could actually move very quickly. A lot of modern reptiles — like Komodo dragons and crocodiles — they look like they’re really slow and ponderous creatures but if they want to come and get you they’re going to come and get you. They’re capable of sudden bursts of speed.”
“And that was one of the surprises that I was hoping would be part of the story… that in every way, shape and form he would be the Godzilla from the original films in the way he moved, but he would be capable of these quick bursts of speed. It would walk like a traditional Godzilla, he would lumber a lot, but then Godzilla would surprise you with this ability. And when it had to run forward — and that’s how I drew it, running forward — the tail would come up. But otherwise, its tail would drag just like the Godzilla we saw in our childhoods.” But Delgado did note one major change in Godzilla’s method of locomotion, which was introduced in the Ted Elliott/Terry Rossio screenplay. “He would be able to crawl around on all fours if he needed to.”
In regards to visualizing other famous apects of Godzilla such as the monster’s radioactive breath, Delgado stated, “That was more of a visual effects discussion. I was there to do one thing: design the critter. And they seemed to like what I did, so it was a good time all around.”
Most importantly, Delgado felt both his Godzilla design and the film’s screenplay were faithful to what had gone before. “I was always really impressed by the original film, even today I still think that’s one of the best monster movies ever made,” he said. “And when I saw the Japanese cut of GODZILLA without the Raymond Burr stuff it made it even tighter, a more relentless film. It has an impressive story and it doesn’t back away from the idea of cause and effect, and you really get the sense of tragedy. There’s that scene where Godzilla is approaching and the mom is telling her kids that they’re going to see their dad soon… there’s the implication that the dad died in the war. It all felt very, very tragic.”
“Godzilla is not evil, but is a complete force of nature mixed with a bunch of psychological underpinnings I thought worked well. I thought that tone was fantastic and was hoping some of that would be worked into the film we were working on… that in the story we were trying to tell it would be both scenarios. In the first part of the film, Godzilla is this force of nature and you see him causing much destruction. But in the second part of the film he would form this sort of anti-hero persona and do battle in New York with the Gryphon. It’s very clear that Godzilla is a psychological underpinning for a lot of people in the story. And in the second half, they go ‘Why don’t we unleash our id, essentially, on this alien creature?’ And that’s exactly what they did.”
For Jan De Bont, the Gryphon as Godzilla’s enemy was an essential part of the film he wanted to make. “You have to have a second monster because Godzilla can’t be the bad guy,” he insisted. “Godzilla in itself means nothing if there isn’t an opponent that threatens him.”
Ricardo Delgado thought that, at one point, Godzilla’s intended opponent would have been a face — or faces — very familiar to Toho fans. “I’d heard rumors that the Gryphon was supposed to be Ghidorah, but I work in an industry of scuttlebutt and gossip so for a lot of it I just shrug my shoulders.”
Terry Rossio confirmed that was indeed his and Elliott’s intent. “We originally wanted to have Godzilla fight King Ghidorah,” he said, but Toho’s popular three-headed space monster was off-limits.3
Ted Elliott provided additional details. “It turned out that our contract specifically stated that we could use any monsters from the Godzilla family of monsters except Rodan, Mothra, or King Ghidorah. I’m sure Toho believes they can license those individually, so they didn’t include them in the Godzilla license,” he revealed. “We were left coming up with our own guy. Let’s see how that works. I think thematically he works a little bit better than Ghidorah would have.”4
Describing the genesis of the Gryphon for SciFi Japan, Rossio explained that, “To begin with, we wanted a flying monster. There’s something great about that image — Godzilla standing his ground, an adversary attacking from above. The dynamics of the battle become more interesting. We also wanted to play into the conceit that our cultural myths recorded previous attacks and predicted future battles, so we searched for a creature supported by western mythology. And then the beauty of the Gryphon is that it seems constructed of several earth creatures, which led us to the notion of an alien Von Neumann type probe, that would construct a creature out of collected earth-type DNA.”
Unlike Ricardo Delgado, who had a mountain of Godzilla reference material at hand, Carlos Huante had nothing but the descriptions provided by the screenplay when it came to designing the Gryphon and the Probe Bats. The artist was also not given any specific instructions from either Jan De Bont or Joseph Nemec in regards to the look of the monsters. “It was all up to me,” Carlos explained.
The script for GODZILLA describes the Gryphon as a planet-conquering “doomsday beast” that has “leathery, blood-red wings like a bat”, “the body of a mountain lion”, “smooth and slick skin”, “eyes [that] glow yellow in the darkness, reflecting light like a cat’s eyes” and “many snakes, a hydra-headed thing, squirming where the tongue should be.” All of that presented a test for Huante. “To be honest, the description for the Gryphon was cartoony, so for me the challenge was to try and make it all real,” he said.
Despite the utter lack of reference material, Huante used a design process similar to Ricardo Delgado’s take on Godzilla by focusing on basic shapes that would catch the eye and create a strong impression on the viewer. “My approach was to find unique silhouettes that encase beautiful forms,” Huante recounted. He also drew inspiration from nature. “I remember that I stared at pictures of animals. Like I said, I just wanted the thing to look real, which wasn’t easy given the description. I also wanted the Gryphon to be able to stand upright on its hind legs and not look too awkward, being that it was meant to be a quadruped.”
After coming up with a basic concept for the Gryphon, Huante created a number of illustrations depicting the monster with slightly different looks and in various poses. The Gryphon gradually evolved to resemble the classic interpretation of a biblical demon with horns, the wings and snout of a bat, and a humanoid torso. But the artist was never completely satisfied with the design of the creature, insisting that, “The Gryphon was what it was… I mean, there wasn’t really enough time to do many variations. The project got canned before I could reach the point that I wanted.“
Carlos was happier with his work on the Probe Bats. The screenplay describes the creatures as bats that have been mutated by the alien probe, standing “roughly five feet tall” with “twelve-foot wingspans” and “bat-like features”. From that, he was able to draw up a few different concepts and developed two key designs; one that closely matched the description in the script, and another he described as the ‘Turkey Vulture’ which incorporated features of the large scavenger bird.
“The Turkey Vulture version of the Probe Bat was the one I liked best,” he disclosed. “Jan liked that one also, so we were on the same page. I loved the way the neck of a vulture is cocked back so I tried to incorporate that into the design.”
Asked how many many concept illustrations he drew for GODZILLA, Huante replied, “I don’t even have an answer for this… a lot.”
While their work pleased Jan DeBont and Joe Nemec, the artists never received any direct feedback from Toho and stayed out of any discussions between the Japanese studio and TriStar. “The studio dealt with Toho,” recalled Ricardo Delgado.
“Toho was a little bit resistant at first,” Jan De Bont acknowledged. “They didn’t want to change anything about Godzilla’s design. That was the whole point… I totally understood that. If it was something you’d worked on all your life and then somebody came in and changed the whole thing and turned it upside down it would be an issue. And the character was so liked by the Japanese people that you don’t want to change him too much.” But the director was confident that he and his team were staying true to Godzilla, and Toho eventually gave their approval. “When they understood my enthusiasm for the character and how much I liked him they slowly changed.”
A third artist at Gojira Productions worked on yet another creature for GODZILLA. In the film’s story, the character Marty Kenoshita is infected by an alien organism that transforms his body into a constantly evolving, half-human/half-alien hybrid. During late 1994 and early 1995, some early designs for the “Marty/Alien” were drawn up by David Bryan Russell, a highly regarded artist who had previously worked on STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983), WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT? (1988), BATMAN (1989), and TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY. “The Godzilla project was indeed interesting. The producers contacted me at the behest of Jan De Bont,” Russell revealed to SciFi Japan.
De Bont remembered that he had asked for David Russell because, “I had seen his drawings and they were so beautiful.”
Russell worked on GODZILLA for approximately five months, doing storyboards and character designs. “As a kid, I thoroughly enjoyed the Godzilla films,” he said. “I likewise considered De Bont an interesting filmmaker, and I’d worked with Joe Nemec on two previous shows, THE COLOR PURPLE and TERMINATOR 2. Illustrators and storyboard artists are primarily aligned with the director and production designer, who are really in charge of the show’s visual development. Of course, most of this work is done at an early stage of a film’s evolution. This work [the alien concept sketches] was requested by the director.”
Like Carlos Huante with the Gryphon, he was not given any instructions regarding the physical appearance of the character, and was free to come up with his own designs. “As always, I was trying to create a different look for the aliens.”
Russell’s alien designs are reminiscent of the work of Jack Kirby, the legendary comic book artist who co-created Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, the Avengers, the X-Men, Thor, and a slew of other iconic characters for both Marvel and DC. Asked if the Kirby influence was intentional, David Russell answered, “Very much so. It was my discovery of Kirby’s work as a teen that set me on the path to becoming an artist. I later met Jack, and we became good friends. He remained a mentor until his passing. Jack was one of the best artists America has produced, and his work has deeply influenced the look and narrative power of contemporary films.”
“These guys are really artists,” De Bont said of the crew he and Joe Nemec had assembled. “It always amazes me that there are so many great storyboard and conceptual design artists that are absolutely fantastic. It’s like I said before… their work deserves to be in museums because it’s really quite unbelievable. The emotion that they can put into these big drawings that are so detailed, it just adds a layer of reality. I just have an incredible amount of respect for them.”
In October 1994, Ricardo Delgado and Carlos Huante learned that Stan Winston’s lobbying had paid off; Winston Studio had been hired to do the monster designs. Delgado was greatly disappointed, but objective about the change: “Stan had a contractual agreement to design Godzilla, and it wasn’t until he was officially on the show that they told us, ‘Hey, we’re going with Stan’. And you know, I’m just a kid and Stan’s won multiple Oscars and he’s got a huge crew. Carlos and I were told that our services were being shifted over. After that, I believe we did some production drawings not related to the creatures.”
For a brief time it looked like Carlos Huante would stay on the project, but such thoughts were soon derailed by office politics. “Jan wanted me to follow through with Stan’s shop but, from what I understand, there were a couple of guys there that didn’t want me. An outsider coming in and art directing them? Oh, no…” Huante recounted. “I don’t know what happened between Jan wanting me on it, and these two guys there ignoring that fact and Stan — of course — supporting them, but I didn’t wait around for them to figure it out.”
“I was excited to see what Carlos did,” Delgado said. “We saw our pencil and color sketches evolve into profile drawings and three dimensional sculpts. I started a Godzilla maquette and Carlos helped me with all his sculpting skills. He gave me advice on how to sculpt my creature. I was thrilled to see his sculpture, and I was always astonished at Carlos’ ability to meld classic sculpting with ingenious new production design.”
“I got about halfway done with the Godzilla maquette before Carlos and I were told that Winston had gotten the bid and was going to execute the creature. And from that point, the sculpture just sat there for the rest of the time that I did production illustration on the show. And after that, it was either locked up in a warehouse like at the end of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK… or a bunch of grips got together and shot BBs at it one night. Who knows?”
“I don’t know what happened to the artwork I created after I left the project,” Carlos Huante acknowledged. “I had started sculpting a maquette for the Gryphon but never got to finish it. I don’t have any photos for that one as I didn’t really finish it and it wasn’t anything that I thought mattered to me where it was left.”
Delgado detailed his final stages on the project. “My timetable for GODZILLA is that I worked on it mid-to-late summer, and by October/November we were off the show,” he recalled. “Carlos left before I did… he may have gone to work for Rob Bottin [the special effects artist known for THE HOWLING and John Carpenter’s THE THING], I’m not quite sure of that. I stayed on for a few weeks or months and did a few other production drawings. Some of them were pretty big. I did one drawing of the Gryphon’s den, where it undergoes its metamorphosis. I did a nice watercolor painting of the Arctic set and a few sketches of the ice cave where Godzilla awakens. To this day, I look at glacier stuff… they way that soil can fall into glaciers and dirty them up, create texture to them… I remember all that reference. And then the show got shelved completely at that point. I was there for that.”
Despite the disappointment of how things ended, Carlos Huante looks back at his time working on GODZILLA with Ricardo Delgado as a positive experience. “As I said earlier we were a tight knit group; Ricardo and I are friends to this day.” The two artists would work together again on MEN IN BLACK.
“It was a pleasure, not just as an artist, but as a friend to work with him,” agreed Delgado. “All we would talk about was the classic Toho movies. Carlos is a really big fan of WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS and I love that film too, and we would always just laugh about how cool it was to be working on GODZILLA. At one point it looked like both of our characters would go all the way through [the production process] and be realized onscreen. It was such a fantastic thing for both of us to sit there and think that we could watch each other’s creatures slug it out. That’s something that young artists dream about, and for a while there we were both living that dream. My only regret is that, from a friendship perspective, that didn’t happen. I don’t think if we could have watched Winston’s creatures do battle that would have been as much fun.”
“While I was bummed that the film didn’t get made it was a pleasure to work on it,” he reflected. “And even today, I look at my Godzilla design and I’ve seen some of the other stuff that’s been done… and after all I’ve done since, I still feel proud of my design.”
“I was on GODZILLA for about three months, before Sony pulled the plug.”
–storyboard artist Giacomo Ghiazza
The storyboards for GODZILLA were drawn by David Russell and another talented artist, Giacomo Ghiazza, during the final months of 1994. Like Russell, Ghiazza has been working steadily as a storyboard artist and illustrator for decades; his long list of credits began with TOTAL RECALL (1990) and ROBOCOP 2 (1990). “I had previously worked with Jan De Bont on SPEED, so he called me again,” Ghiazza recalled for SciFi Japan. “I was on GODZILLA for about three months, before Sony pulled the plug.”
“Giacomo is nice and quick,” praised Jan De Bont. “I also worked with him a lot on commercials. He knows me and knows the different kinds of angles that I like to have with multiple cameras and how that can be effective.”
After collaborating once again with De Bont on TWISTER, Ghiazza would do storyboards for STARSHIP TROOPERS (1997), MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, HOLLOW MAN (2000), WINDTALKERS (2002), PAYCHECK (2003), PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL, LEMONY SNICKET’S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS (2004), MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III (2006), KNIGHT AND DAY (2010) and AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY (2013). “[In 2010] I worked on PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES then on LIFE OF PI with Ang Lee, which I consider the best working experience that I can remember.”
Thinking back, Giacomo Ghiazza remembered that, “David Russell and I were the only two storyboard artists on GODZILLA. I don’t recall how many scenes I boarded, but I would guess several, being such an action-packed film.”
David Russell stated, “I drew four scenes in total, each rather challenging, though please note that I did not work on any sequences featuring Godzilla himself.” While Godzilla did not appear in Russell’s boards, the artist did draw major scenes for the Gryphon and the Probe Bats. “The two remaining sequences are the sinking of the fishing boats and the probe’s earth impact, resulting in a rain of fish, frogs, etc. The latter scene is a rough board.”
The look of the creatures in the storyboards were based on Carlos Huante and Ricardo Delgado’s creature designs. “Along with Jan and Joe Nemec, they were the ones who gave the look to the movie. I used some of Ricardo’s drawings for reference,” Ghiazza explained. Russell added that, “Ricardo and Carlos created very beautiful concept art. Ricardo — an expert on dinosaur design — had a tremendous influence over the evolving look of the characters.” No concept designs were created for the alien probe. “I worked from Jan’s verbal description of the probe,” Russell revealed.
“He really understood what I was trying to do with those different angles, camera movements and motions, and he was able to get that in those storyboards,” De Bont explained. “In addition, he made every drawing like a little art piece; they were some spectacular drawings. You don’t expect that so much for a storyboard… generally, they’re more simple but he had to make it look real. He couldn’t not do that.”
Ricardo Delgado also had a lot of praise for his fellow artists. “The storyboards were all Giacomo and David,” he remarked. “They were on a different floor [of Gojira Productions] than Carlos and I were… they were on a floor above us, closer to Jan’s office. I would often go up there and talk with them and see what they were doing, and it was really cool to see the artwork of the creatures slamming into skyscrapers. It was pretty amazing. I thought the sequence where they render Godzilla unconscious on the Golden Gate Bridge was fantastic. He wipes out the Pacific Fleet in the process, and yet wakes from his slumber to fight for humanity and kick the Gryphon’s butt. I think that would have been a lot of fun for everyone to see.”
Jan De Bont was very involved in the storyboarding process, working closely with the artists. “I was dealing directly with Jan for the boards,” Giacomo Ghiazza recalled. David Russell concurred, adding that the director’s background as a cinematographer had a direct impact on the look of the storyboards: “I worked at Jan’s instructions. He was very specific about his shots, often providing extensive shot lists for the storyboard team, which is unusual.”
De Bont was very pleased with the collaboration, saying, “They were a good team, the two of them. They had different styles; Russell for when the pictures had to be really detailed, and Giacomo for when the action was very important. They deserve all the attention they get because they’re really good.”
The following storyboard sequences are courtesy of David Russell, Giacomo Ghiazza, Terry Rossio and Jan De Bont. They are presented in sequential order, with chapter titles taken from TriStar’s GODZILLA production documents. Click on each storyboard image below to see a complete set of storyboards for that scene…
↑ Arctic Ocean: Giacomo Ghiazza
The opening sequence of GODZILLA reveals the film’s onscreen title and shows the salvage ship disaster that leads to the monster’s awakening…
↑ Llewellyn Home: Giacomo Ghiazza
Government scientists Keith and Jill Llewellyn share a romantic moment before being called away on a top secret assignment. This sequence also introduces their daughter, Tina.
↑ Kuril Island: Giacomo Ghiazza
Godzilla makes his first public appearance, destroying a fishing village on an island off the coast of Japan.
↑ Traveller, UT (rough): David Russell
The sudden arrival of an alien probe has an immediate impact on the residents of a small Utah town…
↑ Bat Attack: David Russell
The alien probe begins to absorb local lifeforms for a sinister purpose…
↑ Cougar Kill: David Russell
A mountain lion is attacked by bats mutated by the alien probe…
↑ Arctic Outpost: Giacomo Ghiazza
Something strange happens at the site where Godzilla was first discovered…
↑ Larry, Moe & Curly: David Russell
Three unlucky fishing boats have a run-in at sea with Godzilla. Note: Only low resolution scans were available for this sequence.
↑ Armada Fight: Giacomo Ghiazza
The US military confronts Godzilla in the waters off San Francisco.
↑ Submarine: Giacomo Ghiazza
Godzilla makes short work of a submarine and a destroyer.
↑ Fluid/Bridge: Giacomo Ghiazza
Godzilla unknowingly falls into a trap before climbing the Golden Gate Bridge.
↑ Church Attack: David Russell
A congregation falls victim to man-sized Probe Bats.
↑ Bat Cave: David Russell
The Probe Bats bring their prey back to the Gryphon’s lair…
↑ Transport: Giacomo Ghiazza
Two boys watch as the unconscious Godzilla is airlifted to a secure location.
↑ Holding Tank: Giacomo Ghiazza
Jill Llewellyn arrives at the facility where Godzilla is kept under sedation.
↑ Hangar: Giacomo Ghiazza
Jill and her daughter Tina disagree on whether or not Godzilla should be killed.
↑ The Gryphon Rises: David Russell
Having completed its gestation, the Gryphon emerges to conquer the world.
↑ Godzilla’s Escape: Giacomo Ghiazza
Sensing the Gryphon, Godzilla awakens and attempts to break free of his confinement.
↑ Final Battle: Part I: Giacomo Ghiazza
Jill races to rescue her daughter as the Gryphon and Godzilla arrive in New York City. Note: This sequence includes handwritten notes by Jan De Bont.
↑ Final Battle: Part II: Giacomo Ghiazza
The monsters clash between the towers of the World Trade Center.
↑ Final Battle: Part III: Giacomo Ghiazza
Aaron Vaught and Nelson Fleer come to Godzilla’s aid while Pike engages the Gryphon in aerial combat around the Empire State Building.
“They were looking for an effects facility. It was just a huge job.”
–Digital Domain co-founder James Cameron
“GODZILLA was threatening to gobble up every effects house on the planet.”
–unnamed FX technician
“The studio thinking is ‘What if you could do JURASSIC PARK with a highly recognized “name” monster?’,” said Terry Rossio. “You could have those incredible effects where you actually believe this thing was actually stomping through a city and combine it with the worldwide name recognition of Godzilla. They’re looking at state-of-the-art effects, digital effects, and have that be part of the draw… part of what distinguishes this movie from all the other Godzilla films.”1
“There was a great sequence where Godzilla wipes out the Pacific naval fleet in San Francisco Bay,” recalled Ricardo Delgado. “Looking at the storyboards I was thinking, ‘How are they going to do this?’ because it was the most ambitious effects sequence I had ever seen.”2
To accomplish that goal, GODZILLA would need to push the envelope of visual effects techniques. JURASSIC PARK had clearly raised the bar for FX but the film’s dinosaurs were shown for less than fifteen minutes, with approximately four minutes of that time devoted to CGI. Barely a year later, Jan De Bont and Boyd Shermis intended to have computer-generated versions of Godzilla and the other creatures featured onscreen and in action for much of their film. “This is the first film of this magnitude where the lead character, who spends a good deal of time onscreen, is virtually 100% computer animated,” Robert Fried declared.
De Bont intended to take full advantage of the advances in digital technology, promising that GODZILLA would have, “a lot of things that haven’t been done before, totally new effects, more complex than JURASSIC PARK.”3 Among those advances would be the creation of photo-realistic virtual sets for the monsters to “perform” on. Computer generated environments have become a standard feature in modern effects films, but the technique was not yet in practice at the time GODZILLA was being developed.
“Jan wanted to use all three-dimensional CGI,” Ted Elliott recounted that. “That means you create a full environment and move the creatures through it, as opposed to two-dimensional where you move the monsters across a photographic plate. Jan insisted that he wanted to create the whole environment.”4
After breaking down the visual effects sequences in the screenplay, Boyd Shermis estimated that GODZILLA would need more than 500 computer-generated effects… triple the amount for any film to that date. When asked if there was any apprehension among the crew about being able to match De Bont’s vision with 1994 digital technology, Shermis replied with a simple “Yes.” But he quickly added that, “Most of the technology existed, but it was very cutting edge at that time. We would have needed to do some serious R&D [research and development] for things like the water, fire simulation, etc.”
Concerned over these technical issues, TriStar executives decided to push back the start of production on GODZILLA until early 1995.5
De Bont and Shermis initially approached ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) — the Academy Award-winning visual effects division of Lucasfilm that had created the amazing CG dinosaurs for JURASSIC PARK — to produce the digital effects for GODZILLA. As the top FX studio in the world, ILM was well-equipped to handle all of the myriad of digital effects planned for the film. But they had a packed workload and turned down the offer, citing that GODZILLA would require far more computer graphics than any one company could handle.
Looking elsewhere, Boyd Shermis and other members of the GODZILLA crew were particularly impressed by the visual effects in a new Rolling Stones music video which had debuted that past July. Directed by David Fincher (SE7EN, FIGHT CLUB), the video for “Love is Strong” featured members of the band and several models, digitally enlarged to Godzilla’s size, wandering about New York City. Ricardo Delgado recalled that, “There was a Rolling Stones video where they’re running around New York that Jan and the visual effects crew pointed to and said, ‘That’s what we’re going to do’. I remember that vividly. Everyone from Jan to Joe to the visual effects people saying ‘We’re going to have Godzilla running around just like that. It’s going to look real.”
The visuals for “Love is Strong” had been created by Digital Domain, the digital effects house established in 1993 by James Cameron, Stan Winston and Scott Ross, the former Senior Vice President of LucasArts Entertainment Company. Ross had spent several years working for George Lucas, but had grown frustrated that his boss was focusing on theme parks, video games and real estate after the failures of HOWARD THE DUCK (1986) and WILLOW (1988). “I left because I wanted to make movies,” he acknowledged.6 Stan Winston had his own explanation for launching the new company, stating, “There’s a reason why I now own Digital Domain with Jim Cameron and Scott Ross, the second largest computer effects company next to ILM. I don’t want to become extinct like the dinosaurs in JURASSIC PARK.”7 Though relatively new, the company already had two major film credits with Cameron’s TRUE LIES (1994) and the all-star adaptation of INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE: THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES (1994).
“They were looking for an effects facility,” James Cameron said about GODZILLA. “It was just a huge job. They came to Digital Domain; we were bidding against a number of other people. We were awarded the work. It was a huge negotiation: a big deal, a lot of money.”8
In October 1994, Digital Domain was signed as the primary visual effects supplier for GODZILLA. The company was given six months lead time to develop the new software programs needed to create the film’s extensive digital effects. “A lot of the effects haven’t been done before, so we have to design new software for it, and it’s rather complicated,” Jan De Bont said.9
While Digital Domain would tackle the lion’s share of the digital workload, their previous feature film assignments had been 104 digital shots for TRUE LIES and 42 for INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE, far less than GODZILLA would require. Cameron admitted, “We didn’t want the whole job; we figured out a way to do part of it and supervise the work of two other smaller visual effects companies. There were 500 shots; they were all computer graphics animation.”10
Shermis selected Sony Pictures Imageworks and VIFX to handle a number of shots. Both companies had worked with him and De Bont on SPEED, and Imageworks had been angling for the job even before the director and his team were hired, producing a CGI test using Jeff Farley and John Hood’s Godzilla maquettes. Sony Pictures Imageworks’ Tim McGovern (TOTAL RECALL, LAST ACTION HERO, THE GHOST AND THE DARKNESS) and John Nelson (TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY, GLADIATOR, IRON MAN) would supervise their studio’s work on GODZILLA.
Founded by Richard Hollander in 1988, VIFX was — at that time — the lead digital effects company for 20th Century Fox. In addition to SPEED, the studio produced effects for FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE (1991), TIMECOP (1994), FROM DUSK TILL DAWN (1996), BROKEN ARROW (1996), VOLCANO (1997), FACE/OFF (1997), ALIEN RESURRECTION (1997), TITANIC (1997), THE X-FILES movie (1998), BLADE (1998), and ARMAGEDDON (1998). In 1999 Fox sold off VIFX to Rhythm & Hues Studios, and the company remains an active supplier of digital effects with credits on the X-MEN films, LORD OF THE RINGS, THE RING (2002), SERENITY (2005), THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE (2005), SUPERMAN RETURNS (2006), THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008) and THE WOLFMAN (2010).
“What I remember most about GODZILLA is a series of meetings at Digital Domain,” Richard Hollander told SciFi Japan. “There were three digital effects companies involved, and we had several discussions about how to split up the scenes between them. This was an exciting time, and we were looking forward to taking the next step with digital effects. This was right after JURASSIC PARK, so a realistic living creature could now be done. The tough areas were in creating believable scenes of destruction — crumbling buildings and debris — and water effects. Rendering water digitally was extremely difficult and time-consuming. Water is still hard to do today, but it was even worse back then. In terms of difficulty, the easiest would be creature effects, then destruction, then water. I was hoping to get the water scenes for GODZILLA.”
Hollywood saw digital effects as the wave of the future, and the competing FX studios were fiercely protective of their talent and technology. But the GODZILLA assignment would require rivals Digital Domain, Sony Pictures Imageworks and VIFX to share computer software. A 1994 article in The Hollywood Reporter quoted an unnamed source as saying, “It’s hard to believe this is going to work. First of all, these companies all hate each other!” But Hollander clarified that discussions between the three were, if understandably cautious, generally positive: “There was a lot of talk about scenes where sharing technology might be necessary and how that would be handled.”
Boyd Shermis agreed, saying that everyone involved at Digital Domain, Sony Pictures Imageworks and VIFX were willing to step up, “To set a new standard for action, creature animation, destruction and water simulations.”
For a brief time, adding a fourth digital effects company was also considered. Shermis reported that, “PDI [Pacific Data Images] was in the mix, but was in the midst of being sold to DreamWorks Animation and backed out of working on GODZILLA.”
PDI turned down GODZILLA, in part, to sign as the lead effects provider for director Renny Harlin’s pirate movie, CUTTHOAT ISLAND, at Carolco Pictures. The CUTTHROAT visual effects crew were pleased, with one staff member noting that, “GODZILLA was threatening to gobble up every effects house on the planet.” But, Harlin had a change of heart, scrapping major digital effects sequences in favor of building and filming on full-scale pirate ships. PDI struggled in the wake of losing the CUTTHOAT ISLAND contract, but rebounded after being acquired by DreamWorks Animation. Now known as PDI/DreamWorks, the company has produced several hugely successful computer animated features, including the SHREK, MADAGASCAR, and KUNG FU PANDA franchises.
Even though traditional Toho suitmation would not be used for Godzilla and the other monsters, Jan De Bont still intended for actors to provide much of their performances. “The motions a person can make that you transfer to a creature, it gives the creature a little bit of heart and soul,” he asserted. “You cannot do that just technically. None of it really comes to life. I felt they didn’t do that [in TriStar’s 1998 GODZILLA] and missed some of the magic that Godzilla should have.”
While visiting Toho in Japan, De Bont had met with both original Godzilla suit actor Haruo Nakajima and the 1980s-1990s Godzilla, Kenpachiro Satsuma. “I loved the old guy [Nakajima],” he recalled. “He’s really nice… such a great guy. He showed me all the locations and talked about how little time he could spend in the suit because he was melting from the heat. It was like an oven inside.”
“What I loved about him was that his movements are real. He told me he really studied Godzilla and it took him two movies or so to get it right. He was very proud of his performance.”
De Bont wanted to use motion-capture to bring that type of performance to his Godzilla. “The men in the suit have some very endearing qualities that you kind of lose with CGI. In that regard, when people are using actors to play the monster and then later translate the actor’s feelings to the monster you have a much better chance of doing that. And that’s what we kind of planned as well.”
“We were doing some tests for motion-capture,” he explained. “And we talked to many people about the best way to do that. At the time, it was very effective, actually… like in the silent movie period, actors would have to tell a story with the movement of their arms and facial expressions, and people understood the story. Godzilla can’t talk either — he can scream, he can roar — therefore, the idea that an actor can portray that and then transfer that performance to the creature via motion-capture would be very, very beneficial and effective.”
“There were two companies — I don’t remember their names anymore — who were at the forefront of that, and those people were all very excited about it. Everybody was excited by the possibilities. Of course I had to show them all the movies of Godzilla so they understood what I was talking about. They really got a great sense of Godzilla as a character. It was fun.”
CONCEPTUAL DESIGN, ROUND TWO: WINSTON STUDIO
“Redoing something that’s a classic; there’s a lot riding on that. A lot of people are going to be watching to see what you do, that you don’t change it.”
–Stan Winston Studio Godzilla sculptor Joey Orosco
“We all just wanted to do it ‘right’. Toho had the final right to review the designs, but we were in control of it.”
–GODZILLA (1994) FX supervisor Boyd Shermis
As one of the founders of Digital Domain, Stan Winston was also able to secure the GODZILLA concept design assignment for Stan Winston Studio. His team took over the process of developing the final looks for Godzilla, the Probe Bat and the Gryphon from Jan De Bont’s in-house design crew of Ricardo Delgado and Carlos Huante. Winston Studio was also tasked with sculpting maquettes that would be scanned by Digital Domain to build the digital versions of the monsters, as well as building any puppets, props, suits or mechanical incarnations of the beasts that may be used in conjunction with the computer generated versions. “They were totally excited about working on this movie,” Jan De Bont recalled.
“We all felt that way,” said Joey Orosco, a lead character designer and sculptor who has worked on the JURASSIC PARK series, INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE, THE SIXTH SENSE (1999), AVATAR (2009), PREDATORS (2010), MEN IN BLACK 3 (2012), MAN OF STEEL (2013) and PACIFIC RIM (2013). “The first time [creature effects supervisor] John Rosengrant talked to me about it I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is cool. I’m so excited’. I know that Stan had Digital Domain going, that was really fresh and new. And I remember him getting really excited about getting both gigs on GODZILLA; Stan would be handling the makeup effects and — as part owner of Digital Domain — the CG as well. It would have been great.”
While the studio was known for their large-scale creatures, FX director Boyd Shermis was unconvinced that the technique would work for GODZILLA. “For what it’s worth, Jan and I both wanted to keep Stan Winston Studio’s involvement to a bare minimum,” he insisted. “We both believed in the CGI and neither of us were happy to see ‘puppets’ be used. Godzilla was just too huge as a creature to go with animatronics.”
But Joey Orosco felt Winston’s involvement would almost guarantee the use of animatronics. “I would definitely say ‘yes’ because you’re talking about Stan Winston and we were really rolling at that time from JURASSIC PARK. There’s nothing like bringing something live, right there, that the actors can touch. I had done the sick Triceratops — that was my thing — and there was nothing cooler for the actors, Laura Dern and everybody, than to be right there with the triceratops and interact with it. Stan would have done some live stuff for GODZILLA.”
Jan De Bont agreed, noting that his first meetings with Stan Winston were over the feasibility of doing mechanical creatures. “We were going to do some animatronics,” he said. “For some of the facial things, we were thinking about building just the head to control some of the motions even more smoothly. And we definitely had some of Stan’s artists working on it and they came up with some ideas. The question was the scale of it… they had never worked on such a big scale and that’s always a little bit problematic. The bigger the creature is, the harder it is to make it move in an organic way, as if it has life.”
“It was going to be a combination of quite a few different things. It would have been better than a fully CGI movie because, if you use animatronics and film it right and find the right filming speed [to create a sense of size and mass], it can be very dramatic. It’s hard to do those things because you don’t know what you can do with the animatronics and what motions you can make until you actually have the machine working. So we were never thinking about doing the whole creature. It was always going to be the head, the claws… sections for when we had to get closer in and make it look more real. I don’t recall the exact scale, but it would look real.”
“I know Stan would have done an insert head or an insert foot; maybe an insert arm or even a big mechanical part of a tail swinging,” Orosco added. “Stan definitely would have thrown in some mechanics. Not full scale, but maybe something like one quarter scale… a highly detailed mechanical head that would have been shot with green screen or blue screen.”
The designing and sculpting of Godzilla and the other characters would be handled by the Winston art department under the supervision of John Rosengrant and Shane Patrick Mahan. It was a team effort, with different personnel chipping in as needed. “When a job came into Stan’s, the first thing that would happen is a group of artists would start sketches for designs. This was back in pencil and paper days,” remembered Bruce Spaulding Fuller, a member of the Winston Studio art department.
Fuller described the maquette-making process: “Larger maquettes start by having the artwork blown up to size. Then the mechanical department would weld a steel armature together that would come apart at all the joints for ease of molding later. Then the sculptor or sculptors would work over that. On large maquettes like these it was customary for two or more people to work on the sculpts, especially finishing parts when they were broken off the main sculpt.”
Once the maquettes were approved by Jan De Bont, they would have been scanned by Digital Domain to build the computer generated versions of the monsters. Closeup photos of the sculpts would be taken to match skin textures and colors in the CG models, and texture maps would be done for all surface details. From there Digital Domain would have created supporting understructures of bone and muscle that would guide the movements of the creatures.
Meanwhile, the mechanical department run by Richard Landon and Craig Caton-Largent would develop and construct the large-scale animatronic versions of the monsters. De Bont commented that, “It never got to the animatronics stage but they did do designs for the creatures.”
Details on the GODZILLA design crew were provided by Winston artist David Monzingo. “Here’s what I can remember: Crash [Mark McCreery] did all of the concept designs, Joey Orosco sculpted Godzilla and was assisted by Scott Stoddard, Mark Maitre sculpted the Gryphon and was assisted by Scott Stoddard and maybe Jim Charmatz. Bruce Spaulding Fuller sculpted the bat creature and was assisted by Ken Brilliant and Jackie Gonzalez. There were probably some mold makers and other art department fellows like myself who helped out along the way but weren’t necessarily key to the process…”
The crew’s focus was on creating the monsters, leaving the alien probe and any prop designing for a later date. “I don’t recall any of those other things being designed. We just concentrated on Godzilla, the Gryphon and the Probe Bat. We weren’t designing the other elements in the script so the project was likely not a full green light yet,” said Fuller.
The team sculpting the Godzilla maquette was led by Joey Orosco. “I believe Crash did a finished design before Joey sculpted his maquette, and Joey worked from Crash’s drawings, but I could be wrong,” Monzingo remarked. “I wasn’t involved in the concept meetings with Stan, so I can’t say who came up with the look, whether Crash did or if Stan had much input. I know Joey interpreted Crash’s design, and while it’s close, Joey has a very distinct style of his own.”
Joey Orosco explained that, “Crash was brought on to try and sell the idea and get it into the shop, which worked because his drawings are so amazing. Once we got that, we had a meeting with Stan, John Rosengrant and everybody and we talked about trying to stay traditional and just bring it to life. I remember Stan specifically saying that, ‘Just bring it to life’. And I loved komodo dragons and monitor lizards and certain snakes and thought we could bring that reality to Godzilla. Just update it a little bit, y’know?”
“Redoing something that’s a classic; there’s a lot riding on that. A lot of people are going to be watching to see what you do, that you don’t change it. That’s a challenge. It’s easier to create something new and fresh.”
Brian Gilbert, an executive at Stan Winston Productions, succinctly noted that, “We wanted Godzilla to look like Godzilla, not some stupid lizard.” Boyd Shermis added, “We all just wanted to do it ‘right’. Toho had the final right to review the designs, but we were in control of it.”
Contrary to reports, the new designs were not based off the Godzilla and Gryphon artwork Ricardo Delgado and Carlos Huante had produced before Winston Studio signed on. Asked if he had seen the earlier designs, Crash McCreery replied, “I don’t know if I saw Carlos’ stuff, but I saw Ricardo’s and thought it was really cool. I didn’t see it until after we were done, and it was by chance… it wasn’t presented or sent over [to the studio] or anything like that. We hadn’t seen anything at all when we were working on GODZILLA.”
“It’s funny because Ricardo and I graduated from Art Center around the same time and we’d been watching each other’s work. And I’d seen his Age of Reptiles stuff. I just remember his Godzilla pieces having a very cool energy and dynamic attitude. They were another cool version of what you can do with Godzilla.”
“But the two designs never collided. We never really got any ideas from anyone else; we just went off and did our own thing. Stan really liked to leave his mark — it was his signature — so he would let us go off, do our own thing, and develop it in-house without the influence of anything else that had been done before so that he could really call it his own. He had a lot of pride in our work and his work in that manner. It wasn’t that he was keeping it from us for any reason other than just wanting us to be free to do what it is we love to do.”
McCreery was pleased for the opportunity to present his take on the Godzilla movies he had grown up watching. “I was always a huge fan, and obviously of monster films in general, but I never viewed Godzilla films as ‘monster movies’, for some reason. The very first one with Raymond Burr I thought was very cool and I remember seeing that and going, ‘wow, that was kind of scary’. But I’ve never been afraid of giant monsters… ghost stories always creep me out but never large monsters. I always equated that to dinosaurs, and dinosaurs are just cool.”
“My friend and I used to watch them all the time and just get into all the different names of the monsters. I kind of got the humor in them; there’s a campiness to it that grows on you. And even the films after awhile, especially when [the Son of Godzilla] was introduced, its like, ‘okay, we get it’. We enjoyed it, but it was always in a different category for me growing up. I separate Godzilla even from TARANTULA or THEM or even THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS. For me, those were just bitchin’ FX films that were really trying to sell you on the idea of the reality of something like that happening. And Godzilla, to me, was much more mythological and fun. It was in Japan, and the words didn’t match the lips, and you could tell they were guys in suits and you could see the wires. There was something really cool about it, but in a completely different arena than those other large creature movies. And as kid you either love them or you just don’t. And I loved watching them.”
“Those creatures do become characters over time. And they’re revered in Japan as mythological beings that have something to do with their culture. Growing up, Japanese culture was so foreign to me but I kind of got it, in a weird way. You kind of accept them as being figureheads of a culture, and even though I didn’t participate in that culture you appreciate them for being that. So I was very lenient [over any technical flaws] because this was cool to them, and it was cool to me. I’ve always embraced that attitude.”
McCreery started by drawing a profile view of Godzilla. “Joey was overseeing the sculpt, and that profile was sort of a basis for Joey to go off of. That’s what I had done on JURASSIC PARK for the modelers; give them something to base the maquette off of,” he said. “It’s interesting because I had visions of Godzilla from when I was a kid watching him, and you respect the character and the design for what it is and you don’t really examine it until you’re going to remake it. And then you really look at what was going on with design elements like how big the tail was… as soon as you reduce something like that, it doesn’t become Godzilla anymore. So there were a lot of characteristics about the original Godzilla that, unless you retain them, it’s really not that character anymore.”
Eschewing scientific accuracy in favor of aesthetics, Crash McCreery’s Godzilla stood in a more upright position than current paleontological views on dinosaurs dictate. Rather, the creature’s posture remained closer to that of the original Godzilla and other monsters from the Toho movies. “Standing very upright, which is a very Charles Knight, old school way of thinking about dinosaurs where the legs and torso are more upright — which made total sense since it was a guy in a suit in the original — trying to make that feel real and natural was really difficult. As far as the face went, the detail was kind of easy for me because I wanted to give it a scaly texture, a lizard texture. And also enhance the dorsal fins; make them feel more bone-like, some kind of real world texture that you can relate to. Maintaining the silhouette was important; whenever you see those fins you know who that is.”
“Godzilla’s skin texture was always kind of odd to me. It was always very nondescript, more of a texture without referencing any kind of animal. I tried to make sense of that texture on Godzilla. I also added a contrast between its belly and its back, just to give it a little more interest. And more detail in the head; again, trying to make it feel a little more naturalistic.”
McCreery was very pleased with Joey Orosco’s interpretation of his drawings. “Every artist had their style, their strong points. What’s great about a collaborative effort is that you start off with something that’s the jumping off point, and once you get to 3D you try to retain whatever works because that’s what either the studio or Stan has seen and wants. Whatever spark that got them excited about it, you want to maintain that. Sometimes Stan would be rigid about following the designs and other times he’d want someone to be free to do their own interpretation. What you don’t want to do is show [a director or producer] your design — Hey, here’s our design — and then show up later with something that doesn’t look anything like it.”
“But then you quickly find out things that don’t work, that you’ve haven’t explored in 2D, that rear their ugly heads,” he said. “And any change that Joey’s ever made, I’ve always looked at as being an improvement. Joey’s sculpting always took what worked from my designs and then whatever worked from his point of view and style, and integrated that as well. And it always seemed to develop into its own thing, a little bit of everybody, which is cool. It was a very cool, collaborative atmosphere.”
One reason that Mark McCreery and Joey Orosco worked so well together on Godzilla was that each had a similar design approach to the character. Orosco asserted that, “Since I was the head sculptor on that I definitely wanted to keep the classic silhouette… I didn’t want to lose the silhouette. I loved the way that it was upright and the way the tail looked composed to the body, the head, even the posture of the arms and how the shoulders are positioned. I tried to keep all of that the way it was. Even though it was a man in a Godzilla suit back then and this was probably going to be a mechanical thing we were going to build and a lot of CG, I still wanted to keep that look.”
“Godzilla has such an iconic silhouette, it was real important for us to try and maintain,” agreed McCreery. “Other iterations since have been great endeavors and certainly have qualities of their own that I’ve always been impressed by, but I’ve never felt like it was the Godzilla we’ve all grown up to know and love. But that’s what’s great about filmmaking; it’s always interpretations, a director’s vision or a producer’s vision. That’s what makes it interesting. And that’s what makes ours special, too. That was its own idea of how you could redo Godzilla. There’s a lot of different ways you could redo it.”
Orosco disclosed that, before starting his sculpt, he closely studied the Toho Godzilla design. “We took measurements. We had photo blowups of the original Godzilla and we wanted to make sure the tail length compared to the body on the maquette was really close to what it was [on the original]. And with a lot of lizards and komodo dragons the tails are almost longer than the torso, so you have to nail that and make sure the tail is very, very long for balance.”
Orosco also revealed that Winston Studio was not allowed to do an exact copy of the Toho Godzilla design. “I remember also that we could not sculpt the ‘Godzilla’ Godzilla,” he reported. “For rights reasons, we couldn’t just take the original Godzilla and do that completely. It could not be a spot-on match. It was important that we make sure it was an original, new design based on [Toho’s version] but not a copy. They own the rights to that look and we just wanted to give a version of that. That developed pretty easily. We just started sculpting and it came to life pretty fast. It was tough, but it was fun. After JURASSIC PARK, getting to dive into GODZILLA was fun. We were ready.”
The finished Godzilla maquette measured 43 inches tall x 63 inches long. “A sculpt that big lends opportunity for the crew to jump in and put their hands on something,” said McCreery. “Some of the sculptors had help… not that they couldn’t have done it themselves but there may have been a time constraint or just giving somebody the experience to get their hands on a sculpt. And if there was any kind of discrepancy Joey would pull me in and say, ‘What do you think of this?’ And if I didn’t know, then we’d pull Stan in and he’d make the final decision as the ringleader.”
Joey Orosco had difficulty remembering exactly who he had worked with on the maquette. “It’s been 21 years and we lost the show; GODZILLA never happened. And at that time we had so much stuff coming in from studios. We were just swamped with work with movies coming in and we were just constantly doing stuff. As we were finishing a show there were two others starting. It’s been so long I don’t remember too many other guys that were on it. I do remember Mark Maitre sculpting the arms with me… he was right next to me. And Paul Mejias also worked on it.”
Paul Mejias is a key artist, sculptor, puppeteer, and animatronic puppet effects coordinator whose credits include TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY, JURASSIC PARK (for which he had sculpted the Gallimimus for the herd stampede scene), IRON MAN and THE AVENGERS (2012). He remembered the people he worked with on GODZILLA and took photos of the finished maquette, but drew a blank when asked about his own role on the project. “Sorry man, I have zero recollection of working on GODZILLA… none,” Mejias said. “I’m sure I did something, but it wasn’t memorable. In those days shows were flying through the studio at lighting speed. Alas, memory fades.”
Bruce Fuller confirmed that, “Paul was there at the time, but I have no idea what he contributed. Likely he helped one of us finish some sculpting… most likely when parts were broken off the main sculpt to have finished detailing before mold.”
Clearing up the mystery, Orosco said, “I think Paul may have been on some of the spikes. We made sure that those fins were very spiky, almost Christmas tree-ish. That was one of the things we talked about, we wanted to make sure that you could see the spikes on those fins.”
Orosco’s team also included special effects makeup artist/sculptor Scott Stoddard (THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK, THOR) and sculptor/puppeteer Ken Brilliant (EVIL DEAD 2, BATMAN RETURNS, SHARKNADO). “Yes, I can confirm that I did work on the Winston Godzilla,” Brilliant told SciFi Japan. “I was one of several people who sculpted on the design maquette, which was large — perhaps three feet tall. There were a number of people working on it at once.”
Another member of the crew was Mike Smithson, a special makeup effects artist whose credits include AUSTIN POWERS: THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME (1999), SPIDER-MAN 3 (2007), STAR TREK (2009), AVATAR, THOR (2011), PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES (2011) and THOR: THE DARK WORLD (2013). “I really did not have much to do with the project,” he related. “What I did do was sculpt and detail the legs and feet of the Stan Winston Godzilla maquette.”
David Monzingo also gave an assist. “I really was just an extra set of hands on GODZILLA,” he said. “I think I may have helped sculpt some of the back spines on the Godzilla maquette that Joey Orosco did along with Scott Stoddard, but to be honest I was working on every project that SWS was doing at the time as well I don’t remember having too much to do with it. It all kind of blurs together. I remember doing some Godzilla sketches of my own but none of them were ever used. I worked in the art department, but I was just a staff artist, not one of the key artists like Joey or Crash.”
Even with so many talented artists involved, creating the Godzilla maquette took several weeks. “Nowadays we can rapid prototype something like those maquettes so it would be possible to make a character in only a few days,” reported Monzingo. “But back then it took Joey — who is a very fast sculptor, by the way — at least a couple weeks to finish the sculpture, then another week or so to mold the sculpture, a few more days to cast it and assemble the pieces, and a few more days to paint it. So altogether it was probably at least a month. I believe Joey did two heads, one with the mouth closed and one with it open.”
Orosco confirmed that two different Godzilla heads were sculpted. “That was really big at the time, sculpting a neutral and what we call a ‘roar’ head. I did that in GHOST AND THE DARKNESS with my lions and when I worked on gorilla films like CONGO and INSTINCT. You always do the animals with a standard head with the mouth a little bit open. And then you do a roar head, which is mid-open, slight expression, a little bit of wrinkling.”
The roar head was used for the maquette. The neutral head was cast separately in resin so Joey Orosco could do a paint test, but the project was canceled before that could be done. “I never got around to it,” he said.
Mark Maitre also worked on the sculpt and was closely involved in creating the fine details and skin texture of the figure. “Basically, Joey was in charge of Godzilla. He started detailing it, and then he had to go out of town on another project. So a bunch of us got together on Halloween night to finish up all the detailing on Godzilla,” he recalled.
“I had to go to Costa Rica for CONGO,” Orosco explained. “Stan had me doing everything. He was spreading me thin; it was pretty crazy. But there were so many talented guys and everybody got their share.”
McCreery was there to give the detailing team the occasional assist. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I remember that. He was pulled to Costa Rica and there was a mad rush… Godzilla had to be molded by a certain time so it was all hands on deck. They got to a point where Joey had left something that wasn’t shown in the drawings so I would do these little drawings of scale patterns for them or make suggestions like ‘bring this fatty tissue over here’,” he said with a laugh.
He left the detailing on the Godzilla maquette to others, conceding, “I did get into some sculpting [at the studio] but it was always very minor. I worked with Joey a little bit on JURASSIC, and with Chris Swift on RELIC, and I think that was about it. I did a zombie Terminator head that never made it into the film. I enjoyed it, but there were guys there who were way better at it than me so I’d rather just let people do what they do best.”
Following his assist on Godzilla, Mark Maitre became lead sculptor on the Gryphon. Maitre was another key artist and member of the creature art department at Winston Studio with credits on A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD (1989), STARGATE, RELIC, THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK, A.I.: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (2001), THE TIME MACHINE (2002), UNDERWORLD (2003), PREDATORS, and PIRANHA 3DD (2011). “I got lucky, I guess,” he said about getting the assignment. “Maybe the regular guys weren’t there. Joey would have been heavily involved if he were around the whole time. Thankfully, they trusted me and my abilities. Once Godzilla was done we started on the Gryphon.”
Mark Maitre’s main partner on the Gryphon was Scott Stoddard. “Scott was on board with me the whole time on the sculpture. Mainly, it was just me and him doing the whole thing. I was blocking out the body and head, and Scotty came aboard and started blocking out the wings and the tail. And when he got done with that he was just jammin’ with me on the body, detailing it up.”
“And it was nice that it was just a couple of us. I remember the problem we had on the Godzilla sculpture was that there were five or six guys trying to do all the detailing. I think everyone has a really interesting, distinctive style, like Joey Orosco, you can’t miss that… Bill Blasso, all those guys. And no two of us matched, particularly when we’re working late on a Halloween night to get it done. There’s an arm over there and Mike Smithson’s working on it; there’s a leg over there and Bruce Fuller’s working on it.”
“So it was just Scotty and I on the Gryphon, and we work really well together… we have similar styles, you know? And I was glad I had him on board because it was a big, big piece. The wings were like 9 feet. I couldn’t tell you how tall the thing was because we had it built up on a table so we could work on it. I would think it was at least 4 feet tall.”
Joey Orosco was impressed with the Gryphon, saying, “It was a pretty big maquette. It was the size of a dog and we had it hanging up in the display room. It was really cool.”
“Those were unusually large maquettes,” Mark McCreery expressed about Godzilla and the Gryphon. “Back then we didn’t usually do maquettes that big because of the time consumption. I know Stan really wanted to sell the idea that these characters are bigger than life… to really get into the details, to really show what’s different about, what’s special about these characters we’ve enhanced for this go-round of Godzilla.”
McCreery also designed the new version of the Gryphon. “Crash was designing Godzilla and the Gryphon and other projects [for Winston Studio], too, so he was swamped with everything,” observed Mark Maitre. “But he had this cool drawing; kind of a front shot of the Gryphon roaring, standing up on his hind legs, and that was the main design we had to go by.”
Taking a radically different approach than Carlos Huante had previously, McCreery focused on the concept of the Gryphon as an amalgam of the Earth animals it had absorbed. “Crash’s design was based off a mixture of different animals that evolved into what was the Gryphon,” Maitre recalled. “It started as a sort of silver starfish that made its way onto the shore. I can’t remember all the things that it evolved from to make the Gryphon. A bat; that was the first thing… that was where the wings came from. A bird, a cougar and a bunch of different things so it’s got hooves, a cat face, and a crazy, almost reptilian tail.”
“I thought it was a really fun challenge,” said McCreery. “I like the idea of gryphons and it was an opportunity to do our version of that and kind of unify it. It wasn’t made up of a bunch of animal parts; it had the attributes of different animals but felt like a single species or beast. That was a lot of fun to work on. I went off of prehistoric cues to give it the crest on its head, the scales, and then pulled from mythological cues to give it the claws in the front and the hoofed feet in the back. I had a lot of fun with that; the fact that it has wings and hooves. I’m very much into textures and it offered a lot of fun opportunities.”
“The reptilian cat face was really fun to draw. The original Godzilla has a very catlike head, and I thought retaining that feel for the Gryphon as well would tie it in. And I loved the size of it, that Godzilla had a nemesis that was his size was cool. I think there was even a passage in the script where the Gryphon appears and — this was pre-CLOVERFIELD — it’s kind of perched on the Statue of Liberty, which was just a cool, cool image. I never got to draw that and it was such a fantastic image. I did do an orthographic (a “turn-around” drawing of the character showing the front, back, side and top) of the Gryphon as well as an attack pose, but that was as far as I got with that.”
Maitre remembered that McCreery, “drew this other side shot for us so we could see the anatomy. As we were blocking it out he was finishing the design drawing so we were like, ‘Hurry up! We gotta detail this soon!’ But he was just swamped. I think he was working on the muscles for Godzilla and he had to get taken off the Gryphon. I was like, ‘Dude, finish this drawing!’ But I love working with Crash’s designs. I think every project I worked on when I was at Stan’s was a Crash design.”
“That was so true,” McCreery laughed about racing to finish the design for Maitre and Stoddard. “They’d go, ‘What goes on here? You didn’t finish that part’. It’s nice because we had a lot, a lot of talented artists there and it was always a great collaborative effort. And the fact that they wanted me to finish off the vision of what some of the areas looked like always made me feel pleased. That was always really cool.” He added that, “The maquette really came to life, really captured the essence of the drawing. It was a great depiction of it.”
Another member of the Gryphon team was sculptor, moldmaker and painter Jim Charmatz. Charmatz has worked as an FX artist for two decades on such titles as CONGO (1995), THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK, GALAXY QUEST, JURASSIC PARK III, SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW (2004), CONSTANTINE (2005), WAR OF THE WORLDS, AVATAR, and CLASH OF THE TITANS. For the Gryphon, he recounted, “My involvement is hard to remember actually, but I think it was primarily patching the separate silicone parts (arms & legs) onto the body and then painting it.” Paul Mejias also remembered that Jim “did some repainting and repair work on the Gryphon several years after it was made for the display room at the Winston shop.”
David Monzingo also assisted in the sculpting of the Gryphon. “I am very familiar with that character… I helped out on that way back when,” he recalled.
Asked about the time frame for sculpting the Gryphon, Mark Maitre answered, “I couldn’t tell you how long we had. It was at least six weeks. Back then you had forever to do a sculpt and it still wasn’t enough time. These days you have a week or two. It’s such a blur.”
“We made a silicon positive of the Gryphon. We had a really nice armature. Right after we sculpted it, Joey was back and he was working on the muscle structure of Godzilla. After the look of the outside skin is all detailed and molded, you pull the mold apart and what you have sometimes is the clay, sort of intact. Even if the surface comes off the majority of the sculpt is still there. [For the Godzilla maquette] they made a multiple piece sculpt that they could break away and shave the sculpt, and then Joey could sculpt down to get to the muscles. So he would take the actual sculpture, take away the skin, define everything to create the muscles.”
Orosco was surprised by Maitre’s recollections. “It’s been so long I can’t believe Mark remembers that. I sculpted an anatomy of Godzilla, and Stan said it was going to help the CG guys with movement. I’ve done that on several shows where I’ll do a sculpture, and then I’ll do a clay press and sculpt the anatomical structure of the muscles.”
“For Godzilla, I took the original sculpt. When you take the mold off it’s still pretty intact, and I just took some tools and chiseled it down to the muscle layer. I found the anatomy and I carved the muscles to show how it functions. It’s great that Mark remembers that.”
Maitre was looking forward to doing the same process for the Gryphon. “We were finishing up the Gryphon and I was going, ‘Oh great, we get to do the muscles next’. And then they said we had to stop working on it because the plug had been pulled and it was going on the shelf for now.”
Crash McCreery remembered the Probe Bats were also sculpted during that time. “There were these bat creatures that were part of the script as well. Another artist, Bruce Fuller, who had done some really great work… he designed those, which were really neat,” he said.
“I ended up in the film business because of my lifelong obsession with monster movies and comics,” Bruce Spaulding Fuller declared. “As a youngster, once I figured out that a makeup man created these monsters, I began my quest to do the same using any small knowledge gleaned from monster magazines of the day like Famous Monsters of Filmland, and later Fangoria. In my young adulthood, I was the go-to guy locally to help my friends make horror movie trailers/showreels for films they wanted to make. Through these, I was fortunate enough to meet Edward French, a professional working in New York, and work with him on a few low budget horror pictures.”
“From there I was ‘discovered’ by [Academy Award-winning makeup artists] John Caglione and Doug Drexler and brought to California to work on DICK TRACY. Once I had a foothold in the California movie scene, I bounced around working for all the SPFX studios, and it was only a matter of time before I would work for Stan Winston. My first Stan Winston shows were PREDATOR 2 and EDWARD SCISSORHANDS and I was able to work in design, sculpture, paint, molds… essentially every aspect of the production of special effects.”
Fuller recalled that, “Because of my ability to draw (from my love of comics) I was frequently tapped to be part of the design team. On GODZILLA, Crash McCreery was already designing Big G and the Gryphon himself, so that left the Probe Bat to work on. I don’t remember whether I was specifically assigned the Bat, but that’s what I was sketching ideas for when Jan De Bont came in to look at everything.”
He based his Probe Bat design on the descriptions provided in the Elliott/Rossio GODZILLA screenplay. “If I remember correctly it was an organism that assimilated many forest critters to become ambulatory and go out into the world. I believe — this was a long time ago, remember — that the final Gryphon was the sum total of this assimilation,” Fuller said. “So the Probe Bat was a mish-mash of the things that had been assimilated up to that point… please don’t ask if I remember what they all were! I know there was bat in there! Possibly human, a cougar maybe? Who can remember..? I’m really not sure where the ‘snaky tail’ with no legs idea came from, but it was what I was sketching when Jan De Bont decided that that was ‘IT!’.”
“I’m sure I had done some different things, but when De Bont came into the design room at Stan’s to see what we were doing, this version was the one I was sketching at the time. It was a very crude rough — a gesture sketch, really — but I guess there was enough information on the page for De Bont to see what he was looking for and proclaim this design to be the one. No one was more stunned than me; it’s extremely unusual for any design to be approved that quickly based on so little information. But De Bont was very sure, very definitive. From then on, it was my baby to flesh out and realize.”
With Jan De Bont signed off on the design, Bruce Fuller began sculpting the maquette. “I moved right into the maquette without any final drawing being done for the Probe Bat,” Fuller explained. “I worked on the Bat with the help — I believe — of Ken Brilliant… hard to remember.”
When asked about the Probe Bat, Brilliant replied: “I did work on the Godzilla maquette, but I don’t believe I worked on the gargoyle.” But David Monzingo said, “I remember Ken Brilliant sculpted on the wings of that bat creature.” He added that Brilliant and another Winston artist named Jackie Perreault Gonzales (BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU, THE RELIC) each sculpted a wing of the Probe Bat. “Maybe Ken doesn’t want to remember because he took a very long time to sculpt his wing, and when he was finishing it up he dropped it on the floor and had to start over again!,” Monzingo teased.
But Jackie Gonzales was also sure she was not one of the scupltors of the Probe Bat. “Working at Stan Winston Studios was a wonderful experiences as a sculptor, but unfortunately GODZILLA was not one of the films I worked on,” she insisted. “I think it may be possible that [David] is mixing up a couple of the creatures we worked on. Some aspects are similar to other pieces. I worked on the wings and body for Pteranodons for LOST WORLD — someone may have adapted those wings or used a similar approach for making the Probe Bat wings. I also worked on some “mice men” for THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU which have similarly “rodent-y” face and arms as the Probe Bat. Though I must say, I think the Bat is more frightening looking! The sculptors there are so good! Wish I could take the credit, but nope.”
The finished Probe Bat maquette was made of solid resin, measuring 45 inches long with a wingspan of 35 inches. “It’s small but it’s kind of neat. It had a crazy, monstrous-looking bat face,” described Mark Maitre.
Bruce Spaulding Fuller noted that, “With the designs and then the maquettes, I’m going to say I was on GODZILLA a couple months. I can’t remember why at the time, but the project seemed to be on a fast track… whether the design work was to raise more funds, or it was just on a fast track to production, who knows?”
Asked about the accelerated schedule, De Bont told SciFi Japan, “The reason it had to be fast was that they were trying to find out, early on, what could be achieved with using Winston’s animatronics company. We were trying to figure out what would be the most effective and economical. CGI was getting there but it wasn’t perfect; it was still being fine-tuned. And CGI shots in those days were really expensive… people tend to forget that now. Especially if you wanted to do those shots in 4K, it was almost twice as much work because it had to be so perfect. And when there’s so many moving elements in one shot it becomes really important that one company does the backgrounds and another the animatronic element in the foreground… it would make it so much cheaper. But at the same time, will the looks ultimately match? If you mix them too much, would you still get something that feels real? That was my worry.”
David Monzingo recalled that some rough designs were done on yet another creature for the film. “Another artist who did some work on that project was a fellow named Greg Figiel. I remember he had a lot to do with some characters in the Jan De Bont version of GODZILLA.” Figiel’s credits include ALIENS, TOTAL RECALL (1990), ROBOCOP 2 (1990), BATMAN RETURNS (1992), JURASSIC PARK, CONGO, THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK, GALAXY QUEST, PEARL HARBOR (2001) and ALIENS VS PREDATOR REQUIEM (2007).
“Greg Figiel designed and I believe sculpted a maquette of a character that we never finished for the film,” Monzingo revealed. “I can’t remember the character’s name, but in the film he was a human who has a microscopic alien organism enter his body, gets ‘infected’, then undergoes some ‘horrific’ transformation into an alien. I remember it looked pretty cool, but I don’t think it ever got beyond a clay sketch… a very rough clay maquette that was never molded or finished. if I remember correctly it was a very thin, creepy looking thing.”
“Yeah, that’s what I remember, too,” said Crash McCreery. “That might have just come from Greg’s head. I think we weren’t getting a lot of heat from it so it started to peter out. Unfortunately, other things kind of took over. I don’t know if there was any 2D artwork done for it, but it was definitely part of the script. And that’s what was cool about the script, too, because it wasn’t just Godzilla. That’s what I loved about the old movies — apart from the very first one — just all of the other monsters and characters. And I felt like Jan’s version was really embracing that ‘Monster Island’ feel that was so awesome when I was a kid. That’s what I loved about it.”
Stan Winston Studio was still at work on GODZILLA when TriStar canceled the project, so the artwork and maquettes produced up to that point were not necessarily what would have been seen in the finished film. “The creature designs were still evolving. Those were definitely not the final ones,” Jan De Bont told SciFi Japan.
McCreery confirmed DeBont’s recollection, maintaining, “There’s usually a design process when it’s really going to happen and there’s a green light and real money is coming in and deadlines are set. The same thing happened in JURASSIC PARK where there was a T-rex design I had done that was that kind of mood piece, but then we really had to design the dinosaur. And that took a very long time to really hone in on what that was. I look at the design of Godzilla that we’ve done and there’s a lot of room for ‘okay, let’s change this, let’s change that, improve here, improve there’. And we needed to see it in five, six different poses so that we would know this design can achieve all of those. That’s where the real meat and potatoes come into designing a character. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like we ever got down that road.”
While Winston had many other projects to fill their schedule, losing GODZILLA was still a major disappointment for all involved. “I still look back at that and go, ‘God, I wish we could have got that’,” lamented Joey Orosco.
“I was definitely a Godzilla fan,” he elaborated. “It was something really big when I was a kid. I was a creature guy; I grew up loving the CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON. That was huge to me. Of course DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN; all the great black and whites, and anything Lon Chaney did. PHANTOM OF THE OPERA just freaked me out. But GODZILLA was just huge for me, and so was THE WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS. They were amazing films to watch. I remember sitting there as a kid, Sunday mornings with a bowl of cereal, 8 years old watching these films on my old Zenith TV at my mom’s house. That was definitely a big part of my growth. Who would have thought that, years later, I would be sculpting Godzilla and almost working on one of those movies? It was close. I almost got to work on one of them.”
“We tried to create something that was based on the traditional Godzilla that we all grew up with and loved,” Orosco declared. “We didn’t want to try and change it… we tried to keep it true to the original. A lot of films don’t do that these days. We tried to bring it to life, add some realistic elements from monitor lizards and komodo dragons to that but still keep the silhouette; keep the traditional look. Just bring some reality to it. I still look at it now and it has the posture, the face; even the dimensions from the body to the tail. I remember that we really studied that and try to give our Godzilla that feel. That was definitely our goal.”
Photos of the Winston Studio Gryphon and alien designs were never officially released, nor were any images leaked by the artists. “Back in those days Stan wouldn’t allow us to photograph our work… only the shop photographer could chronicle things,” David Monzingo explained.
Nor did the artists keep their sculptures or artwork. “I don’t have a lot of stuff because it was basically owned by Stan,” said Joey Orosco. “I was an employee; I was paid to do what I do and everything was owned by Stan. And a lot of it was actually owned by the production companies and the studios. When we were done with JURASSIC Universal owned the molds. That’s the way it was.”
When GODZILLA was revived under Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, Mark Maitre sculpted the Baby Godzilla for Patrick Tatopoulos Design, making him one of the few FX personnel involved with both versions of the TriStar film. “The weird part of the story is that I am very, very good friends with Patrick Tatopoulos, and before I worked at Stan’s I worked on STARGATE,” he explained. “Patrick and I also worked on SUPER MARIO BROS. together and he got me involved with creating the Yoshi dinosaur back in ’93. A year went by and STARGATE happened, and that’s when Patrick wised up and said, ‘I’m gonna get a shop.’ He was giving out all this work to people like me and he realized, ‘I can make a lot more money if I just do that stuff here.’ So he opened a shop and started with STARGATE. I worked on that and met Greg Figiel, who was kind of a lifer at Stan’s… it was slow there at the time which is why he worked on STARGATE. He’s a real talented sculptor. He recommended me to Stan to partake in sculpting because they needed another crew to do TANK GIRL, which was the same time they were doing CONGO so they were swamped.”
“Since I had the connection with Patrick before I worked at Stan’s, he called me up and said, ‘Guess what? I got GODZILLA’. And I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? We just lost it.’. He said he needed me to work on it and offered me maximum hours puppeteering, which means more residuals and goes towards your health coverage. That put me between a rock and a hard place since I’d been at Stan’s for two and a half years and he doesn’t like to let people go. So I brought it up to him and it was a very sore situation because he asked what I was going to work on. I said ‘GODZILLA’ and he goes ‘Uhhh!’ He was a little sore that it was GODZILLA.”
“And after an hour of talking with Stan we left on good terms. He asked, ‘So what are you going to do in a year when GODZILLA’s over?’ I said, ‘I’ll come knocking on your door if you’ll have me back and it ended with ‘I’ll have you back.’ So I went away for a couple of years then I came back on A.I. I got to sculpt one of the main robots and worked on pretty much everything. It was a great comeback; I still love that movie to this day. I felt like, ‘Okay, I’m back!’.” Maitre stayed with the Winston team, becoming part of Legacy Effects.
“It was home,” Joey Orosco said of Stan Winston Studio. “You kind of get used to it because you work in a really cool place with dinosaurs and creatures everywhere. You get to wear what you want, play the music you want. And Stan always provided some great opportunities for newcomers. We gave a lot of chances to a lot of people. Get your feet in the door and work your way up, slowly. There were several, several people that came from schools and given internships. A lot of them succeeded and some didn’t.”
David Monzingo was a product of Winston’s internship program, joining the studio in 1993. “I met Stan when he was promoting TERMINATOR 2,” he recounted. “I interned at the studio in the summer between my junior and senior years of high school, then began working there full time on INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE.”
Orosco added that, “There was so much stuff going on there that, no matter what, something was going to get put on your plate and whether you were able to devour it or not it was up to you. As long as you’re doing your job and making Stan happy it’s rockin’ creating great makeup effects. That’s what it was all about.”
FINAL PREPARATIONS: CASTING plus MINIATURE and PRACTICAL EFFECTS
“Godzilla will be the star.”
Beyond the array of digital and animatronic effects, GODZILLA would have required a number of shots involving miniatures. While negotiating with Digital Domain, the production team also began talks with Stetson Visual Services, Inc., the miniature effects company run by Mark Stetson and Robert Spurlock. Mark Stetson came to GODZILLA with an impressive resume that included models, effects props and miniatures for such films as STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, BLADE RUNNER, GHOSTBUSTERS, 2010 (for which he received an Academy Award nomination) and DIE HARD.
“I had little involvement with the Jan De Bont Godzilla project. I only attended a couple of meetings in the capacity of miniature effects provider,” Stetson recalled. “Stetson Visual Services provided miniature effects services for Digital Domain on a few projects through 1994 — THE COLOR OF NIGHT, TRUE LIES, INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE. Digital Domain invited us to bid the project with them.”
While miniature sets and props were used extensively in Toho’s Godzilla movies, the American crew planned to take a much more limited approach. “I only recall that we were talking about set extensions of plates shot on location, and replacing key buildings for destruction. I think we also talked about creating vehicles in scenes for destruction, but that would have been very expensive,” Mark Stetson explained.
“There was no plan to create miniature scenes scaled to a ‘man-in-a-suit’ Godzilla — that approach was rejected by the filmmakers, obviously. So the use of miniatures would have been to create plates where a camera would not have been able to do so in a city environment, such as low-flying helicopter plates where such low flight is restricted in city streets, as well as action miniatures for destruction.”
GODZILLA was canceled before Stetson Visual Services was awarded the assignment, so no sketches, blueprints or miniature work was ever done for the project. Mark Stetson and Robert Spurlock closed the company at the end of 1994, and Stetson became one of the film industry’s top visual effects supervisors. He won a British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award for THE FIFTH ELEMENT (1997) and both an Academy Award and a BAFTA Award for THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (2001). Stetson was a visual effects consultant for the THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy and earned another Oscar nomination for SUPERMAN RETURNS (2006) before becoming head of feature films for the special effects company Zoic Studios (THE GREY, TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN – PART 2).
A major budgetary concern for the production were the film’s action sequences, many of which would require full-scale practical effects. A November 1994 Variety report noted: “Action sequence shots can cost anywhere from $80,000 to $140,000 per set-up. And with literally hundreds of set-ups being planned, it doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out the direction of the project’s spending plan, which could climb upwards of $100 million.” An unnamed source said, “Like SPEED, they’ve just got some amazing stuff. Scene after scene of tunnels and buildings blowing up… flooding the Holland Tunnel.”1
The larger scale, mechanical and practical effects for GODZILLA were assigned to Fxperts Inc (aka John Frazier Special Effects), founded by veteran visual effects supervisor John Frazier. Fxperts specializes in the engineering, manufacturing and operation of props and mechanical devices for films… their handiwork includes the full-scale Bumblebee built for the TRANSFORMERS movies, derailing locomotives for UNSTOPPABLE, hydraulic gimbles for the ships in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END, the Armadillo all-terrain vehicles for ARMAGEDDON and exploding battleships for PEARL HARBOR. Frazier has been nominated for the Oscar seven times, winning in 2006 for his work on SPIDER-MAN 2.
For GODZILLA, Fxperts would create all the practical effects required for the film. Their work would involve anything from vehicles (rigged to shake, flip over or explode), to scenes requiring real fire or water, to gimbles for fighter jets to shots of crumbling buildings and sets. John Frazier also joined production designer Joseph Nemec in scouting expeditions to find suitable locations for the filming of full scale mechanical effects.
A key role for Frazier’s team would be supplying any pre-elements the CG artists would need for the visual effects shots. This would cover any visual information regarding how the actions of Godzilla and the Gryphon would affect their environments, allowing the digital effects crew to depict the monsters and their performances as realistically as possible onscreen. GODZILLA concept artist Ricardo Delgado said, “They really wanted to mesh the practical effects with the digital effects. I know they did tests to have a false Godzilla foot collapse a house.”
“We did impact tests for how quickly Godzilla’s foot would come down as he walked or ran,” John Frazier acknowledged. The crew spent a day dropping a large weight — scaled to match Godzilla’s foot — on cars, asphalt, and other surfaces. Frazier also noted that, “Two miniature buildings were constructed and smashed in Van Nuys. We also ran wave simulations and water tests.”
In November 1994, Frazier and other members of the crew traveled to Lone Ranch Beach in Brookings, Oregon to start construction on the first GODZILLA set; a full scale Japanese fishing village that would be featured in the very first sequence shot for the film. “It was a scene where Godzilla terrorizes a Japanese island in the Pacific,” said Boyd Shermis. “It was really going to be in the movie, but we wanted to get started and to get the green light, so we called them tests.”
Designed by Joseph Nemec and built under the supervision of John Frazier, the set would include buildings, a dock and other structures that would collapse and break apart as if being crushed by the monster. Nemec disclosed that, “Initial construction was started in that we did the site layout, ordered materials, and did some preliminary framing up of structures.”
The footage shot at the fishing village location would serve multiple purposes for the filmmakers. First, it would act as a test for the visual effects teams as both Godzilla and the effects of a powerful storm would be added digitally to the scene. The early shoot would give the FX crews ample time to create the finished shot and work out any kinks or glitches in their new software. The finished material would then be used for a teaser trailer to be released in the summer of 1995. Lastly, the full sequence would be included in the final cut of the film.
This first sequence focused on Godzilla and did not include any of the main characters so it could be filmed before any of the leads had been cast. But with the various stages of pre-production falling into place, Jan De Bont could begin looking at actors to star in GODZILLA. TriStar’s early announcements had promised the movie would feature “A-list stars” while industry trades reported that the filmmakers were “going after top talent”. But Henry Saperstein didn’t see the need for high-profile actors, stating that, “Godzilla will be the star.”2
De Bont agreed with Saperstein’s take, and felt the Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio script gave him the freedom to keep the focus on Godzilla. “It’s one of those things where, as a director, you hope so much that you get a screenplay that is really fantastic, that doesn’t need any stars to make it work. Godzilla is the star… that is what we always said. We didn’t need anybody outdoing him,” he asserted.
“I didn’t want to have any big name actors in it, and studios always hate that. That happened with SPEED, too… finally, they let me do it without any big stars. TWISTER was very similar in that regard. And Sony was a company that uses big stars. When you have big stars you can make almost anything, no matter how mediocre the script is.”
This “no big stars” viewpoint was recently echoed by GODZILLA’s casting director, Risa Bramon Garcia (DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN, AT CLOSE RANGE, FATAL ATTRACTION, WALL STREET, JFK, THE DOORS, TRUE ROMANCE), who told SciFi Japan: “While stars are often desired, Jan wanted the leads to be real people and Godzilla the star.”
Bramon Garcia worked on several of De Bont’s early films. “I cast both SPEED and TWISTER. I was working with Jan on a number of projects.” Two decades after GODZILLA’s cancellation, her main recollection of the project was that, “Lots of storyboards and special effects were worked on. At that time, Jan was being cutting edge and adventurous in those arenas.”
“We did not do much casting and I remember very little,” Risa Bramon Garcia explained. “We talked about a number of people for GODZILLA… I can’t say who this many years later. Lists were made. Availabilities were checked.”
But others who worked on GODZILLA have said that Jan De Bont did have two known, if not yet A-list, actors in mind for for the leads. According to screenwriter Terry Rossio, the director was considering Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton for the roles of Jill Llewellyn and Aaron Vaught, respectively. Chris Lee also recalled, “When we were developing GODZILLA with Jan, he kept saying ‘I want Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton as the leads’.”3
A former child actor with a number of television credits, Helen Hunt was at that time starring in the hit sitcom MAD ABOUT YOU (1992-1999), which would earn her seven consecutive Emmy nominations — and four consecutive wins — for lead actress in a comedy. On the big screen, she had supporting roles in PROJECT X (1987) and NEXT OF KIN (1989), would win an Oscar for AS GOOD AS IT GETS (1997), and star in such high profile films as WHAT WOMEN WANT (2000) and CAST AWAY (2000). In a bit of irony, Hunt’s then-boyfriend Hank Azaria would later play cameraman Victor ‘Animal’ Palotti in the Devlin/Emmerich GODZILLA.
As for the potential male lead, by the time GODZILLA was in pre-production, Bill Paxton had developed somewhat of a cult following thanks to his scene-stealing performances in WEIRD SCIENCE (1985) and ALIENS. A favorite of James Cameron, Paxton worked with the director on (in addition to ALIENS) THE TERMINATOR, TRUE LIES, TITANIC and GHOSTS OF THE ABYSS. Further roles include NEAR DARK (1987), PREDATOR 2, TOMBSTONE (1993), APOLLO 13 (1995), A SIMPLE PLAN (1998), MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1998) and the lead in the HBO series BIG LOVE (2006-2011).
“I couldn’t really offer GODZILLA to them because the picture wasn’t green lighted yet, but I had them in mind,” De Bont told SciFi Japan. The director ended up using the pair in TWISTER instead. “I love them both, and they were really extremely pleasant to work with,” he said. “I think they were perfect together, and they were willing to do whatever is needed for the movie. They’re like real people… they reacted like real people. And that’s what I needed. Actors should not act that much. They should just try to understand the character and do as little as possible. Actors always try to do too much and become so overemotional and melodramatic.”
“We have so many brats in the acting section of filmmaking,” he argued. “They don’t want to do this, they don’t want to do that… ‘It’s too dangerous, it’s too much work, oh I need a double for this, I need a stand-in for that, shoot over my shoulder so you can use the double’. They get tons and tons of money for relatively little work. And it’s the studios that created those monsters, because they felt that the bigger the stars are the more chance people will come to the theater. They keep forgetting — and they always will — that you have to have a very good story first… without a good story, it doesn’t matter. And if you have a good story you can find any actor. It’s never about the stars, it’s about a good story and actors filling in all the stuff that’s being handed to them by good writers.”
With pre-production proceeding smoothly, producer Cary Woods finally felt comfortable enough to discuss the topic of possible GODZILLA sequels. “GODZILLA is a movie that we love, and a movie that we have a lot invested in, both in terms of time and in terms of studio finances,” he said. “So I would imagine that if it is successful, there’s certainly a precedent for doing more than one of them.”4
THINGS FALL APART
“We all were keeping our fingers crossed because there were rumors that Sony was about to pull the plug on the project. In fact, later on, they did.”
–storyboard artist Giacomo Ghiazza
“[Sony] said it was about the money and that our script was too expensive which is, of course, the biggest bullshit lie ever. It had nothing to do with the budget.”
–GODZILLA (1994) director Jan De Bont
Jan De Bont planned to begin filming GODZILLA in March 1995. Principle photography was expected to last six months, followed by several months of FX work and post production, with the movie being released worldwide in the summer of 1996. “It is a very big project. JURASSIC PARK was almost simple compared to this,” De Bont told Fangoria in late 1994.1
But just as everything seemed to be falling into place, GODZILLA was about to be undone by serious financial and managerial problems at Sony Pictures.
The situation had its beginnings in September 1989, when Sony Corporation of Japan purchased Columbia Pictures and TriStar Pictures from The Coca-Cola Company for $3.4 billion. An additional $1.5 billion was paid out to cover long-term debt at the two studios. Sony Chairman Norio Ohga and Sony America CEO Michael “Mickey” Schulhof quickly chose Peter Guber and his longtime producing partner Jon Peters to run their new studio. No expense was spared to get Guber and Peters on board; Sony entered into a complex series of deals that involved acquiring the failing Guber-Peters Entertainment Company for $200 million and paying $700 million to buy out the two producers’ contract with Warner Bros. That December, Guber and Peters hired their lawyer Alan Levine to be president and chief operating officer of Filmed Entertainment Group, which included Columbia, TriStar and the company’s other divisions such as RCA/Columbia Home Video. By 1991, this group would be known as Sony Pictures Entertainment.
As part of their deal with Warner Bros., in January 1990 Sony was traded the old MGM studio lot in Culver City in exchange for Columbia Pictures’ 35% share of Warner’s Burbank Studios. Consolidating all the divisions of Sony Pictures Entertainment in Culver City, Sony reportedly spent $130-150 million updating the 75 year old studio into a modern facility with state-of-the art equipment, while the building facades were redone by BATMAN set designer Anton Furst. “You can’t play the US Open on a ping-pong table,” Peter Guber declared.2
On top of the mountains of cash Sony Corp. was pouring into their new studio, Guber and Peters would ring up numerous personal expenses on the company’s dime. Each had access to their own corporate jet, their own personal chef, an in-house florist, their own private dining room and other perks. Guber’s wife and Peters’ ex were each given production deals and their own offices at the studio. Sony Pictures’ overhead was soon twice as high as the industry average. “These guys were just pouring money down the drain,” said an industry analyst.3
Despite this — or perhaps because of it — Jon Peters did not last long at Sony Pictures. In 1991 he was forced out by Guber with a $25 million payout on his contract.
Regardless of the high costs, Sony Corporation’s gamble soon seemed to be paying off. Under Peter Guber — later aided by production head Mark Canton — Sony Pictures produced and distributed a string of hit films such as THE PRINCE OF TIDES (box office: $110 million), A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN (box office: $132 million), BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA (box office: $215 million), A FEW GOOD MEN (box office: $243 million), SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE (box office: $228 million) and IN THE LINE OF FIRE (box office: $177 mil), capturing an industry-high 17% share of the box office. The studio also surpassed their rivals Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Universal and Disney with 120 Academy Award nominations between 1991-1994.
But Sony Pictures was also dealing with a number of costly flops, including I’LL DO ANYTHING (budget: $44 mil; box office: $10 mil), NORTH (budget: $40 mil; box office: $7 mil), CITY SLICKERS II (box office: $43 million, a tremendous drop from the first film’s $178 mil take), Bruce Willis’ STRIKING DISTANCE (budget: $30 mil; box office: $24 mil), the Arnold Schwarzenegger action-comedy LAST ACTION HERO, an $85 million production that ending up losing the studio $25 million, and GERONIMO: AN AMERICAN LEGEND, which reportedly lost $40 million. Sony touted its successes while repeatedly deferring losses from its box office failures, and by the first half of 1994 the movie divisions were $250 million in the red. Their market share also dropped below 10%, putting them in last place among the major studios.
In mid-1994 Sony hired the investment bank Furman Selz to sell off a quarter stake in the studio for $3 billion. When no buyers came forward, rumors began to swirl around Hollywood that Sony Corporation was planning to either shut down Sony Pictures or do a massive housecleaning and fire all the studio executives, starting with Guber. That September, Mickey Schulhof hired executive vice president Jeff Sagansky to assist in overseeing Sony’s US assets, including the film studio.
With the writing on the wall, Peter Guber resigned from his position as Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures on September 29, 1994. “Peter’s strength as a builder and visionary brought with it a certain style,” Schulhof would tell Newsweek. “That part of our growth is over.”4 Ironically, a number of films initiated under Guber — among them AIR FORCE ONE, MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING, THE MASK OF ZORRO and MEN IN BLACK — would be released long after his departure to great box office (and critical) success. Alan Levine would temporarily run the studio while Sony Corp. looked for a replacement.
Guber’s exit netted him a golden parachute of $40 million. Sony also agreed to provide up to $275 million in funding for Guber to launch his own independent production company, Mandalay Entertainment Group, which would make movies and TV shows to be distributed domestically by Sony. Under the deal, Mandalay would be allowed to take over production on some films being developed by Columbia and TriStar.
For stockholders, the big shock came in November when Sony Pictures took a $3.2 billion write-off based on financial losses and overspending that included a staggering $520 million in unfinished film projects. The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Sony Corporation with misleading shareholders. Following a lengthy investigation, Sony was fined $1 million… the largest amount the SEC had ever levied against a company not convicted of outright fraud.5
There was a prevailing sense of doom at Sony Pictures. One producer described the studio executives as being “paralyzed by indecision,” with no one about to greenlight a film or take any action that might bring down the axe from their bosses at Sony Corporation. According to Variety‘s Peter Bart, “The decision-makers at Sony were essentially looking for excuses not to make movies.”6
And into this minefield marched GODZILLA.
Now an executive vice president for production at TriStar, Chris Lee realized that Jan De Bont’s film was headed for trouble. The production department at TriStar had been going over the Ted Elliott/Terry Rossio screenplay in order to come up with a preliminary budget for GODZILLA, and Lee knew the studio was not eager to take on such a large-scale, FX-heavy, and — most importantly — expensive production. Meeting with Cary Woods and Robert Fried, Lee warned the two producers to expect the worst.
The negative buzz soon reached the ears of the GODZILLA crew. “We all were keeping our fingers crossed because there were rumors that Sony was about to pull the plug on the project,” Giacomo Ghiazza told SciFi Japan. “In fact, later on, they did.”
The production department estimated that GODZILLA would cost between $140-$180 million to make as De Bont wanted, and the studio immediately refused to spend more than $100 million on the movie. Upon hearing the estimates, Woods and Fried argued that Sony had conjured up a “defensive budget”, inflating the film’s costs due to the studio’s own financial and management issues. “Everything was being looked at in a micro way,” Cary Woods recalled. “And with a $140 million budget for a movie with this many effects, everybody tacks on another 30%. So the studio was looking at a movie they thought was going to be $200 million.”7
“They were talking about five times as many digital effects shots as had been done previously, and that was crazy,” recalled a member of the Digital Domain team who had worked on GODZILLA. “De Bont didn’t understand what was involved in all of that. He wanted a completely computer-generated Godzilla, which is certainly possible, it’s just expensive.”8
“Studios always have issues with the budget,” Terry Rossio observed. “I recall the line producer taking a page from our script, holding it up and saying, ‘This is a six million dollar page.’ It was a section of the final battle between Godzilla and the Gryphon, in and around the World Trade Centers in New York. At the time we were oddly proud of having written a six million dollar page!”
Despite the headaches, Rossio could empathize with the studio’s concerns. “The budget issues were totally realistic. Remember, this was just as CGI was emerging as a viable technology. I think JURASSIC PARK has something like twelve minutes, total — largely due to the expense. We wrote an epic Godzilla story.”
Sony reps voiced their budget concerns publicly, stating that some scenes would have to be trimmed or reworked to keep costs down. “This picture will be made, but it will be made responsibly,” one executive told Variety.
But Jan De Bont recently said Sony’s issues over the budget were, in truth, a smokescreen for what the studio really wanted for GODZILLA. “It’s just a long story with so many different points of view,” he told SciFi Japan. “But when you ask what the main reason is, they said in the beginning that it was about the money and that our script was too expensive which is, of course, the biggest bullshit lie ever. It had nothing to do with the budget.”
According to the director, Sony was using the situation to push again for a ‘less Japanese’ take on Godzilla, one they felt would appeal to a wider audience. “I told Sony that we still wanted to keep the character of Godzilla; we didn’t want to create a new ‘Americanized’ Godzilla because it doesn’t fit any story. They were extremely worried that the American audience wouldn’t go for Godzilla. I said, ‘I think they won’t go for it if you Americanize it. That would be the worst thing you can do to Godzilla’. Godzilla doesn’t warrant that, it doesn’t need that. To get a great audience you have to get people to like him and appreciate what he’s all about. And what they wanted to do almost immediately was change the story… have more fights, more characters that have nothing to do with Godzilla, big fights with other creatures.”
Throughout November and December, De Bont met with TriStar executives to hammer out a compromise. “And you have to understand that, all that time, we were in full pre-production… we had scouted all the locations, miniatures of the sets had been built.”
In an attempt to sway the studio executives, the GODZILLA crew prepared a display of concept art, storyboards, set miniatures and creature models. Winston Studio also sent over their Godzilla maquette, which was not yet finished and painted. “The early models were meant to be shown to the studio after they were aged and painted, but as I remember it never came to that,” said De Bont. “We showed the models to them and they loved it, but they still didn’t understand anything of Godzilla. They wanted a different type of Godzilla that more references a T-rex. I never wanted that; they were just trying to please very young audiences that only knew comic book characters. They had no clue what worked, and that’s such a sad thing.”
“They don’t know anything about Godzilla. With all those icons, why do they work? Because people identify with them the way they are, not how they could be. They put you in a different world, and you either like that or you don’t. But by drastically changing it, you’re basically undermining your own creature, your own character. And that’s what really happened with GODZILLA,” argued De Bont. “The behavior of the later ‘T-rex as Godzilla’ [the 1998 Roland Emmerich version of Godzilla that Sony ultimately went with] is too different from the original and too close to the Spielberg movies.”
Rossio and Elliot submitted their revised screenplay on December 9, 1994. This new draft was projected by the studio to cost $120 million to film, with approximately $50 million of that amount devoted to FX. But Jan De Bont felt the Elliott/Rossio screenplay could be made for a reasonable amount of money, noting that, “The script that Ted and Terry wrote had fewer big effects scenes than the one that got made in 1998.” Working with line producer Barrie Osborne and production designer Joseph Nemec, he reconfigured the budget for GODZILLA. “It was around $100 million,” the director said, “and we could show on paper how it could be done for that amount. CGI at the time was pretty new but I have a lot of experience with effects — more than most directors — and I know how to get them done and make them more original. And we had an amazing production designer and line producer who were extremely reliable.”
But to De Bont’s frustration, Sony rejected his offer. “They said, ‘No. no. We need somebody who can control cost.’ And I can guarantee it’s not going to be more than $100 million. What more do you want? Barrie Osborne’s a big producer, he’s a producer with real experience… he has worked on really big movies. He understood how to get this done, and if they cannot trust his budget who the hell are they going to trust? They didn’t tell me, of course, but they were going ‘We need a director who can guarantee it’s less than that.’ That’s a typical bullshit studio argument. They tried to find all kinds of arguments.”
The writers realized that De Bont’s GODZILLA was probably not going happen. “Ted and I are somewhat pessimistic by nature when it comes to film projects with very high budgets. It’s very easy to say ‘no’ to spending $100 million,” said Terry Rossio.9
As Jan De Bont went back and forth with Sony, Peter Guber suddenly stepped back into the fray. Guber was setting up Mandalay, and he decided that his first film would be De Bont’s GODZILLA. But Sony was financing Mandalay and (considering the reasons behind Guber’s departure from the studio) they were less than enthusiastic over the idea of launching his new company with such a huge production. Mickey Schulhof quickly convinced Guber that he was pushing his luck, and instead offered several “put” films — movies that would be automatically green lighted for production without any additional approval from Sony — if Guber would drop his plans for GODZILLA. Having netted another sweet deal for himself, Peter Guber abandoned GODZILLA to its fate.10
The talks between Sony and De Bont continued going nowhere, prompting complaints that the director was being difficult. “He’s tough and doesn’t want to do certain things,” said a studio source.11 By mid-December, the industry trades were repeating rumors that De Bont would be quitting GODZILLA to take on either Amblin’s TWISTER for Universal and Warner Bros., or FACE/OFF at Paramount. Hoping to keep him on board, TriStar’s production department met with De Bont on December 16th with a new idea: the only way to guarantee a lower budget would be to cut the Gryphon completely out of the film.
The suggestion was not well-received. “That’s the whole point I was trying to make to them,” De Bont insisted. “I said, ‘Have you ever looked at any Godzilla movies?’ The Gryphon was a perfect opponent for Godzilla and they wanted to cut it. We were all so upset about it.”
“And those decisions are made completely randomly, by the way. They’re not based on ‘is this good for the movie, is this good for the characters?’… it’s only based on ‘How can we save $10 million dollars or so’. But then they don’t realize that if you take something out you have to replace it with something else at least as good or the movie’s too short and the story development of Godzilla is completely useless. It’s gone, and the story just jumps from scene to scene with no point.”
By that time, the studio’s recommendation was not much of a surprise for Ted Elliott or Terry Rossio. Asked if he and Elliott had ever worked on a version of the screenplay without the Gryphon in it, Rossio answered, “No.”
But, surprisingly, a second monster — other than the Gryphon — did briefly enter the negotiations. Terry Rossio revealed that, “Sony made a request at one point that we create a sidekick, a Robin-type monster to Godzilla’s Batman. Ironic, at the same time the studio was coming to the decision they couldn’t afford a monster for Godzilla to fight, they were asking us to add another monster character.” While the idea would initially seem to result in a higher budget, it was intended to drastically cut expenses in the long run. “The studio didn’t have sequel rights, so they wanted us to create a ‘helper’ monster for Godzilla they could spin off and serialize. Yes, they were hoping to make a GODZILLA sequel without Godzilla. From our point of view, this was always a non-starter.”
“I vaguely recall that,” De Bont commented. “It was an absurd suggestion, of course. It would have been like Batman and Robin but you cannot have two equally important characters in a movie like this. To me, it was much more important to have a worthy opponent. Not a sidekick… I thought that was kind of silly. That also goes against the origin of Godzilla. He’s a unique creature; he’s a loner so the more of a supporting cast he has, the less important he is. I think that goes against the power of the character. I don’t recall all the details from that, but they asked for a lot of silly things. Unfortunately you run into that and, as a director, you have to convince those people how silly it is. And you cannot bluntly tell them it’s silly because then they really get upset.”
The director added that Toho also disapproved of the idea. “They had their own sidekicks, all those other creatures,” he said. “They have a ton of them so they don’t want somebody else to design a new creature that they have no control over. And I can totally understand that.”
With negotiations stalled, Sony paid Jan De Bont’s $4 million contract, and the director was off the project December 26, 1994. “My recollection is that we started with a budget around 150 [million], and De Bont was told he could make it for 145,” said Terry Rossio. “So he made those cuts, submitted the budget again, and then he was told he had to make the film for 140. He made those cuts, submitted his budget, and then was told to make the film for 135. Finally he said, ‘You tell me how much money to spend. Give me a final number, and a green light.’ The studio wouldn’t do that. So did he quit, or was he induced to leave?”
“It’s not so much that I left it,” De Bont clarified. “They basically let me go. They used the argument that ‘we want another director who can do it cheaper and faster’. These were the two arguments that were used, and none of them are true. I think they wanted a director that they could tell more what to do. And when you believe in a movie and you see that the studio is thinking something else, you have to fight for what you believe in. And more and more, the studios want a director that they can tell what to do. ‘Oh, you need a sidekick? I’ll put a sidekick in,’ without asking ever if that’s the right thing to do.”
“It was so disappointing. I’ve worked for 50 years in this business and I love filmmaking, but you ultimately get disillusioned. Studios were always corporate entities, but now they want to dictate what should be in and what should be out. They were never good at that. And that talent that is running those studios; there’s very little creativity there. They are basically lawyers. They’re better at accommodating agents and directors than developing screenplays.”
With De Bont’s departure, Sony Pictures shut down the production indefinitely. “Sony pulled the plug in December,” Boyd Shermis explained. “Sony Corp had just posted a $3.2 billion loss so they didn’t want to spend $120 million on the film, and they shut us down. Ironically, that’s a low number by today’s standards…”
Joseph Nemec remembered, “We all left together when the studio wanted to cut the Gryphon out of the film and Jan, rightfully, refused to do it.”
“It was a big crew, and [Sony Pictures] let us all go and they said they were going to redevelop it,” De Bont said. “And the redevelopment was the ideas that the studio had, that ultimately created the movie where Godzilla goes to Madison Square Garden.”
Henry Saperstein reacted to the project’s collapse with frustrated bemusement. Interviewed by Steve Ryfle in July 1995, Saperstein complained, “They decided at the studio that they were going to make the most special effects ever in a film. Well, they found out that’s a mistake; you should do it with the best special effects, not the most special effects because the most special effects drove the budget up to $130 million. So when GODZILLA’s budget got to $130 million, I for one said to them, ‘Hey guys, we’ve made over 20 of these films and we’ve never spent over $8 million, we had a guy running around in a rubber suit. What’s all this nonsense of computer generated graphics and all that?’. When I say to people, ‘What’s wrong with keeping the rubber suit?’, they look and me and say, ‘Yeah, thanks a lot’. Different isn’t necessarily better. Better is better, but more expensive isn’t necessarily better. But I’m not the one spending the money, they are.”
“I have said to the studio people, you take the same kind of a basic story that we’ve always done, and it’s always worked. And you put American actors instead of Japanese actors. And you build some sets that don’t look like they’re cardboard. And keep Godzilla hokey and corny, and the public will love it. What do you want to change it for? It’s an icon. Don’t make him slick… it won’t be Godzilla. The trouble is, it won’t cost $100 million and you can’t brag about how much you spent on it.”12
Jan De Bont firmly believed the character should be handled differently. “You either make it in a totally new way, where you absolutely believe this monster exists, or you make him like the Japanese do it, with a man in a costume, and then you can make it for $10 million or less,” he insisted. “But somewhere in between would be a big, giant mistake, and that is what I hope they’re not going to do. I hope they’re not going to use all miniatures, because then let’s just look at the Japanese movies again — that’s what they’ve been doing for 30 years or more, and they’re fun. Listen, I have every single Godzilla movie on tape. I know my monster! If you do it half right, that would be a mistake, in my opinion.”
“I hope they’re still going to make the movie because I really think it’s a great script, and it will be a great movie ultimately, as long as they do not cut out Godzilla! That’s what I’m always afraid of at studios — let’s cut out more of Godzilla, let’s cut more effects shots! And I say, ‘Well, that’s the leading star of the movie, and you’re going to cut him out? Just leave a blue screen in there?’ That’s what tends to happen.”13
Not long before De Bont left GODZILLA, Variety and other news outlets reported that the filmmaker had managed to shoot some teaser trailer footage at the Japanese fishing village set in Oregon. The story has been repeated many times in the years since, and Boyd Shermis thought there may be some truth to it. “I seem to remember that we actually shot some footage for tests. A few shots of a hut getting crushed [by what would have been Godzilla’s foot] were photographed,” he said.
But Ted Elliott remembered differently, maintaining that, “I keep reading in the press that there has been footage shot. That’s not true; nothing has been filmed for the movie at this point. So there is no secret Jan De Bont-directed footage anywhere in the world.”14
John Frazier and Joseph Nemec confirmed Elliott’s recollections, telling SciFi Japan that the Oregon sets were still under construction when GODZILLA was canceled. “We were in Oregon when we got the call that the studio had pulled the plug,” Frazier said, while Nemec added, “The fishing village set was never completed. We didn’t even get far enough along to warrant taking pictures.”
“It was a very ugly, ugly affair and I’m trying to forget it,” lamented Jan De Bont. “I was making the movie for fans of Godzilla and hoping to make many, many new fans. Roland [Emmerich]’s budget was initially less [than mine] for what he was going to do, though it ended up costing more. But they really liked that fact that he changed Godzilla… he Americanized it. That’s the key reason, and all the rest was just a bunch of lies.”
“They changed Godzilla, which is the dumbest thing that ever happened. It’s like changing King Kong into something else… it doesn’t work. The studio basically screwed the whole character of Godzilla and made it impossible to make a sequel. They killed their own franchise.”
“To realize they had embarked on a screenplay entirely composed of problems, without anybody pointing this out, seemed amazing to me.”
––GODZILLA rewrite screenwriter Don Macpherson
“We are going to make GODZILLA,” an unnamed TriStar rep told Variety in December 1994. “We’re going to reconceive it so it won’t be over $100 million. Anything over $100 million is too much.”1
No longer attached to GODZILLA, Jan De Bont wasted little time in lining up his next assignment. In the last week of January 1995, he signed to direct TWISTER for an upfront fee of $3 million plus a percentage of the film’s merchandising. “It occurred to me that a twister is a little like Godzilla,” said the director. “You never know if it’s going to touch down here or there.”2
Digital Domain was contracted to provide visual effects for GODZILLA, but had to wait while Sony Pictures retooled the project. “The studio is now rewriting GODZILLA to try to reduce the budget,” said James Cameron. “I was involved on a day-to-day basis on the biggest effects contract in history on that film. It’ll be interesting to see what the studio comes back with after rewriting the script. We’ve given them all of our input on how to maximize the bang for their buck. I was front-and-center ready, willing and able to play as creative a role as they wanted me to play to reconceptualize the visuals so that they were manageable from a budget standpoint.”3
Henry Saperstein, meanwhile, continued to push for a low budget, traditional FX approach to GODZILLA with minimal digital effects. “They’ve been revising the script to pare the budget down to something that is more workable,” he declared. “That’s a joke in itself: is $80 million better, or $70 million? What happens is that you get caught up talking in these boxcar numbers and suddenly someone says, ‘I just saved $30 million on the Godzilla movie,’ and somebody else says, ‘that’s like we earned $30 million.’ The trouble is, you never see a quarter in your pocket. But the budget has now been pared to $100 million. They cut $30 million out of it, and I am told out of Culver City that their goal was to get it down to about $75 million to make it a viable project.”
“I say to you, $70 million? Come on, we never made one for more than $7 or $8 million, and we did okay. It boggles my mind. I don’t want to make high tech movies like JUDGE DREDD or JOHNNY MNEMONIC, that die in one day. They’re very slick, but everybody sits there and there’s no entertainment. I like that Godzilla is corny and hokey, and he dies every so often and he comes back to save the day again.”4
Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio completed their final GODZILLA rewrites in the spring of 1995. “Technically we never left the project,” said Rossio. “A screenwriter signs a contract with a series of steps. We executed all of our steps, fulfilled our obligation, and then we were done. At any point they could have exercised optional steps, they just didn’t.” He expected the next director, whoever that might be, would choose his own writers for the project.
But Sony decided not to wait on a new director, opting instead to hire British screenwriter Don Macpherson to do a fresh rewrite of the Elliott/Rossio screenplay. A former journalist with credits at Screen International, Time Out, City Limits, The Face and The Sunday Times, Macpherson had written the BBC TV miniseries THE DARK ANGEL (1989) starring Peter O’Toole and received a great deal of positive buzz for his screenplay based on Henry Fielding’s 18th century novel Jonathan Wild which had been optioned by Jodie Foster’s Egg Productions. Based on the interest in JONATHAN WILD, he was tapped to do scripts for Terry Gilliam’s A TALE OF TWO CITIES and Tim Burton’s FRANKENSTEIN for Warner Bros.
Macpherson also did rewrites for ALIEN 3, the feature film debut of David Fincher (who, coincidentally, had directed the Rolling Stones music video that had so impressed Jan De Bont and others on the GODZILLA crew). The third ALIEN film had been mired in development hell for years, going through multiple directors and screenplays. By the time Fincher was signed, 20th Century Fox already had the movie’s release date locked, sets were being built, and there was still no final script. Regardless, the studio demanded that the director make their deadline, even as they second-guessed his decisions and offered daily changes to the story.
Don Macpherson was brought in to work directly with David Fincher revising the ALIEN 3 screenplay as the film was being shot. His efforts helped get the film done on schedule, and word began to spread that Macpherson could deliver quality scripts that also catered to studio concerns. “I had done screenplays which were smart and had both character and action. Apparently, that is a rare combination.”
These qualities led TriStar to want Macpherson for GODZILLA. “I was working on a very different project, POSSESSION, from a literary novel by A.S. Byatt at Warners. My agent David Lonner at CAA called with the proposal to work on GODZILLA. I was thrilled and immediately accepted,” he revealed. “I traveled to LA regularly and was working on projects for the studios, including Warners. But I was living and working in London when I was offered the job. That was a strength, since I was unaware of and unaffected by the current Hollywood flavours of soup available in all the restaurants. So I always approached it from the outside: essentially from what was right for the movie. I didn’t feel I had to please anyone. But I had been a movie critic for Time Out magazine in London so I knew and respected the original Godzilla movies as a fan. That wasn’t a position I felt others in LA necessarily shared.”
“I was a big fan of the Toho movies. I had watched them in London at repertory theatres. I thought they were pop classics and dealt with emotions and aspects of morality and revenge which were difficult to deal with in any other way — basically the post-war confusion, anger and remorse of a Japanese society which had been taken over by America. I realized I couldn’t get quite so ambitious in a big US popcorn movie, but I understood the purely cinematic way of storytelling of the earlier movies. The SFX were of their time, but the magical world they conjured up was fabulous. I liked the dreamlike, or nightmarish, quality of the movies, even though they were seen as camp or kitsch. But I always respected their pulp intensity, which had always stayed with me.”
Macpherson soon met with TriStar president Marc Platt at Sony Pictures to discuss the project. “I got the impression that there was a lot of division over the course taken: a lot of anxieties specifically over the budget,” he recalled. “There was a big disagreement between the director Jan De Bont and the studio. The problem was how to make the script for a budget. This was at a time when digital effects were much more expensive, but also more time-consuming than today. They were also much less realistic and less effective. So everything was a big gamble and people were getting nervous,” he related.
“Basically the budget for the original script was something like $120 million — already much too expensive for what the studio saw as basically a monster movie. De Bont had done tests and was insisting that they go entirely digital with the effects. The problem was that, in this version of the movie, it was ALL effects. Godzilla was in virtually every scene. So everything was an SFX scene. The figures came in for a revised version at something like $200m — way too high. Possibly this was a slightly political estimate to leave in enough slack for what was basically unknown territory. Anyway, they wanted ideally to get the budget down to about $80m, still very high for that period. But I think people were also nervous about the monster — and De Bont — running amok. If they budgeted at $200m, then what would happen if it went over-budget?”
“I was brought in because I could do action plus character, and had a reputation for thinking ‘outside the box’. Basically I assume because the studio thought I could save them money, but in a clever way. They don’t hire you because you’re an intellectual, but they like someone who can justify their thinking in movie terms.”
“I met with Marc Platt and — I think — one of the studio’s budget heads. But I was always surprised at the separation in the studio between ‘creative’ and ‘money’… it seemed that nobody could think round these two obviously related boxes. The creative and industrial sides literally did not speak to each other. Normally that’s quite a wise thing, but in this case it had literally become a dialogue of the deaf. I suppose it helped that I could see both sides, but essentially my approach was more creative rather than just technical.”
“Anyway, I had no problem asking about the budget, so I asked for a meeting with production to work out what scenes were making it so expensive. I think this was regarded as odd from a writer, but I got my wish. I thought it was nuts not knowing what were the most expensive types of scenes before I started a rewrite so I asked straight away what were the main budget problems. You have to remember the studio already has a script with a giant monster, Godzilla, emerging from the sea and tearing down whole cities in complete mayhem. That was the whole idea of Godzilla, right? The production people said there were three main problems: 1) the size of Godzilla — big was much more difficult and costly than small; 2) Godzilla’s interaction with water was also difficult and costly; 3) Godzilla’s ‘interaction with masonry’ was also difficult and costly.”
“So in other words, their main problems were with exactly the main identifying principles of Godzilla in the original movies and the new screenplay! Basically, he’s huge and he comes out of the sea and destroys buildings in a 2 hour orgy of destruction. I was shocked. To realize they had embarked on a screenplay entirely composed of problems, without anybody pointing this out, seemed amazing to me. It still does — but, hey, that’s Hollywood…”
Macpherson was shown a few examples of the concept art and storyboards created for De Bont’s version, but they didn’t have much of an impact on his approach to the material. “The creature design would vary with the budget decisions so I just kept the original in mind and used that,” he explained. “People get obsessed with minutiae of the monster’s appearance, but I wasn’t like that.”
But there was something he saw at the studio that did stick with him. “I remember in the TriStar building seeing a white board with the release dates of next summer’s movies. It was terrifying. Basically, you saw the crowded summer of titles your movie was going up against. A shift of a release date meant that you’d blinked. So it was all about confidence, fear, gambling… building a $200m juggernaut to go out into the world and fight for survival.”
“So you can see how the Godzilla legend appeals to the studio executives: they’re misunderstood, they’re angry, they feel persecuted, they want to destroy stuff. For an audience, it’s a kind of giddy fantasy, but for the executives it’s a daily reality. Anyway, armed with the budget calculations, I was able to work out a way of attacking the problem and, hopefully, coming up with some movie solutions which would improve and give the project more chance of getting made.”
“The balance between studio and creatives can be like a bloodthirsty boxing match, a tactical sumo wrestling round, a refined chess game, or a delicate French court like Louis XIV in which the king is surrounded by ‘yes’ men and power is indulged irresponsibly until the king’s head is eventually cut off. At the time I worked on GODZILLA, the studios were vainly trying to turn themselves from bastions of court-like personality-led power into more Japanese — or what they thought were Japanese — systems of rational self-interest, group and committee work, and a harmonious outcome with profits for all.”
“Of course, real life didn’t work out like that. GODZILLA got caught up in this transition and became a project in which the sort of directors that the studio ‘wanted’ to recruit were exactly the ones that this process despised; they said they wanted strong, creative directors. But they wanted them as a kind of ‘badge’ of creative excitement and had no intention of allowing them their freedom. So as a result, all the ‘hot’ directors had turned the project down. They instinctively knew what the job entailed and were rightly extremely wary.”
“In a production environment, that could end up badly. For example, before GODZILLA I had worked with David Fincher during production on the set of ALIEN 3 at Pinewood. The producers and writers had all fallen out, and the studio was very down on Fincher, who was temperamentally against satisfying any studio demands. They tried to f**k him over, he fought back, he won most of the creative battles, he did a terrific job, even though the movie didn’t do well, now he’s respected as a terrific Hollywood director — but he didn’t work again on big studio projects for a number of years. I saw David on the set of SE7EN, and he was still ‘out of the loop’ back then. No big studio would hire him because he was ’trouble’.”
“On these big projects — and GODZILLA was a huge project — the tension between studio and creatives is difficult. It’s a constant anxiety which can drive projects into the ditch. I think the original Elliott/Rossio script for GODZILLA was terrific, but the studio had got greedy — and the writers had given in too much. The screenplay was a strong but overly Americanized take on the Godzilla legend. It took away the very Japanese element of post-war nuclear politics and left Godzilla as a threat to America rather than the whole world, with a kind of moral dimension of regret and awe. That neglected the poetic aspect of fear and wonder from the original Toho movies, and the idea of a prior ’sin’ which had caused the mutation and revenge of Godzilla.”
“It was great on imagining the reality of a monster’s attack in America, the tension between the government desire for secrecy and the sudden — and very public — shock of the monster’s appearance. But, like many studio-developed screenplays, it was short on character and had too many extra sequences which didn’t deliver. It then started to wander and meander, not good if you’re trying to go for a tight story and each extra sequence is $10-20 million. That sort of studio pressure on writers eventually breaks them — never a good thing.”
“It was also so deft on the cute story and character beats that it felt very pre-fabricated, so that these moments pile on top of each other and erase their effectiveness. It got bogged down in the world of military bureaucracy — which is very like a studio bureaucracy — and so oddly became more about the process rather than the thrills. In the world of ALIEN, ‘the company’ is the studio while in GODZILLA the military is the studio. So all these big projects — like the current crop of Marvel movies — are really all about the people making them.”
“My theory is that Hollywood doesn’t really ‘get’ Godzilla, and once you get the special FX department in on the script, the tail starts to wag the dog. The only way is to go with story, character, like all the old great stories. And even then, it’s a tough battle. The studio always wants more from the writers, and Elliott/Rossio are more talented at that than most. So as a result, you could say — as the studio did say — it had lost its way. The irony with all this is that it’s usually the studio itself which makes the writers lose their way, but that is another story.”
“Also I thought the original script suffered from one central problem. I think it was De Bont’s idea to portray Godzilla basically as the Terminator; it was relentless, very much a Godzilla POV, so you neither identified with Godzilla nor with the scientists trying to protect the world. So from the beginning you were watching wholesale destruction and mayhem on a big scale. This was both expensive and — more importantly — wearying. Godzilla was on the rampage so it was all ‘look out, he’s a’coming!’ That sounds exciting, and it was exciting… for a while. The problem was that by about the middle of the story, you had lost patience with the whole proposition of Godzilla. What’s the encore? There was nowhere left to go; you had ‘monster fatigue’. Plus the monster didn’t develop over the course of the story. So I thought the audience would be fatigued and ready for something new — and the new thing wasn’t delivered. The debate was how best to resolve that, while preserving some of the great sequences and moments Elliott/Rossio had constructed.”
“So although the studios are often portrayed as mindless, they actually had a real problem: how do you portray Godzilla?” he asked. “My solution was a time-honoured technique, borrowed from the 1940s B-movie producer Val Lewton in his movies like CAT PEOPLE. Basically, it was the idea that a shadow or a sound could be more sinister than a monster glimpsed on screen. So the idea was to go from ‘Here’s Godzilla — get out of the fu**king way’ to ‘Where is Godzilla? Oh my god, I’m so scared what’ll happen if he shows’. It’s cheap and it’s effective. Also it allows you to spend more time with the humans on their character relationships, which you can pay off later. In that way you could build on anticipation and a kind of sensory world of sound and shadows, before finally revealing Godzilla in all his majesty. You could imagine it as building in a kind of foreplay before the reveal that could make the moment of release more pleasurable… I’m sure you get the point. In any case, as I recall, my bet was to reveal Godzilla fully only when he appears in San Francisco out of the water attacking the Golden Gate Bridge — and even then to leave some items behind to reveal later.”
“I cut out a lot of costly sequences, including a great sequence set in a tunnel going into New York as cars are trying to evacuate. Godzilla was stamping on the tunnel roof and people were trying to escape from their cars. Fantastic and really scary, but I thought it seemed to be like a 20 minute movie all on its own. I thought it didn’t add much to Godzilla’s powers and took away from the projected finale. Plus it was also going to be super expensive. I later discovered this sequence seemed to have been based on another script for Stallone called DAYLIGHT about an attack on a tunnel, so I don’t think I was wrong to cut it out. It had probably been put in as a ‘spoiler’ to another studio, but in reality it only spoiled the Godzilla movie.”
“So it was going to be very much ‘Where is Godzilla?’,” Macpherson explained, unaware that his take on the character matched that of concept designer Ricardo Delgado… each used the same words to describe the monster: “I wanted to see him as a kind of destructive ‘id’, so his exact shape or form was never the most important thing…”
“I also redid much of Godzilla’s later attack on New York, resetting much of the action from the water onto dry land. I remember trying to set a sequence in the Dakota building, just going in on the detail of escaping from a monster. My main goal was to try and restore the tragic elements of the Godzilla story, at the same time as keeping the goal of him tearing up and destroying stuff as much as possible. For me Godzilla was always like a warning, a kind of wrathful spirit or demon at war with society, angry at being disturbed by a modern civilization which was out of joint.”
“That’s the great opportunity of working on a pop classic for a big studio, you’re dealing with the most potent mythological characters ever. A lot of other writers think of this type of movie as schlock, but I’m the opposite: I think these are the heart and soul of cinema. It goes right back to the silent days of cinema, linking up between the real world and an imaginary world you build up as realistically as possible. I’m not sure we made it with GODZILLA, but that was always the goal.”
The new script was submitted to Sony Pictures in May 1995. Describing the rewrite, Terry Rossio said, “The basic structural elements were still there, but were being written in such a way that the budget would come down. Part of that process involved emphasizing the human characters and their story a little more.” But Rossio felt it missed the mark. “If there is one thing off about the draft I would say tone. You can always make changes or take a different approach, but especially on a Godzilla film, you have to get the tone right.”
But the studio was happier with MacPherson’s work, keeping him on for additional drafts while they began shopping the script to potential directors beginning that June. “They showed it around to directors, but I wasn’t involved in the process,” Macpherson acknowledged. “I believe David Fincher was enthusiastic and positive. He made a pitch to direct it, set in Chicago for some reason. I think the studio was intrigued, but dubious about going with Fincher’s ideas. You have to remember he was still seen as a risky director in those days. But I can only imagine what he could have done with it. He was also going to do a script of THE AVENGERS back then and did a Honda commercial as a test for some ideas. But they decided not to go down that road.”
Producer Cary Woods reported that he strongly wanted David Fincher to direct GODZILLA, but couldn’t convince the upper management at Sony Pictures to even take a meeting with the filmmaker.5 Woods and co-producer Robert Fried felt utterly discouraged by the studio’s attitude, while Chris Lee felt the best thing to do was step away from GODZILLA and wait for the right time to take a fresh approach.
Don Macpherson continued revising the screenplay, doing several drafts before Sony put GODZILLA on the back burner once again. “You don’t ever leave,” he disclosed, echoing Terry Rossio. “You just discover the studio has moved on.”
Fumio Tanaka, producer of Toho’s RETURN OF GODZILLA (ゴジラ, Gojira, 1984), believed GODZILLA was over at TriStar. “I don’t think the film will be made,” he said. “It’s very difficult to create an interesting story that features Godzilla [without another monster to battle]. I’ve heard the production budget has been cut. I don’t think that there are many American filmmakers that would want to work on a Godzilla movie that lacked a large production budget.”6
But the management at Toho were feeling a bit more optimistic about Godzilla’s future in America. To make way for the expected Sony film, the Japanese studio decided to end their Godzilla series with the 22nd installment, GODZILLA VS DESTOROYAH, in which the monster would suffer a fatal meltdown. “When Godzilla dies at the end of the first movie, a Japanese professor says there may be more than one Godzilla,” explained DESTOROYAH producer Shogo Tomiyama. “This time, even though he dies, the one who comes back for TriStar could be a different Godzilla.”7
“Gojira… I know that name.”
–GODZILLA rewrite by Don Macpherson
On May 31, 1995, Don Macpherson finished his first draft rewrite for GODZILLA. The following synopsis is taken from that draft…
An alien probe rises from the surface of Saturn on a trajectory for Earth, striking — and destroying — an American deep space satellite in its path.
June 10, 1999, the Arctic: Junji, a young man, and his son Hiro are ice fishing when a red, blood-like fluid begins seeping up through the ice all around them. A fissure forms nearby, the crevasse filling with the strange liquid.
June 15, 1999, San Francisco: In the middle of the night, Government scientists Richard and Jill Llewellyn are called into service, leaving their 15 year-old daughter Tina in the care of Jill’s younger sister. Two days later they arrive at the Arctic location, now an American scientific/military outpost where Junji and Hiro are being detained. Soldiers cart away drums full of the mysterious red liquid which, initial tests show, resembles an amniotic fluid.
As Jill begins running additional tests on the liquid, Richard explores the underground fissure. He sees what at first appears to be a huge stalactite formation but, upon inspection, is actually the teeth of a huge creature imbedded in the sediment. Richard finds the head of the perfectly preserved creature — a huge dinosaur — and climbs atop its muzzle to look down the length of its 247-foot-long body. Suddenly, the beast opens one of its eyes… it’s alive!
A massive tremor strikes the outpost, upending Jill’s lab. Junji and Hiro try to reach her, but are separated as the compound bursts into flame and a massive form rises from underground. Jill sees two massive rows of teeth before blacking out. She briefly awakens on a stretcher aboard a helicopter with Pike, a NSC agent who repeatedly cracks his neck. Pike says that she is the sole survivor of an earthquake. As the helicopter flies off, soldiers go to work on the disaster site, bulldozing colossal footprints in the ice.
Meanwhile, in rural Utah, the alien probe plunges into Lake Apopka, eerily raining fish and frogs on the nearby town of Traveller.
June 29, 1999, San Francisco: After Richard’s memorial service, Jill is visited by Aaron Vaught, a former student of Richard’s whose theories about dragons and dinosaurs have made him a best-selling author. Aaron reveals his suspicions that the outpost was destroyed — not by an earthquake — but by a giant creature. He also thinks other survivors of the disaster may be being held at the hospital where Jill was treated.
At the same time, the alien probe enters a cave opening at the bottom of Lake Apopka. Rising from water, the probe grabs dozens of bats and absorbs them into its own matter. The probe then forms dozens of “Probe Bats”, evil creatures standing 5 feet tall that sail out of the cave and into the night sky.
Aaron and Jill sneak into the Hawking Post-Trauma Care Unit and find Junji. Junji tells them the outpost was destroyed by Gojira, a legendary dragon that Aaron recognizes as Godzilla. The fisherman shows them his drawings… in one picture, Godzilla is locked in battle with a Gryphon. The discussion is interrupted by Pike. Jill demands answers, and Pike admits that he doesn’t know what they’re dealing with. After much wrangling, Pike agrees to take Jill, Aaron and Junji back to the Arctic crevasse in the hopes of determining what Godzilla is and where it came from.
June 30, 1999, the Arctic: The quartet discover that red-black amniotic fluid has been flowing from Godzilla’s “womb”. As they search further, Aaron details some of the Godzilla legends, theorizing that the monster must have an adversary; an opponent he was meant to destroy. They enter a newly opened ice cave, which is lined with intricate organic formations, a strange remnant of an ancient civilization with advanced biotechnology. Suddenly, a microscopic alien object swoops down and burrows into Junji’s eye. He screams in shock and pain. Pike, Jill and Aaron rush him to the infirmary.
Medics examine Junji and are horrified to discover the man’s collarbone and shoulder bones are shifting and distorting beneath his skin. Junji is medivacked aboard a C-130 loaded with the canisters of the mysterious red fluid.
In Utah, a herd of cows is slaughtered by the Probe Bats, their carcasses removed of limbs and organs. Survivalist Nelson Fleer spots the flying creatures as they return to their cave. The Probe Bats deliver pieces of their prey the alien probe, which assimilates the biological material.
In the Pacific Ocean, three fishing boats are capsized when Godzilla passes beneath at 40 knots, heading in the direction of San Francisco.
July 1, 1999: Pike brings Jill and Aaron to the Presidio, where a command post is set up.
A submarine is sent to intercept Godzilla, but the monster easily destroys it. The military considers using a small nuclear bomb to stop Godzilla, but Aaron believes it won’t work. He concludes that the red fluid that encased Godzilla was not food, but actually a tranquilizer that kept the monster in hibernation. Barrels of the liquid are brought to San Francisco and a plan is concocted to stop Godzilla with it. Helicopters spray the surface of the water entering the bay with the fluid, and as Godzilla arrives, he swims right into the trap. He bolts upright, nearly blasting Jill’s helicopter out of the sky with his heat breath, but the scientist manages to spray the red fluid directly down the monster’s throat. Godzilla slowly comes ashore, then, roaring weakly, collapses on the south side of the Golden Gate bridge.
Using six super-helicopters, the military transports Godzilla, suspended from cables, to a holding tank in Massachusetts. En route, the convoy passes Traveller, UT, where Nelson Fleer is about to marry his girlfriend, Rose. But as the ceremony get underway the church is attacked by Probe Bats, which fly off with several of the guests in tow.
July 3, 1999: Godzilla is stored in a huge tank at Fort Tuscarora, the tail sticking out one end. Aaron pushes for Godzilla to be studied while Jill insists that monster must be killed. They are joined by Tina who, wise beyond her years, says Godzilla is a force of nature and should be respected. Jill sends her daughter to Manhattan to stay at her sister’s for a while.
At a hospital on the base, Junji’s infection is consuming his internal organs, and has turned his face into a flat, eyeless surface. Whatever has invaded his body is taking over, and begins speaking through him. Before he dies, Junji tells Jill and Aaron about an alien race colonizing the universe by sending out probes that create a “doomsday beast” out of the local genetic material — by the time the alien colonists arrive, the beast has already conquered the planet. An ancient, biotech Earth civilization guarded itself against these invaders by creating Godzilla out of dinosaur genes, placing him in suspended animation to awaken when the alien probe arrives and kill it before it can reproduce.
Aaron deduces that Godzilla was headed for the spot where the huge fireball landed, and convinces Jill to accompany him to Traveller. There, they are driven to Lake Apopka by Nelson Fleer. The three don diving gear and explore the lake bottom, and discover a tunnel that leads to a series of caves. Jill finds what first appear to be a giant paw and, upon further inspection proves to be attached to the Gryphon, a giant monster with the body of a cougar, wings of a bat, and a tongue of snakes, created by the alien probe out of the smaller creatures. The dormant monster is awakened when Aaron lights a flare to get a better view. The trio submerge and swim for safety, and the huge monster’s roar is heard behind them; when they reach the lake’s surface, all seems normal for a moment until the monster rises with a roar and takes to the air.
After destroying Fleer’s jeep with a blast of bio-electricity from its wings, the Gryphon lands in Traveller. It demolishes the town, killing people, and exploding a gasoline storage tank before flying off. Rose is among the casualties. Hungry for revenge on the Gryphon, Fleer joins Aaron and Jill as they return to Fort Tuscarora.
Back in Massachusetts, Godzilla senses his rival’s appearance and awakens, despite a constant stream of amniotic fluid being force-fed to him. Pike initiates a plan to kill the monster, but the great beast breaks free and destroys the tank. Ignoring artillery fire, Godzilla walks to the shoreline, where he drops down on all fours before going into the water.
July 4, 1999: The arch-enemies are heading straight for each other and if they hold course, they’re set for a showdown in New York City. As Manhattan is evacuated, Jill takes a helicopter into the city, hoping to save Tina. The chopper pilot drops her off in Central Park, thirty blocks from Tina’s location.
The Gryphon flies over NYC, leaving destruction in its wake. A date clock on the United Nations Building is damaged, the inverted numbers reading “666”. Godzilla comes ashore, his foot smashing down on a gang of looters. As the battle of the monsters begins, Jill finds Tina and they try to figure out how to get off the island safely.
The Gryphon takes flight and crashes into Godzilla, knocking him back. The Gryphon keeps charging, slashing with its talons then unleashing energy bolts that knock Godzilla into the rows of buildings. Godzilla slumps against the ruins, unconscious.
Aaron says Godzilla can’t beat the Gryphon because of a restraining device implanted in the monster’s neck by the military, which gives him a constant dose of the fluid and prevents him from breathing fire. Using gunship helicopters, the military diverts the Gryphon while Aaron and Fleer remove the device from Godzilla. From a helicopter, the men are lowered on wires onto Godzilla and rig explosives to destroy the restraining device.
Aboard one of the gunships, Pike lures the Gryphon to the Empire State Building. The helicopter shoots through the building, causing the top to crash down on the Gryphon and knock the beast down to the streets below. Pike turns his attention on Godzilla — hoping to kill the monster while its weakened — but the Gryphon flies up and smacks the helicopter from the sky. The Gryphon lands and stalks towards Godzilla, but Jill and Tina stall it briefly by crashing a gasoline tanker into a gas main near the monster. The eruption forces the Gryphon back into the sky.
The restrainer is removed from Godzilla. As the monster rises to his feet, Fleer and Aaron use their line to repel to a nearby rooftop. The Gryphon dives at Godzilla, who fires his breath at his opponent, wounding him, and pursues the fleeing Gryphon more vigorously.
Meeting up with Jill and Tina, Aaron and Fleer run for the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. The four cross paths with Pike who fires on the Gryphon when it crashes to the ground nearby. His attack proves futile; the Gryphon’s snake-tongues lash out and drag Pike into the monster’s gaping maw. The Gryphon shudders, then cracks its neck in Pike’s habit… the monster has assimilated the government agent. Now aware that the red fluid can stop Godzilla, the Gryphon grabs the discarded restraining device and takes to the skies.
Godzilla backs away from the on-rushing Gryphon, stepping on the tunnel, which begins to flood. The monster suddenly flicks its tail and smacks the restraining device out of the Gryphon’s claws and out into New York Harbor. Jill, Tina, Aaron and Fleer flee the flooding tunnel, dodging the monsters’ feet as they fight. The helicopter pilot that dropped off Jill returns looking for Pike; he picks up Jill’s group instead.
The battle royal takes place in the East River. Godzilla breathes fire across the water’s surface, creating a steam cloud that blinds the Gryphon. Godzilla swims out to Liberty Island and sets off a compound of July 4th fireworks that bring the Gryphon racing to attack. Godzilla waits for his foe, then suddenly bends forward at the last moment and the Gryphon is sliced open on Godzilla’s dorsal plates. Godzilla reaches into the Gryphon’s chest and cracks its ribcage in half, then bites off his foe’s head and sets fire to the body. Godzilla tops off his victory by spiking the Gryphon’s head on the Statue of Liberty’s torch.
Jets move in to kill the wounded beast, but Jill convinces the military commander to call off the strike… Godzilla may be needed again.
Their helicopter is struck by a rogue missile from one of the jets, but is caught by Godzilla before it can crash into the harbor. He sets it on the crown of the Statue of Liberty, roars victoriously and sets out for the sea.
“I didn’t want to make the original Godzilla, I wanted nothing to do with it. I wanted to make my own.”
–GODZILLA (1998) writer/director Roland Emmerich
“When you look at our Godzilla, you won’t feel any nostalgia.”
–GODZILLA (1998) writer/producer Dean Devlin
In the final months of 1995, rumors began to swirl that Sony Corporation would be bringing in a new management team to run the studio. Chris Lee realized that a transition period would give him the opportunity to get GODZILLA back in development. And he knew exactly who he wanted to make the film: his old friends, Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, who had scored their first big box office success with STARGATE (1994).
GODZILLA had been sidelined in part due to budgetary concerns. But Emmerich and Devlin had developed a reputation for delivering big, eye-catching movies — and, more importantly, big profits — on relatively modest budgets (Devlin once stated, “We’re making high-budget movies with a low-budget attitude.”). Their UNIVERSAL SOLDIER, produced for $23 million, earned more than $102 million worldwide while STARGATE grossed $197 million worldwide from a budget of $55 million. And their upcoming $75 million alien invasion film INDEPENDENCE DAY was generating tremendous buzz in the wake of a successful Super Bowl commercial campaign. Emmerich and Devlin were now the hottest filmmaking team in Hollywood, courted by all of the studios just as Jan De Bont had been two years before. Lee suspected that bringing their low-cost/high buzz style to GODZILLA would be too good a prospect for Sony to pass on… it was his own brand of Peter Guber’s “Big Mo” policy.
“I think they do these kinds of movies really well because they have their finger on the pulse of the public,” Lee explained. “And they can synthesize elements of pop culture that we’ve all grown up on — the idea of an alien invasion, the notion of Area 51. They can take an icon like Godzilla and keep the essence of what is best from what was popular and has become sort of cheesy over time and reinvent it. They stay true to the myth but reinvent it for current audiences. And they never forget the humor, not broad humor but comedy that comes out of situations. They’re great storytellers and while they provide amazing visual set pieces, they recognize that those effects must always be in service of the story and characters. They never talk down to their audiences and they understand what they’re doing, which is broad-based, event entertainment. I thought they’d be perfect for GODZILLA.”1
Lee had already pitched GODZILLA to Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin several times without success. “They’d already closed down one production for budget reasons, and they were constantly offering it to me, but I didn’t know,” Roland Emmerich recalled.2 Undeterred, he went back to the pair once again, visiting them on the set of INDEPENDENCE DAY. “Chris came back to us again and said, ‘Why are you not doing this?'”
But the reason for not doing GODZILLA was obvious to Dean Devlin. “Both of us thought it was a dopey idea the first time we talked,” he recounted. “When Chris came back to us, we still thought it was a dopey idea.”3
Emmerich intended to follow ID4 with GROUND ZERO, a disaster pic inspired by one of his favorite movies, THE RIGHT STUFF. “At that time I had an idea about a movie about a meteor striking Earth,” he revealed. “And I had a whole idea how to do it. I wanted to do something like THE RIGHT STUFF, combined with a meteor strikes Earth. So, you have to go up there on a mission.”4 But then he and Devlin learned two films with a similar premise were already in development at Disney and Paramount. “We were on our promotion tour for INDEPENDENCE DAY and we’d been talking about some other ideas that didn’t pan out,” said Devlin. “We wanted to do an asteroid movie, but when we learned about DEEP IMPACT and ARMAGEDDON we backed away. And then one day in Paris I looked over and saw Roland sketching on his pad. They were Godzilla sketches. And I know when Roland starts sketching, he’s got the fever.”5
“It took Dean and I a couple of years to figure out that there could be a way,” Emmerich asserted.6 “Godzilla was one of the last concepts of the ’50s that had never been done in modern form — that idea of the giant monster as in TARANTULA or THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS. Why not do them again? Big Lizard eats Big Apple. I like it.”7
But the retro qualities the appealed to Roland Emmerich had been a major stumbling block for Dean Devlin. “Over the course of one year, I was asked to do GODZILLA several times. Each time I said ‘No’ — because this was the product of a certain time period, and the qualities it possessed belonged to that time,” he argued. “But finally I realized that THE WAR OF THE WORLDS was a product of its time, and yet we re-thought that and came up with INDEPENDENCE DAY. This picture could retain a certain ‘monster movie’ feel while featuring our own, original elements.”8
Chris Lee was thrilled by Devlin and Emmerich’s new-found interest in GODZILLA. But, even so, he did not have the authority to green light the film. Instead, Lee offered a “step deal”, an agreement that they would be paid to develop GODZILLA one step at a time until a new studio head took over Sony Pictures and made the final call. The filmmakers accepted Lee’s offer, but with certain conditions of their own.9 “I told Sony that I would do the film — but on my own terms, with Godzilla as a fast-moving animal out of nature, rather than some strange kind of creature,” insisted Dean Devlin.10
The Devlin/Emmerich development deal was announced May 2, 1996, much to the surprise of Cary Woods and Robert Fried, the producers who had brought GODZILLA to Sony and shepherded the project through four years of ups and downs. “We understood that we would be shoved to the sidelines,” Woods lamented. “That is the way it seems to work: you start something, you keep pushing, and when it finally becomes a reality everyone seems to forget your name.”11
Now that they would be doing GODZILLA, Emmerich and Devlin decided to familiarize themselves with the character by watching Toho’s 1954 film. “Roland and I were surprised by the serious tone of the original, but also impressed with the high quality of the model work,” Devlin acknowledged. “They had been smart enough to set a lot of the action at night and in the rain, which helped out a helluva lot.”12 But Emmerich admitted that he was much less impressed by the sequels, saying that he tried to sit though them, “Then I gave up. It’s just the same movie over and over again. They always had another monster in it, and I never get anything out of two monsters fighting. For reasons I can’t explain myself, kids all over the world kept watching these movies, in cassettes and at matinees.”13
Downplaying Roland Emmerich’s criticism, Devlin told the press that, “We’re huge fans of Godzilla. We think it’s an opportunity to do a really enormous film, to take it beyond what anyone has ever imagined could be done with Godzilla. We’d like to make a Godzilla that’s meaner, faster, wilder than anything seen before. But there’s no script yet, and there’s a long way to go.”14
Devlin revealed that he and Emmerich were drawn to the project, in large part, by the Terry Rossio/Ted Elliott/Don Macpherson screenplay drafts. “When Jan De Bont got involved, he developed a really good script and even though we decided to abandon that script and take a completely different direction, what it did tell us was that it can be done elegantly and you can do it straight. And when I say ‘straight’, I mean still with a lot of humor, but respectfully.”15 But he added that, “We’re not even rewriting those scripts; we’re starting from scratch.”16
Jan De Bont found Devlin’s words to be faint praise. “At that time, Ted and Terry were some of the best screenwriters you could get in the business… you couldn’t get many better than that,” he told SciFi Japan. “They were the one who really understood Godzilla. And it was a slap in their faces, because the moment that Roland took over they were immediately replaced.”
De Bont’s sentiments were echoed by Cary Woods, who had originally hired Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott to write GODZILLA. “I get it, Emmerich was the hottest director in town, but the Rossio & Elliott back story was so rich, Sony would have gotten three hit movies out of it had they only followed the plan.”17
“It was a very well-written script,” Roland Emmerich conceded on TNT ROUGH CUT. “It had some really cool things in it, but it is something I never would have done. The last half was like watching two creatures go at it… I simply don’t like that.” For Emmerich, the only way to create a great Godzilla film was to completely ignore the traditions established in the Toho movies. “I didn’t want to make the original Godzilla, I wanted nothing to do with it. I wanted to make my own,” he explained in an interview with CNN.
“We took part of [the original movie’s] basic storyline, in that the creature becomes created by radiation and it becomes a big challenge. But that’s all we took. Then we asked ourselves what we would do today with a monster movie and a story like that. We forgot everything about the original Godzilla right there,” insisted Emmerich.18
From the moment Cary Woods and Robert Fried had first pitched Godzilla to Sony Pictures, there had been two diametrically opposed views on how an American version should be handled. Woods and Fried saw Godzilla as a world famous icon primed for an update with modern Hollywood FX technology. This vision had been shared by director Jan De Bont and the team he assembled, as well as the management at Toho. But there were also executives at the studio — including those at TriStar and Columbia who had initially turned down licensing the character — who saw Godzilla as nothing but a campy, kitschy character that could never appeal to a wide, international audience without a complete overhaul. De Bont said this attitude was what eventually forced him off the project. And now Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin were willing to take on the film but only if they were allowed to completely reinvent Godzilla into something wholly their own. This was music to Sony’s ears.
With the studio’s blessing, Emmerich and Devlin began developing their take on what an American Godzilla should be. Once that was decided on, the duo would make their pitch to Toho. “We had been warned by Jan De Bont that if you want to make the slightest change to Godzilla, you meet enormous resistance [from Toho],” Devlin said. “That’s been part of the problem with getting any of these films done. And Roland and I didn’t want to do slight changes, we wanted a complete overhaul.”19 But the producer was confident they would win Toho over, stating, “So whatever direction we go we’re going to have to get approval from them. But we are very optimistic they’re going to like the direction we’re going.”20
“The Japanese want to have it looking exactly like Godzilla because they own the trademark,” Roland Emmerich explained.21 But the director wasn’t interested in that, saying, “The original, how Godzilla looked, didn’t make sense to me.”22 He also disliked TriStar’s previous Godzilla designs: “I saw the creature that they designed for [TriStar’s first attempt]. Jan De Bont created a Godzilla that was very close to the original, but it was not right because today we wouldn’t do it like that.”23
Rather than create a more ‘realistic’ interpretation of the classic design, Emmerich wanted to use the latest FX techniques to take the new Godzilla in a radically different direction. “We are living in a time when people have seen JURASSIC PARK and THE LOST WORLD and we don’t have the same kind of limitations the Japanese had when they made their GODZILLA. There is an American movie called THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS, shot in the early 1950s. This movie was done with stop-animation and it was one of Ray Harryhausen’s best works. Obviously, the Japanese saw that movie and said, oh, we should do something like that, too. But they had no clue how to do stop-animation,”24 he claimed, seemingly unaware the Toho FX director Eiji Tsuburaya had been well-versed in stop-motion animation and had even used the technique in the original GODZILLA and other Toho films. It was tight schedules and budgets — not a lack of technical knowledge — that prevented Tsuburaya from using stop-motion as much as he may have liked.25
“They couldn’t do stop-motion animation, so they just built a big suit and put a stuntman in — and that’s why it’s so bottom heavy. That’s why it looks a little bit silly,” he laughed.26 “They built a big rubber suit, but a rubber suit was much bulkier because, if it was too close to the human body, it gave away that there was a person inside it. It had these big, fat legs, and couldn’t walk very fast. It developed this kind of ‘Godzilla walk’. Now with the new effects technology we don’t have that limitation and it slims down the creature enormously.”27
A slimmer Godzilla meant a faster Godzilla which, surprisingly, was an idea the filmmakers said they got from watching the Toho films. “We realized that the reason behind the whole lumbering Godzilla was that they had to shoot a guy in a heavy-rubber monster suit and film in slow motion to give him some sense of scale,” said Devlin. And considering Godzilla’s size, “if you do the math, even if it walked at a gingerly pace, it’s covering a lot of territory quickly.” Emmerich added, “Godzilla can outrun any taxi, and that was the core idea for the movie. No one can catch it. Dean and I realized we could make a different Godzilla, a movie about a hunt, about hide-and-seek.”28
To visualize their overhaul of Godzilla, Emmerich and Devlin turned to another longtime collaborator, STARGATE and INDEPENDENCE DAY production designer Patrick Tatopoulos. “The original GODZILLA was one of the first movies I saw as a kid,” Tatopoulos wrote in his book, The Art of Godzilla. “It may well be the reason I got in this business. Godzilla is the monster all creature effects designers dream of designing. When Roland asked me if I wanted to design the new Godzilla, how long do you think it took me to say yes?”29
While enthusiastic, Tatopoulos also realized the pitfalls in redesigning such a well-known character. “On GODZILLA, I think there was a lot of pressure based on the fact that the concept was to create the lead character of the movie. Like the lead actor, basically. And also knowing that if people didn’t like the creature — if the creature didn’t work out — ultimately that would kill the movie. Obviously there was a psychological pressure.”
Like Emmerich, Tatopoulos had seen the Godzilla designs for the Jan De Bont version and felt that Ricardo Delgado, Crash McCreery and Joey Orosco had taken a completely wrong approach. “What they did which was a mistake in my mind was, rather than going in a new direction they tried to alter and make the old one better,” he said in an interview for Centropolis’ online magazine, EON. “And when you do that, first of all I think it’s very disrespectful. It’s more disrespectful for me to alter something existing than to take a fresh new direction. It means ‘Oh, your Godzilla is what it is, but we can make it better.’ I’m not saying that’s what their intent was, but I’m saying that to go to Japan and say ‘Well, we made the eyes and the scales more realistic on your Godzilla’, they just wouldn’t go for that… Roland pushed me and said to go wild. ‘We want something that will run 500 miles an hour through the streets of New York.’ That obviously dictates the design in that it can’t be like the old one, which was more slow and heavy. It’s really Roland’s pushing, telling me not to limit myself and that they would worry about selling it to the Japanese.”
“I could have just tweaked the old design, essentially modernizing it; but after hearing Roland’s views that seemed less respectful than taking a whole new direction with it. The old Godzilla was a lumbering beast, whereas this one would be a sleek and agile animal — Godzilla after fitness training.”
Emmerich faxed Toho’s list of rules regarding Godzilla’s appearance to Tatopoulos, but the artist never received the message. Regardless, Tatopoulos began drawing dozens of Godzilla sketches in between doing production designs for Alex Proyas’ DARK CITY in Sydney, Australia. “It was a very easy job because it was something completely new,” he recalled. “The only challenge was not to make this creature look like a T-rex or a gigantic dinosaur because we’ve seen this in JURASSIC PARK and even more in THE LOST WORLD when the T-rex runs through the street. But fortunately this guy doesn’t look like a dinosaur. It is a dragon more than anything else.”30
“I did some tweaking to give it something different. I gave him a chin. It gives him a lot of nobility. One of the inspirations was a character I loved as a kid, the tiger in JUNGLE BOOK, Shere Khan. He had this great chin thing and I always loved it; he looked scary, evil but you respected him. I thought, let’s try to give him a chin and I felt it still looked realistic but he had this different thing that you hadn’t seen before.”31
In May 1996, Patrick Tatopoulos met with Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, who were already losing interest in the project due to “event picture fatigue” from INDEPENDENCE DAY and growing concerns that Toho would veto their vision for Godzilla. “I ended up meeting them at Cannes; I finished DARK CITY and they were promoting ID4 in Cannes at the time, and when I met them they said they were thinking about not doing it,” he revealed. “I said ‘oh no, no way, come on! This is the coolest thing we could do together!’ I just ended up bringing them two drawings rather than the 40 I’d been working on because I didn’t want to get them confused, and specifically there was one that I was really excited about, that was my best one. And they both looked at it and said ‘Wow!’ and they said they would do it.”
“When Roland and I saw the drawings we just looked at each other and said ‘That’s it… that’s our next picture’,” Devlin recalled.32 “I don’t think Roland and I would have been doing GODZILLA without his creature designs, and his new concept of what it could be like.” Emmerich agreed, stating, “We had a very talented designer in Patrick and I thought he nailed it on the first try. I never wanted to change it.”33
With the design decided upon, the next major hurdle would be to convince Toho to sign off on the new Godzilla. So, while the filmmakers continued their promotional campaign for INDEPENDENCE DAY, Tatopoulos created four different color Godzilla concept art pieces and had a 2 foot tall maquette sculpted for a presentation at Toho’s Tokyo headquarters. “And that was actually the first time we showed it to Sony, right before we showed it to Toho,” said Dean Devlin.
Chris Lee was overjoyed by the new design, saying “It was just so different. So improved.”34 But others at the studio were taken aback by how far Emmerich and Devlin had gone with their Godzilla. “When Sony saw it they had a complete heart attack. They said, ‘Toho will never accept it! You’ve ruined it! Why did you do this?'” Devlin recalled.
Sony advised Devlin and Emmerich to reveal their revised Godzilla to Toho gradually, telling them, “You have to do this in stages! Show them the face first, then show them the body.”35 But the filmmakers felt that would be misleading and inappropriate.36 “And we said, ‘Look, either they want to do it this way or not. And that’s fair to everybody,” said Devlin.
Regardless of their initial shock, Sony’s desire to have Emmerich and Devlin make GODZILLA had only grown stronger. The duo’s INDEPENDENCE DAY had opened to record-breaking box office that July 3rd and was well on the way to becoming the smash hit of 1996… the film would make more than $306 million in the US with a total worldwide gross of $817 million (the year’s second-biggest hit would be Jan De Bont’s TWISTER). The movie’s blockbuster success also gave them additional clout in their dealings with Toho.
In September 1996, Patrick Tatopoulos and Roland Emmerich flew to Tokyo to present their take on Godzilla to Toho. Dean Devlin, who normally handled studio pitches for Centropolis, was hospitalized in Germany with a stomach ailment, forcing Emmerich to make his case to Godzilla’s owners. The visit started off, Emmerich felt, rather awkwardly. “The most embarrassing moment of my life, I was in Japan to show Toho — who owns the copyright for Godzilla — my new Godzilla. Before I did the presentation, they brought me to the Toho studios and there was Godzilla standing there with a sign around his neck that said, ‘Mr. Emmerich, I’m ready for your shooting call’.”37 The stunned director joked that Godzilla never got that call.
At a meeting with studio executives — which included Toho chairman Isao Matsuoka, Godzilla series producer Shogo Tomiyama and FX director Koichi Kawakita — Emmerich spoke first, describing what he hoped to accomplish if given the opportunity to make GODZILLA. “For the first time, I saw Roland trying really hard to get the job,” Tatopoulos recalled. “He’s used to getting what he wants, and I think before we had the meeting he cared, but he felt very comfortable. Until the day that we had the meeting, I could tell that he was throwing his heart out there and he really wanted them to know how much he cared about doing that project.”
With Emmerich’s introduction out of the way, Tatopoulos unveiled his Godzilla artwork and maquette. It was met with a gasp from the Toho execs, followed by stone silence. “After designing my last Godzilla, the one that wound up in the movie, I felt very secure and I believed we had something great. But the day I sat in front of the Japanese I thought, ‘what have I done? Am I crazy? They’re not going to go for it’,” Tatopoulos worried.
“They were speechless,” Emmerich recalled. “They stared at it, and there was silence for a couple minutes, and then they said, ‘Could you come back tomorrow?’ I thought for sure we didn’t have the movie then.”
“It was so different we realized we couldn’t make small adjustments,” Shogo Tomiyama disclosed. “That left the major question of whether to approve it or not.” That night, Tomiyama visited Godzilla co-creator Tomoyuki Tanaka, whose failing health had prevented him from attending the meeting, to bring him up to speed. Tomiyama wasn’t allowed to remove any design art or photos from the studio premises, and found himself at a loss when describing the Tatopoulos Godzilla to Tanaka. “I told him, ‘It’s similar to Carl Lewis, with long legs, and it runs fast’.”38 Tanaka would pass away in April 1997 shortly before the launch of principle photography on the TriStar GODZULLA.
The following morning, Toho chairman Isao Matsuoka gave his blessing to Roland Emmerich and Patrick Tatopoulos. “So the next day we got in at ten in the morning and the head of Toho started speaking to us about how different we had made the character, that we’d taken such a far step away from the old one, but their last sentence was ‘We feel you’ve kept the spirit of Godzilla. The sense of the character is still there; when we look at him, it’s Godzilla and nothing else. So we’re giving you the green light.’ Everybody applauded, and obviously for me that was the strongest moment of the whole show, at least until I go to the premiere and look at it. The whole process of fabrication and selling it to the Japanese was fabulous,” Tatopoulos recalled.
Emmerich reported that, “I simply went there and showed them the new Godzilla and said, ‘Why don’t you call your Godzilla the classic Godzilla and mine the new Godzilla?’, and they were kind of just fine. To the surprise of everybody, they went for it. Now they can market two Godzillas.”
“The answer was yes because it was so different,” said Dean Devlin. “They felt they could preserve Godzilla as he is, and yet continue him into a whole new generation with this new creature.” And, in several interviews leading up to GODZILLA’s release, Devlin repeated that Toho actually preferred the new Godzilla design to the original: “Toho sent word that if the technology had been available to design the creature in such a manner back then, their Godzilla would have probably resembled the creature we came up with. Dollar and technology limitations forced them to go with a man in a suit, but it wasn’t necessarily what they wanted — it was more a matter of practicality.”
“I think, because the previous one [De Bont’s version] fell through, we were lucky that Toho was more willing because they really wanted to make a movie at this juncture,” executive producer William Fay acknowledged. “I think it was timing and their confidence in Roland and Dean as filmmakers. They wanted an American GODZILLA movie to put a stamp on their creation and make it a worldwide phenomenon, not just with science fiction fans. And the only way to do that was with a big American movie.”39
Time would prove Fay’s comments true. In the years following the release of TriStar’s GODZILLA, many who worked on Toho’s Godzilla films expressed a lack of enthusiasm — in some cases, abject loathing — for the Devlin/Emmerich GODZILLA. But it had been many years since a Japanese Godzilla film received a worldwide theatrical release, and most of the recent movies hadn’t been distributed outside Asia so Toho was eager to make Godzilla an international franchise again. An American GODZILLA movie would put the character back in the public eye in a big way and potentially increase the demand for Toho’s own films. And the company stood to make millions from the American GODZILLA… but only if it were made. Toho was well aware that TriStar had struggled for four years to get the film off the ground; that a number of A-list directors had turned the project down; that Jan De Bont’s attempt had collapsed; and that TriStar would likely abandon GODZILLA if Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin didn’t make the picture. There was simply too much to lose for Toho to say ‘no’.
Even so, Toho did ask for small adjustments to the Godzilla design to keep it in line with the rules they’d given TriStar back in 1992. “The first one is that I created the character with two rows of fins on the back,” Patrick Tatopolous told EON. “It was funny because the head of Toho said the old Godzilla had one row of fins on his back and all the other Japanese men looked at him and said ‘no no, it was three rows!’ It was actually very funny to realize that the head of Toho f***ed up! He was very nice and everybody laughed and it created kind of a more relaxing atmosphere after that. That was after they gave us the green light. And I added another row of fins in the center but did it in a way that it didn’t distract from the main design, but it’s there and you can see it.” Toho also reduced the number of fingers on Godzilla’s hands; the monster had always had four fingers but Tatopoulos had included a fifth vestigial digit in his design. “Everything else really stayed the same, the color and everything else they really went for.”
Devlin also found Toho supportive, saying, “Once they signed off on that conceptually, they pretty much let us make the picture we wanted to make. But they still come down and they look at things because they want to make sure it’s being handled properly. And I don’t blame them because it’s been a big franchise for them for a long time.”40
With Toho having approved Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin’s vision, the next step for the filmmakers was to write the screenplay. GODZILLA had still not been given the green light by TriStar, so Emmerich and Devlin agreed to write a screenplay completely on spec, with the condition that the studio would approve it immediately or let the script revert to them. In one of his last acts as head of production for Sony Pictures, Mark Canton approved the deal.
That October, Emmerich and Devlin traveled to Emmerich’s vacation home in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to craft the film’s story. “We wrote the first draft fairly quickly, in five and half weeks in Mexico,” said Devlin. “And of course we revise it as we work on it, but for the most part, structurally, it hasn’t changed at all.”
Emmerich and Devlin incorporated a few minor elements from the Ted Elliott/Terry Rossio GODZILLA script (with the former writers getting a “story by” credit) while taking the story in a completely different direction from previous attempts. Most of the story was set in New York City, while the Gryphon, Probe Bats and alien creatures prominently featured in the earlier GODZILLA screenplays were eliminated. By removing these elements, the filmmakers expected to make the film for a much lower budget than had been projected in 1994.
They also tossed out the back story Elliott and Rossio created for the monster. “Godzilla is the result of nuclear testing, and that is something we felt pretty strongly about not abandoning,” said Devlin. “In some of the early drafts of the script by others, they had Godzilla being an alien planted here. What Japan had originally come up with regarding nuclear radiation — you can’t abandon that. It’s too important to what Godzilla is all about.”
Despite the obvious physical changes Devlin and Emmerich were bringing to Godzilla, making the monster “all about” radiation could potentially have gone a long way towards tying the American version back to the character’s roots. In a 1991 interview, original Toho GODZILLA director Ishiro Honda said “Godzilla as the embodiment of the fear of the atomic bomb” was the starting framework he, producer Tomoyuki Tanaka and FX director Eiji Tsuburaya had worked from when creating the character and making the first film in 1954. “The top question regarding that film was the fear associated with what was then known as the atomic bomb,” Honda explained. “When I returned from the war and passed through Hiroshima, there was a heavy atmosphere — a fear that the Earth was already coming to an end. That became my basis. From my standpoint as the film’s director, I thought this premise was most appropriate.”41
Toho director Jun Fukuda (GODZILLA VS THE SEA MONSTER, GODZILLA VS MEGALON) espoused a similar sentiment when interviewed for the BBC documentary, GODZILLA KING OF THE MONSTERS. “I thought of Godzilla as the embodiment of violence and hatred for mankind because he was created by atomic energy,” he said. “He carried this rage within him because of his origins. He’s like a symbol of humanity’s complicity in their own destruction. He doesn’t have an emotion… he is an emotion.”
But Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich decided to treat the nuclear subject with little more than lip service. Like any number of 1950s American monster movies, radiation is blamed for the creature’s origin but has little bearing on the rest of the story. The symbolic qualities attributed to Godzilla since the character’s creation were abandoned in favor of making Godzilla nothing more than a very big animal. As Emmerich revealed in TriStar’s production notes for the film, “Godzilla disturbs the life of a busy city, but it becomes frightening because it behaves like a trapped animal trying to survive. The scariness comes from the sheer fact that you have to deal with a huge, unpredictable animal.” PatricK Tatopoulos concurred, saying, “We were creating an animal. We weren’t creating a monster.”42
As an animal, the American Godzilla would be vulnerable to mankind’s weapons. So rather than barreling through an onslaught of missiles and rocket fire as the Japanese Godzilla had done in film after film, the new Godzilla would use its abilities to avoid attack. In addition to its incredible speed, Godzilla would be able to hide from enemies by tunneling underground. “We discovered that certain kinds of lizards can burrow, so we decided to give him that capability,”43 Devlin observed. Another protective characteristic — though abandoned during production — was skin that could change colors like a chameleon, allowing Godzilla to blend into its surroundings.
Sticking to their ‘animal, not monster’ rule, the filmmakers also abandoned one of Godzilla’s most popular trademarks; the legendary radioactive breath. “The making of GODZILLA  was really special, and what was most special was making radiation visual,” Ishiro Honda said in 1991. “By opening his maw and simply exhaling, Godzilla can vaporize an entire building. As a tangible substance, radiation is probably much like that. But considered from the point of view of the film, for Godzilla to exhale radioactive fire is not unnatural.”44 But Emmerich and Devlin disagreed with Godzilla’s creators, believing there was no scientific rationale for Godzilla to have such a weapon. Instead, the filmmakers replaced the radioactive breath with “power breath”… the new Godzilla would simply exhale and blow objects away with a big gust of wind.
With all of the powerful and destructive attributes of the Toho version stripped away, the new Godzilla would be a threat to mankind because of its ability to rapidly spawn more Godzillas. While Toho’s Godzilla had adopted a son or two over the decades, he had always been promoted by the studio as a male character — the ‘King of the Monsters’ — and often portrayed with a tough guy swagger by suit actor Haruo Nakajima. But TriStar’s Godzilla would lay hundreds of eggs at a time via parthenogenesis, a type of asexual reproduction used by some lizard species. These eggs would hatch Baby Godzillas, who would rapidly grow to each have hundreds of young of their own, quickly overrunning the planet.
While Devlin and Emmerich were in Puerto Vallarta, the long-rumored changes were afoot in Culver City. Mark Canton was fired and Sony Corporation announced that John Calley would take over as President and Chief Operating Officer of Sony Pictures Entertainment in early November. Calley brought decades of experience to the job, having been Executive Vice President of Filmways from 1961-1968 and an executive at Warner Bros. from 1968-1981. After spending a few years as an independent producer, he became President and COO of United Artists Pictures, overseeing such hits as LEAVING LAS VEGAS (1995), THE BIRDCAGE (1996) and the James Bond relaunch GOLDENEYE (1995). Calley would be bringing in his own group of executives to run Sony Pictures, and their top priority was to develop franchises for the studio.
The first draft screenplay for the new GODZILLA was submitted to Sony on December 19, 1996. John Calley had not yet assumed his position at the studio, but he read the script and then forwarded it to Bob Levin, president of worldwide marketing for Sony Pictures Entertainment. Levin was considered a master of film marketing; while at The Walt Disney Co. he oversaw the campaigns for the hits GOOD MORNING VIETNAM (1987), PRETTY WOMAN (1990) and THE LION KING (1994), and had come to Sony to launch successful campaigns for JERRY MAGUIRE and MEN IN BLACK. Calley wanted his input on whether or not the Devlin/Emmerich GODZILLA was a marketable commodity. “In this realm, it’s critical,” Calley insisted. “I mean, if Bob throws up his hands and says, ‘I don’t know what to do with a giant lizard,’ we’re all going to be scratching our heads.”45
Calley was delighted when Levin signed off on the project, the new president to-be saying, “Everybody saw the potential of this.” GODZILLA could be exactly what Sony was looking for — a recognizable name brand that could be widely marketed with merchandising, theme park rides, cartoons and advertising campaigns. The movie itself would only be the start; Sony wanted to be in the Godzilla business and reap years of ancillary profits from the character. “Of course, we’re all artists here, and we try not to confuse ourselves with commercial considerations,” he remarked. “Just kidding.”46
Assured that the film would deliver the desired profit opportunities, Calley called Dean Devlin to tell him, “I read your script of GODZILLA. I want to assure you that I will make your movie.”47
A deal was soon green lighted for Roland Emmerich’s production company, Centropolis Entertainment, to make GODZILLA for Sony Pictures. Emmerich and Dean Devlin were given creative freedom to write, produce and direct the film while TriStar would handle financing, distribution and merchandising deals. The Centropolis duo would also receive 15% first dollar gross on the film. Original GODZILLA producers Cary Woods and Robert Fried would be credited as executive producers on the film but Devlin and Emmerich would be the ones calling the shots. Woods later commented that, despite having a credit on the Emmerich/Devlin movie, he didn’t really feel he was a part of it.
And GODZILLA would only be the first step for the pair; Centropolis was also lined up for two sequels with options for additional non-Godzilla movies. “What John Calley has done is he’s set us up as a mini-studio to hopefully become for them one day down the line, their Amblin. It’s a real vote of confidence from the studio in that they’re basically trusting us to bring them tent-pole movies,” Devlin told EON.
GODZILLA would be the crown jewel of John Calley’s new Sony Pictures, with enough financial support for a large scale production and promotional campaign. “I consider their deal to basically be the cornerstone for this studio,” Chris Lee enthused.48
Rob Fried was baffled that Sony’s management not only approved of Devlin and Emmerich’s take on GODZILLA, but had basically signed over creative control to Centropolis. “They had the wrong creative sensibility: they let Roland and Dean go,” he complained. “There was no understanding of the property and what it was all about. They handed the keys to the studio to a couple of guys who happened to have a hit film.”49 But new TriStar Pictures President Robert Cooper believed in the duo’s track record of delivering big movies on a budget, arguing, “This is such a huge film, and doing a movie with such size at a price is an ideal situation. That’s what these guys bring to the party.”50
Early estimates placed GODZILLA’s production costs in the range of $65 million, though those numbers were soon revised upward. “We’re going to try to do it for a shade under $90 million,” Devlin revealed. “That’s more than ID4, which came in a shade above $70 million. This one is harder because it requires more mechanical effects, and CGI effects. “We hope to save money in other areas, because both Roland I are dead set against these $100 million budgets.”51
Asked if they would be using Digital Domain, the digital effects house that had been contracted to work on Jan De Bont’s version, Devlin replied, “Whether or not that’s going to make economical sense for us to do that, I can’t say. We’ve always had a very good experience using our own people and developing our own special effects and not going to the top places in town, So far, I don’t think our quality has suffered at all.”52
Emmerich and Devlin ended up reassembling much of the team they has used on INDEPENDENCE DAY, including Patrick Tatopoulos, visual effects supervisor Volker Engel, miniature effects supervisor Joe Viskocil mechanical effects supervisor Clay Pinney and executive producer William Fay. The assignment was a dream come true for Engel, who — in his foreword for the official movie tie-in book The Making of Godzilla — wrote about seeing Toho’s DESTROY ALL MONSTERS in a German theater with his father: “It was a revelation: I wanted to be part of the film industry. Life would never be the same again. I was seven years old.”53 He continued, “When Japanese producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, director Ishiro Honda, and effects wizard Eiji Tsuburaya filmed the original GODZILLA in 1954, they created the classic monster movie. It is an honor for me to walk in Tsuburaya’s footprints, having the chance to use traditional effects and high-end computer animation at the same time to get the best of both worlds.”54
Plans were for Godzilla and the Baby Godzillas to be realized onscreen through a variety of effects techniques. A digital Godzilla model — nicknamed ‘Fred’ by the crew — was constructed by Viewpoint DataLabs for scenes involving CGI, while Patrick Tatopoulos’ studio also built a 24th-scale Godzilla suit (worn by stuntman Kurt Carley) and a 6th-scale animatronic torso with head and arms for shots in which Godzilla had to interact with models and props.
But over time, many of the shots planned for the suit and animatronics were switched to CG. The film ended up with approximately 400 digital shots — 185 featuring Godzilla — while Tatopoulos’ live action versions were only used for two dozen. William Fay noted that, “Even in those cases that would seem to be a natural for animatronics, we sometimes used CG. There was one scene where Godzilla’s chin scoops down and smashes into a roadway. We did part of it in CG because the motion of that swooping down was something we couldn’t really get with animatronics.”
Volker Engel added that computer animation was more effective in portraying the monster’s movement. “This Godzilla is a very animal-like, fast-moving, fierce creature,” he asserted. “With key frame animation, you’re 100% free; we can have the creature really move. To give it that really strange creature-feel in terms of motion, you really have to use key frame. We discovered that in the CG realm, for example, we can go a lot closer to the creature than we’d anticipated and it looks really good… really detailed.”
The North American theatrical release of GODZILLA was set for May 20, 1998, the Wednesday before Memorial Day weekend (7:00pm advance showings would later be added for the night before). Sony Pictures’ reasoning was obvious; that week had been considered prime for launching a movie since the original STAR WARS in 1977. More recently, the first installment of Tom Cruise’s MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE franchise had opened to $56.8 million in 1996 while THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK debuted with $90.2 million in 1997. By announcing GODZILLA for Memorial Day 1998, Sony was warning away any potential box office competition from rival studios. But staking a claim so far in advance also had its pitfalls. “They announced the release date — Memorial Day — so now the movie has to hit a date rather than allowing the movie to get made and be the best it could be,” said Rob Fried.55
One of Emmerich and Devlin’s first demands caught Bob Levin and his team completely by surprise: the pair insisted that Sony couldn’t use any full body images or head shots of the new Godzilla in marketing the film. “When GODZILLA started,” Devlin explained, “Roland and I — as fans now, not as filmmakers — started complaining that there’d been a tendency recently in Hollywood to show the entire movie in a trailer. And this made us crazy. Look, you already know so much about GODZILLA. You know it’s a big lizard. You know it comes to a city. You know the military tries to kill it and they can’t… it’s in 22 other Godzilla movies. So we said, ‘What do we have in this movie? We have a new creature. You know what? Let’s not show it and give a reward to the people that come to the theater.'”56
While the idea had its merits — the trailer for MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, for example, gave away that movie’s ending — the filmmakers plan for extreme secrecy was met with silence, then complaints. Emmerich recalled that, “All of a sudden somebody said, ‘What do we do about all the toy people? And all the merchandise?’ The studio knew that if one picture came out, all the merchandisers would throw everything into the shops, and all of a sudden you’d see Godzilla in all of these toy versions before you’d seen the real thing. So that became another big story in the press. It was actually a nightmare when you think about it because you scramble to do your movie, and then you have to deal with that shit.”57
“In the beginning,” Levin said, “we got indications from them that they really didn’t think that the full figure Godzilla should be at all exposed prior to the release of the film. While initially we reacted negatively to that, once we understood their thinking behind it, it became completely acceptable to us.”58 The marketing head tried to turn the concept to the film’s advantage, saying, “We’re generating excitement by keeping the look of the new Godzilla a closely guarded secret.”59
While the “you can’t show Godzilla” campaign caused some problems with potential licensees, in the end nearly 300 companies signed on with each agreeing not to display any products revealing the entire monster before the film opened in theaters. The $150 million promotion included approximately 3,000 GODZILLA tie-ins from the likes of Duracell, Kodak, Galoob, Hershey’s, Scholastic, Ero Industries, Dreyers, KFC, General Mills, The Bibb Company, Swatch, Equity Toys, Harper Collins, Giant, SRM, Kirin and Trendmasters. Taco Bell alone ponied up $60 million for an advertising campaign featuring their new gordita tacos, the company’s chief marketing officer Vada Hill exclaiming, “Godzilla and our chihuahua really love gorditas!”60
“There’s nothing close to the size and the scope of what this event is going to be in 1998,” said DeWayne Booker, senior vice president of marketing for the Trendmasters, the company producing a line of GODZILLA toys.61
Roland Emmerich’s first directing assignment on GODZILLA was not for the film itself, but rather for a teaser that would debut almost a year before the movie’s release. Budgeted at $600,000, the trailer was a standalone piece with scenes that would not be included in the finished film. Set at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City it showed Godzilla’s foot crashing through a ceiling skylight to pulverize the skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex, ending with the film’s original tagline, “Guess who’s coming to town?”
Released with Columbia Pictures’ MEN IN BLACK on July 2, 1997, the GODZILLA teaser elicited cheers and applause from audiences. The reaction was so overwhelmingly ethusiastic that some theaters began advertising that the GODZILLA trailer would be shown before screenings of MEN IN BLACK. The trailer also benefited from MIB’s tremendous success; the film would top the box office for 1997 and become the high grossing movie to that point in Columbia’s history, meaning the promo was also widely seen. GODZILLA had broken into the public consciousness in a very big — and positive — way.
Principal photography began in New York City in May 1997 with a cast headed by Matthew Broderick (FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF, WARGAMES) Jean Reno (LEON, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE), Maria Pitillo (CHAPLIN, TRUE ROMANCE) and Hank Azaria (THE SIMPSONS, THE BIRDCAGE). “New York is just brutal, as far as cost,” said Devlin. “It’s a great city to shoot, it looks gorgeous, but it’s very expensive. The fact that we were able to get out of New York only one day over schedule was amazing. I attribute all of that to Roland. We were shooting for four and a half weeks. We were blocking off ten square city blocks at a time. It was a huge logistical nightmare trying to shoot in the city, plus the traffic jam we were creating. It was really hard to pull off.”
Adding to the shoot’s difficulties was Emmerich and Devlin’s decision to set most of the story in the rain, which required the crew to set up artificial rain machines. “Most of the film is at night and in rain, so that even when the audience sees Godzilla, they don’t get a clear view of it,” Devlin explained. “The look, with the darkness and the rain, is much grittier than anything we’ve ever done before, and we hope that this will help augment the mystery and danger of Godzilla. Sometimes, what you don’t see is almost more terrifying than what you do see.”
Emmerich was exasperated by criticism that the rain was done to hide flaws in the visual effects. “People were saying, ‘Oh, there’s a lot of rain so they don’t have to show him so it’s like cheapero.’ No, other way around. It’s more expensive because you have to composite layer upon layer of rain. You wouldn’t believe how many discussions we had. We had never-ending discussions about rain,” he insisted.
Devlin claimed the idea was inspired by Toho’s 1954 GODZILLA, saying, “If you look back to the first GODZILLA movie, almost all of it was at night. Almost all of it was in the rain.” He repeated this statement to multiple press outlets, missing that only one early scene in the original film had been set in the rain.
As production on GODZILLA continued, the buzz for the film began to take a negative turn. Godzilla fans in particular were growing increasingly concerned over the secrecy surrounding the movie, as well as the few details and many rumors that were being reported in the months leading up to the movie’s release. These worries were only exacerbated by comments made by multiple members of the GODZILLA crew, which offered little respect for the Toho movies and made it clear the new Godzilla would have little resemblance to the character fans wanted to see.
“Physically, it’s totally different. When you look at our Godzilla, you won’t feel any nostalgia,” Dean Devlin told CNN. During a press junket while filming in Oahu, Hawaii, the producer said, “It’ll look like Godzilla but be more realistic, more to the lizard genesis than just a big fat guy in a rubber suit.”62 Roland Emmerich modestly called his GODZILLA “the ultimate monster movie”, telling reporters that he was initially reluctant to make it, but, “It was one of these things where it suddenly hit you that it could be cool. But only if you changed it totally.”63 John Calley stated, “The present version has survived 20 incarnations. What we’re going to do is a lot more flamboyant, a lot more astonishing.”64
Volker Engel said he was inspired to become an FX director by the Godzilla movies he had seen as a child. But when interviewed for the new film’s official website, Godzilla.com, he knocked those same movies, stating that, “Godzilla has always been this slow-motion man in a suit, and always standing around, looking around, smashing through buildings, looking kind of stupid.”
Co-producer Peter Winther disregarded fan concerns, believing that what audiences really wanted was Devlin/Emmerich’s re-imagining of Godzilla instead of something closer to the original. “The main thing for Roland and Dean was to bring Godzilla into the present time. And to do that, you have to do some things to make it realistic,” he insisted. “But there are certain things you want to keep, otherwise it’s not Godzilla. You have to make it a little more violent and you have to make it faster. No matter what people say, you don’t want to have this creature lumbering down the street, making him easy to hit with missiles and things like that. It has to be more exciting. You have to give people the ride they’re looking for.”65
But Godzilla fans were not happy to learn that “the ride they’re looking for” would replace Godzilla’s radioactive breath with gusts of air. They voiced their displeasure with phone calls, letters and emails to Sony Pictures and Centropolis, convincing Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich to make last minute changes to two shots in which Godzilla used his new power breath. “Dean and Roland wanted this monster to retain a certain menace and credibility, but Godzilla’s breath is something everyone expects to see at some point,” Volker Engel admitted. “So they came up with instances in which you would see something like the old breath, but with a kind of logic applied to it. We make the assumption that something is his breath, when it comes in contact with flame, causes combustive ignition. So you get this flame-thrower effect, which causes everything to ignite.”66
Roland Emmerich provided his own explanation to TNT ROUGH CUT, saying, “We kind of thought of it like gas, all fishy, swallowed then thrown up again. It kind of like creates a gas and glows with an incredible force. The original one is more this ray than fire breath; it’s a green ray coming out of the mouth. It’s almost an undefined color.”
But the early complaints were nothing compared to the backlash when fans saw the new Godzilla design. Despite Centropolis and Sony’s efforts, images of GODZILLA merchandising artwork and sculpts leaked online in late 1997. Fans reacted with extreme negativity to the changes made to the monster’s look, prompting Dean Devlin to engage in some damage control. “We did put out five sets of fake drawings,” he said, explaining that the images were used to ferret out leaks from licensees. Two companies — Tiger Electronics and Fruit of the Loom — had their licenses to make GODZILLA products revoked, but the supposedly “fake” pics were later revealed to be accurate depictions of Patrick Tatopoulos’ Godzilla redesign.
As the bad buzz grew, Toho attempted to assuage fans’ fears about the upcoming film. “We have heard stories about the interest in the new design for Godzilla,” Toho publicist Masahiko Suzuki stated. “TriStar has shown Toho the final design and received approval. We think TriStar knows its American viewers and what will make them happy. Out of respect they consulted with Toho, so we could see what they were doing with their design.”
“When Godzilla was first made, 44 years ago, he was a bad guy who went around destroying things. Over the years Godzilla became popular with Japanese viewers and gradually became a good guy everyone liked. Over the course of the series, the viewers naturally built up a sense of affection for the beast and the natural flow was for him to become a good guy. So, even though the new Godzilla will have a different role, it is consistent with the original concept,” he asserted.67
Dean Devlin echoed Suzuki’s views, saying, “I think that when the real fans see this movie they’re going to realize that, yes, this is not like the sequels but it is very much in the spirit of the first Godzilla movie.” He added that his GODZILLA, “is probably more true to the original vision of the first movie than any of the other 21 sequels,” and that, “In essence, we feel that it is more respectful to have a new creature than to mess around with the old one.”
Devlin also attempted to offer a connection to the Toho films, but unfortunately got his facts wrong. “The original title was a combination of the Japanese word ‘God’ and the Japanese word for whale,” he said incorrectly (the first syllable of the monster’s name is actually derived from ‘gorira’, the Japanese spelling of gorilla). “I don’t want to spoil the best gag in the film, but in the picture he’s originally called Gojira but then it gets bastardized in a humorous way.”68
Even Roland Emmerich tried to offer additional links between his movie and the Toho Godzillas. “Many of the elements in our movie, like the scientists trying to discover how to destroy him or the military trying to blow him to kingdom come, is all from the original film,” he asserted in an interview with the British magazine SFX.
The publicity campaign for GODZILLA continued with a second trailer, released November 7, 1997 with TriStar’s STARSHIP TROOPERS. This trailer featured the infamous “Size Does Matter” tagline that would later come back to haunt the film and its makers. Devlin recounted how the reference came to be associated with GODZILLA: “A very legitimate question was raised by the marketing people. They said, ‘If I’ve already seen JURASSIC PARK, why do I need to see GODZILLA? Haven’t I already seen the big lizard movie?’ And that’s when a very clever marketing executive said, ‘Well, size does matter.’ And so we put it in the teaser and sure enough it got huge laughs.”69
Marketing also came up with the the second most famous promotion for the film: the “He’s as big as” campaign. Dana Precious, Sony’s senior vice president of creative advertising, revealed that she found — without being able to use any photos of Godzilla — it very difficult to convey the monster’s size to the ad agencies working with her on the film. Realizing this would also be an issue for potential ticket buyers, she decided the most effective solution was to offer a visual reference point for comparison. For eight months, Precious and her team reviewed billboard space in twelve cities, selecting key locations to post slogans such as “He’s as tall as the Brooklyn Bridge”, “He’s as long as five train cars”, “His foot is a long as this bus” and “He’s as long as the Hollywood sign.” She felt the campaign would create the impression of a truly massive and stunning monster, saying, “Sometimes the imagination is so much better than seeing it, even if the thing you’re going to see on film is going to be very spectacular.”70
Despite Emmerich and Devlin’s intentions to make GODZILLA for less than $90 million, the film ended up costing considerably more. “Well, let’s put it this way, we spent a lot more money on this movie than we wanted to,” Devlin admitted. “I’m not proud of it. I’m not going to go running around bragging about it.”71 TriStar listed an official budget of $136 million, but Robert Fried put the actual budget at $150 million with an additional $80 million spent on worldwide marketing.72 According to The Wall Street Journal, GODZILLA would need to earn at least $240 million at the domestic box office to be successful.
But, regardless of the higher costs or the grumblings of hardcore fans, tracking numbers for the Devlin/Emmerich GODZILLA were showing the potential for a massive hit. Surveys showed a 95% awareness of the film with the general public, with National Research Group polls placing GODZILLA’s “want to see” ranking in the blockbuster zone.
Sony Pictures used the tracking numbers to leverage more from theaters that wanted to screen GODZILLA. Studios and theaters generally split profits from movie ticket sales on a sliding scale… first the theater deducts the “house allowance” (the operating costs for the theater) and then the remaining money is divided between the theater and the studio. While the numbers often varied, the studio would generally get 60-70% of the profits in a movie’s first week of release, with the numbers shifting more and more in the theater’s favor each week a film plays. But Sony demanded 80% of GODZILLA’s first week profits, 75% for week two, and 70% for weeks three and four, with a minimum guarantee of $4 million.
Theater owners balked at the increases but eventually agreed to pay Sony a higher percentage than was the norm. “80% was never an across-the-board [number],” disclosed Jeff Blake, Sony’s vice-chairman of worldwide marketing and distribution. “We kind of used it to send a message to theaters that this is going to be a big deal. They sent back the message to us that there’s going to be a limit. No one’s paying less than 70% for the first two weeks. Most are paying that level for the first three or four weeks of the movie, which is a rich deal. Clearly the demand is there.”73
GODZILLA was set to open on 7,363 screens in 3310 cinemas, approximately ¼ of all movies screens in North America. The numbers easily surpassed the 6,190 screens for THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK, giving GODZILLA a clear shot at an even bigger box office debut. Rival studios took note, scheduling their movies weeks before or after GODZILLA’s launch to avoid being steamrolled at the box office. “[GODZILLA] has a chance to do $100 million the opening weekend,” said Walt Disney Co. studio chairman Joe Roth, whose own ARMAGEDDON would be released that July 1st.74
Confident they had a hit on their hands, Sony Pictures made a $5 million payment to Toho for a GODZILLA sequel. The option guaranteed Sony the rights to make a second Godzilla movie as long as it was in active development within five years of the first film’s release. “We sort of look at this not simply as the launching of a movie, but the launching of a franchise called GODZILLA,” Bob Levin explained.75
“We have a GODZILLA trilogy in mind,” Devlin revealed. “The second one is remarkably different from the first one, and if it’s embraced, a third one would make a whole lot of sense. I don’t see us doing more than three, but I would love to finish out telling the story.”76
GODZILLA lead actress Maria Pitillo found the buildup to the film’s release a little overwhelming. “I hear so much hype I don’t even know what to expect. I’ve never been involved in anything like this,” she said. “God help us if we don’t live up to the hype, right?”77
“It was disappointing from my standpoint that the film that was actually made essentially took the monster out of the script and changed the design so radically that it was just unrecognizable.”
–GODZILLA (1994) concept artist Ricardo Delgado
“Run, you f**kers! It’s a giant f**king lizard!!!”
–GODZILLA (1998) writer/director Roland Emmerich
As the May 20th release drew near, the buzz for GODZILLA continued to build. The Hollywood Reporter‘s 1998 Box Office Preview issue stated the film was on track to become one of “the best-performing pictures of all time, suggesting the potential for an awesome opening frame.”
The hype was a double-edged sword for co-producer Peter Winther. “It’s a different pressure than when we worked on INDEPENDENCE DAY because we kind of came out of nowhere on that one. Everyone assumes we’re going to deliver a great product,” he said.1 Behind the scenes, the big issue was that GODZILLA’s special effects were running far behind schedule. In the final weeks before the film’s release the digital effects team was running 24 hours a day, staffers crashing out at the office in sleeping bags between shifts.
The delays meant that GODZILLA couldn’t be screened for exhibitors, reviewers or even studio executives. Sony Pictures president John Calley was frustrated that he hadn’t seen the film, while marketing head Bob Levin had his own concerns. “I was getting increasingly uneasy about the fact that we couldn’t show the movie because it wasn’t ready, yet there we were, seeming to boast about how brilliantly we were selling it,” Levin disclosed. “I always fear how easily the audience may turn against us if they are kept in the dark too long.”2 Sony offered to push back the movie’s release date, but Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich believed they could make the deadline and wanted to honor their commitment to the studio.
The last FX shots for GODZILLA were completed and a final cut assembled just in time for the May 18th premiere/media screenings at Madison Square Garden in New York City and the Cineramadome in Los Angeles. “[With] GODZILLA, we literally finished the cut and went to the printer,” Devlin recounted. “And we didn’t even have a chance to screen it for the studio. It was just like, ‘We have to go. We’ll never make enough prints to get them into the theater in time if we make any adjustments’.”3
GODZILLA was finally unveiled to the public, and the initial audience reaction was one of extreme disappointment. Among the attendees at the LA screening was reporter and Godzilla fan Richard Pusateri, who described the new Godzilla as GINO (“Godzilla In Name Only”) in his review of the film. The nickname quickly caught on in fan circles.
Looking for a silver lining, one Sony publicist noted that the top reviewers and media outlets were away attending the Cannes International Film Festival in France: “Thank goodness we’ve just got the second and third-string critics here. They can do less harm.”
Sony Pictures executives were also far from enthusiastic by what they saw, but knew there was absolutely no time left for them to make any alterations to the film. John Calley was reportedly furious with the situation. “John wanted to re-voice the girl [Maria Pitillo, whose performance would be roundly criticized],” one studio rep revealed. “He had a list of changes he felt would have vastly improved the movie, but he had no time to do anything.”4
“We were so determined to make this date that we built a schedule where we couldn’t screen-test, and we should have. I think we really could have improved the film,” Devlin admitted. “This is the first film we ever put out that we didn’t have time to test screen, and every film we’ve ever done we improved tremendously over the test screening. With INDEPENDENCE DAY, for instance, the whole ending was reshot.”5
TriStar opened GODZILLA on schedule, and the picture topped the box office for its first week in theaters. But the numbers were disappointing; Sony expected a $100 million haul for the Memorial Day weekend that would break the $90.2 million record set by THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK the year before. GODZILLA instead earned $55,726,951 over the four day weekend with a week 1 total of $74 mil, well below industry predictions. To make matters worse, the poor reaction from media screening attendees was soon echoed by the majority of critics and general audiences who saw the film in its first few days of release.
Moviegoers disliked the film’s story and acting, the weak attempts at humor, and the blatant copying from other films — in particular the “Velociraptors in the kitchen” sequence from JURASSIC PARK. They were also critical of the new Godzilla design, with many finding it a poor substitute for the classic Godzilla. “The ultimate look of the creature, while interesting, was not unique relative to what we had seen in JURASSIC PARK, and I think consumers were let down,” observed Robert Fried.6
Jan De Bont believed that the entire approach taken to Godzilla had been wrong. “It’s like a T-rex. The eyes are completely wrong, the fins on the back didn’t glow white. There are a lot of things that you cannot just change… if you change them you might as well make another movie. You’re not suddenly going to have Batman without the cape or without the mask. That’s ridiculous,” said the director. “So many facets of a T-rex were transferred to Godzilla, and Godzilla is not a T-rex. He doesn’t run as fast and he doesn’t move as fast. There’s something of this constant power coming at you… if you do it too fast it looks kind of silly.”
“And the scale of Godzilla changed many times… he was bigger, he was smaller. And it all had to do with the sets that were there. That’s not a good thing; if he’s too big he should look too big. If he’s that big, don’t make him look smaller to fit in Madison Square Garden. Don’t make Godzilla fit the set, make him as big or as small as he would be in scale.”
“It’s not so much even Roland. He did the movie he wanted to do,” De Bont remarked, feeling Sony was ultimately responsible for allowing the production to go so far off course. “It’s so unfortunate that the studio let Godzilla down and let us down, but it’s a business and the people at the top don’t always make the right decisions.”
“Sony rejected Jan’s budget, then a few years later made the movie with Emmerich for $10 million more. And it was terrible,” said John Frazier, who had been signed to create the mechanical and practical effects for De Bont’s GODZILLA. “When we worked with Sam Raimi on the SPIDER-MAN films were stayed faithful to the source material; and that’s what we did with GODZILLA. We were going to make a Godzilla movie, and Roland didn’t do that.”
Original GODZILLA screenwriter Terry Rossio agreed. In his essay “The One Hundred Million Dollar Mistake” he described Devlin and Emmerich’s GODZILLA as a perfect example of “when a decision gets made that is so bad, so fundamentally wrong, so devastating to the project, that no amount of time, hard work, inspiration or money can repair the damage.” He wrote…
People wanted to be scared of Godzilla, but they also loved him and wanted to root for him. So you let Godzilla stomp into the film, all scary like, then bring on some other big monster for him to fight, so the audience gets to cheer, and then let Godzilla kick ass, swing that big J-Lo tail around… and if a few buildings get smashed in the brawl, hey, that’s the price we pay for having the lovable lizard defending our earth.
And there’s your Godzilla movie. You’re scared, you’re excited, Godzilla kicks ass, you cheer, and bring on the sequel.
Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, I’d argue, screwed it up. Godzilla became a mom who wanted to go lay eggs in New York City. And when military guys fired guns at him, Godzilla would… I can’t believe it even as I type it… Godzilla would actually squeal, turn, run and hide.
Squeal… run away… and hide. In a Godzilla movie.
Basic approach: wrong.
In week 2, GODZILLA suffered a stunning 59% drop in attendance, taking in only $18,020,444. Ed Mintz, president of the audience polling company CinemaScore, told the Associated Press that, “There’s no repeat business. There’s no word of mouth. It’s going to drop… and be gone.”7 Mintz’s analysis was borne out as the following week saw another 46% decline. It eventually took fourteen days for GODZILLA to reach the $100 million mark it had been expected to hit on the first weekend.
GODZILLA was widely derided as a failure, a punchline for the press and members of the film industry. “I’ve been around a long time, but the mean-spiritedness of the response took me by surprise,” declared John Calley.8
By June 15th, Sony admitted they would be pleased if GODZILLA earned $140 million in North America, half the amount originally projected for the film. But even the reduced figure proved too high; GODZILLA wrapped its theatrical run at $136,314,294. Once heralded as the surefire top movie of the year, it ended up in 9th place at the domestic box office for 1998, behind the likes of DOCTOR DOLITTLE and THE WATERBOY.
“Some would say [$136 million in domestic box office is] a decent number, but really, what should the film have done?,” Terry Rossio asked rhetorically. “What would the good version have pulled in? The One Hundred Million Dollar Mistake applies not just to films that bomb, but also to films that do okay, but could have made more. My contention: in the case of GODZILLA, between domestic box office, foreign box office, video and DVD, I’d argue the wrong basic approach easily cost the studio [a hundred million].”
Roland Emmerich blamed Sony’s marketing campaign for GODZILLA’s underwhelming performance. “It was a good idea — ‘Size Does Matter’ — but because they put it on every available f**king billboard it became a joke,” he complained. “I remember one day I drove to my house on La Brea and there was this billboard, ‘He’s longer than whatever…’ and I thought, ‘Oh, that’s cool.’ But every day I drove home, one more billboard appeared, so by the time the movie came out you had twenty encounters with Godzilla. I said that’s too much. I felt it on the street. Sony wanted to have a hit, but the audience feels it if the studio is trying too hard. They did that campaign because they had to sell merchandising products. It was like a movie and a product, which wasn’t right. It didn’t work.”9
“It’s meant to be a joke, and people took it really serious, and they thought we were talking about the size of the movie or the size of the budget or the size of the campaign,” said Dean Devlin. “All we were trying to say was the reason why this is not JURASSIC PARK is that it’s a bigger lizard. We were making kind of a dirty joke, but it got totally misinterpreted.”10
But former Sony Pictures CEO Peter Guber thought the focus of the advertising accurately reflected the film’s flaws. “For too long, we’ve relied on size alone,” he announced during a presentation to large-format film industry executives. “The three most important ingredients are story, story, story.”
Devlin shrugged off criticisms that his GODZILLA lacked an effective plot by taking a shot at the Toho films. “What, as opposed to the original flicks?”11 he argued, adding that the box office returns had been strong. “If you were to take the 22 original Godzilla films, and totaled all the money that they all made, we made that in the first week.”12
The film’s poor reputation impacted many of Sony’s business partners. After forking over the lion’s share of GODZILLA’s opening week ticket sales to the studio, theater owners were angry that the film didn’t have legs. The plummeting attendance killed their profit percentages, with the Carmike Cinemas chain blaming GODZILLA for the drop in the company’s stock prices. “Carmike clearly got killed on the terms. They were told they had a diamond when they really had cubic zirconia,” said one agent.13 Adding further injury was the fact that other studios had held back their own big films to avoid GODZILLA, meaning there was nothing to fill the financial gap when the TriStar film stumbled.
Harper Collins was also unhappy with the sales of their GODZILLA movie tie-in books, including the official novelization that sold only ⅓ of its 400,000 copy print run. “If the movie had been a sensational hit, we would have done better,” remarked a company spokesman.14
The Trendmasters GODZILLA toys and figures also sold below expectations. “Look at these damn things,” complained one retailer. “They arrive after the movie opened. They’re hard to assemble. And they look like leftovers from an old Spielberg film.”15
Rob Fried said Devlin and Emmerich’s decision to keep the new look for Godzilla a secret backfired terribly. “They wouldn’t allow any of the licensees to see the creature; they weren’t even allowed to ship the toys until the day of the release of the movie, they were so obsessed with the secrecy of it. It was no big secret, but the six weeks prior to the release of the movie are when you do the bulk of your sales and they eliminated that. So when the film was disappointing they had all this excess merchandise,”16 he disclosed. “The life of movie merchandising is usually three weeks before the movie opens and three weeks after. If you cut off pre-sales, you cut off half your sales. There were a lot of unsold toys.”17
There were some major successes, as well. Sony Music Entertainment’s Godzilla: The Album soundtrack, featuring music “inspired by” the movie, was certified platinum with more than 1 million copies sold. And the film’s VHS and DVD editions did a combined $8 million during its first week of rentals that November, making it the top video release since the blockbuster TITANIC the year before.
But Sony had much less luck selling the television rights for GODZILLA. After the networks rejected the studio’s asking price, Sony worked out a $25 million deal with NBC for five airings over five years. The fee was half the amount they had received for MEN IN BLACK’s broadcast rights, and a pittance next to the $80 million Universal got from FOX Television for THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK.
GODZILLA opened in Japanese theaters on July 11, 1998, just as the movie was wrapping its domestic theatrical run. Despite the disappointing box office numbers for GODZILLA’s American release, Toho expected the film to be a massive hit in Japan. “It’s going to be the event movie of the summer,” studio publicist Masahiko Suzuki told writer Mark Schilling for Screen International. “We’re projecting film rentals of ¥10 billion [approximately $73 million], or about the same as PRINCESS MONONOKE and TITANIC.” GODZILLA was set to open on 400 screens across Japan — the widest theatrical release in Toho’s history. “We are not limiting ourselves to our own circuit. We want to get this film into as many theaters as possible. Hard-core fans may say that this Godzilla is not the real thing, but we think ordinary moviegoers are going to love it.”
Rather than copy TriStar’s “Size Does Matter” advertising campaign, Toho’s publicity team instead focused on television commercials, print advertising, billboards and posters in the weeks leading up to the movie’s release. “Japanese already know how big Godzilla is. We don’t have to spend a lot of money reminding them,” Masahiko Suzuki explained.
Toho’s projections for GODZILLA seemed solid as the film sold 500,000 tickets on its opening Saturday, outpacing THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK’s first day sales by 150,000. The movie topped the box office, earning $8.7 million in its first week.
But — following the pattern of the US release — attendance plummeted quickly amidst a flurry of negative reviews and poor word of mouth. In its second week, GODZILLA’s ticket sales fell by 50% and the film was bounced from the top spot by the first Pokémon movie, POCKET MONSTERS: MEWTWO STRIKES BACK (劇場版ポケットモンスター ミュウツーの逆襲, Gekijooban Poketto Monsutaa: Myuutsuu no Gyakushuu).
As in America, Japanese moviegoers were critical of Emmerich and Devlin’s reinvention of Godzilla. “That’s not Godzilla,” Godzilla-fan Yoshiyuki Kasuya told the Los Angeles Times following a Tokyo screening of the film. “He got killed with four missiles, but the Japanese Godzilla is almost bulletproof. And the Japanese Godzilla is handsome, but the American Godzilla is not.”18
“We’ve been building up our expectations since rumors first surfaced of an American Godzilla in 1994,” said 16 year-old Godzilla fan Masato Mukohata. “My dreams were crushed.”19
Audience sentiments were echoed by filmmakers who worked on Toho’s Godzilla movies. “To be honest, I’m not pleased about this computer-graphic thing being called Godzilla,” said Kenpachiro Satsuma, the suit actor who had played the monster from 1984-1995.20 Satsuma famously walked out of a screening of the new film while attending the Godzilla fan convention G-Con ’98 in Chicago. Original Godzilla suit actor Haruo Nakajima was unimpressed by the new design, asserting, “To me, its face looks like an iguana and its body and limbs look like a frog.”21 And, in an interview with SPA magazine, director Shusuke Kaneko observed, “It is interesting the United States version runs about trying to escape missiles. They seem unable to accept a creature that cannot be put down by their arms.” Kaneko would make a lighthearted dig at the American Godzilla in his 2001 film, GODZILLA, MOTHRA AND KING GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK (ゴジラ・モスラ・キングギドラ 大怪獣総攻撃, Gojira, Mosura, Kingu Gidora: Daikaiju Sokogeki).
Many Japanese viewers wouldn’t accept a Godzilla the could be brought down by military might. Composer Akira Ifukube, who wrote the music for many Godzilla movies and also created the monster’s iconic roar, summed it up thusly: “Godzilla is undefeated by modern technology. It doesn’t affect him, not even electricity or missiles. He is stronger than the weapons that brought Japan to its knees [in WWII].”
But Toho called these critcisms unfair, claiming that Japanese moviegoers and reviewers who had previously been dismissive of the Godzilla series were suddenly embracing the monster as their own in the face of the American film. “Hollywood realised the sophisticated computer graphics and other technically impossible things here in Japan,” argued Masahiko Suzuki. “The film is enjoyable even for long-time Godzilla fans.”
GODZILLA earned approximately $33.1 million during its Japanese theatrical run, a sum described as “not overly impressive” by Variety and less than half what Toho had predicted. Rather than being “the event movie of the summer”, GODZILLA was overshadowed by other Hollywood productions such as DEEP IMPACT, which made nearly $57 million (as further comparison, Devlin and Emmerich’s ID4 made nearly $93 million at the Japanese box office in 1996). Tony Manne, Executive VP of Columbia TriStar International, admitted the Japanese box office for GODZILLA was disappointing. The movie had underperformed in both dubbed and subtitled versions, suggesting that the public had not responded favorably to the film.
On December 14, 1998 Toho surprised Godzilla fans with the announcement that they would begin production of GODZILLA: MILLENNIUM (eventually known as GODZILLA 2000) for a Christmas 1999 release in Japan. The news spurred rumors that Toho had pulled the Godzilla license from TriStar in anger over the studio’s ‘mistreatment’ of the character, rumors repeated by those unaware of — or ignoring — the fact that Toho had fully approved Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin’s plans for Godzilla. In truth, Toho was simply exercising a clause in their 1992 contract with Sony Pictures that allowed them to make their own Japanese Godzilla movies, separate from TriStar’s. Toho currently has a similar agreement with Warner Bros. and Legendary, and new Japanese and American Godzilla movies are both now in development.
Toho explained that they had been inspired by the wave of nostalgia for the classic Godzilla that had swept Japan in the wake of TriStar’s GODZILLA. “The shape of the American version of Godzilla was so different from the Japanese version that there was a clamor among fans and company officials to create a Godzilla unique to Japan,” said a company spokesman. And GODZILLA 2000 producer Shogo Tomiyama revealed, “When we decided to remake the Godzilla film, I wanted to bring back the mystery and invincibility that the monster had initially. I want people to leave the theater totally mystified and overwhelmed by Godzilla’s force.”22
“The U.S. version was a bit hard to digest as the real Godzilla,” asserted GODZILLA 2000 director Takao Okawara. “It was too synthetic. The essence of Godzilla’s real character is indestructibility. So since we are starting a new series, we decided to show the proper Godzilla.”23
TriStar, on the other hand, was considering their options for more GODZILLAs. The film had earned $242,700,000 internationally for a worldwide total of $379,014,294. And an animated spin-off, GODZILLA: THE SERIES, developed at the same time as the movie, premiered on FOX Television on September 12, 1998 to strong ratings — it was the Number 1 program among boys 6-11 on any broadcast network — and generally positive reviews from Godzilla fans who felt it treated the monster with much more respect than did the film.
Was that enough to guarantee a second film? “Sony are absolutely ready for it,” insisted Roland Emmerich. “They want to kind of announce the sequel already. For Sony it’s good business.” Sony Pictures president Amy Pascal agreed, telling Entertainment Weekly that, “if a movie makes $400 million, you make a sequel. It’s that simple.”
But it wasn’t that simple. When Sony Pictures brought up GODZILLA 2 during a licensing conference, exhibitors — still angry over the hit they took on the studio’s GODZILLA — responded with a marked lack of enthusiasm. Retailers and merchandisers were also uninterested in supporting another TriStar GODZILLA… a planned line of Trendmasters GODZILLA: THE SERIES toys was canceled due to low preorders from retailers who complained they still had shelves of unsold movie merchandise. Sony soon realized that there was little demand for a GODZILLA sequel.
Roland Emmerich was unfazed by the studio’s concerns. “It looks like there will be a one,” the director said in regards to a sequel. “Actually , the second is easier to do because you can take another genre… we were very much thinking about doing Monster Island [a concept from the Toho films]. Also, it’s like we can again have a very purist approach. In the first Japanese GODZILLA film the monster was alone, but now can do something really wild, like, let’s creates six or seven other monsters.” Asked about Toho monsters he said, “We’ll probably come up with other monsters because we don’t want to tie ourselves too much to certain things.”24
Emmerich and Devlin commissioned writer/director Tab Murphy (LAST OF THE DOGMEN, Disney’s TARZAN) to write a story treatment for GODZILLA 2. But, as Murphy worked on his outline, the Centropolis duo quit the sequel over — ironically — a budget dispute with Sony Pictures. “They wanted to tailor it budget-wise, so it didn’t make sense for us creatively,” revealed Devlin.25
After the debacle of the first GODZILLA, John Calley had soured on the project. “A GODZILLA sequel is not a priority at this time. It’s not a picture that people are rushing around the studio trying to get made,” he admitted. He felt that the 1998 film “cost too much, took a lot of time, a lot of marketing and a lot of technology development. It was a killer.”26
Roland Emmerich later reversed his position, telling UGO Entertainment he had been the one who advised Sony against doing a sequel to GODZILLA. “It’s so strange because people expected it to be the biggest thing ever, then it only did well. They are disappointed, and you have to defend yourself,” he said. “The movie made $375 million worldwide, and THE PERFECT STORM made $325 million. Also, GODZILLA made a billion dollars in merchandise. Sony Pictures was happy with what they got. They knew that because of the media reception, they couldn’t do a GODZILLA 2. I told them not to do a sequel… because when you have a hit like INDEPENDENCE DAY, people want to see you fall.”
But Dean Devlin acknowledged that he and Emmerich had dropped the ball. “People expected more, and we didn’t deliver,” he admitted.27 “It didn’t live up to expectations creatively and never bounced back from the initial perception in the press that it was a box-office failure.”28
Having paid Toho for an option to make a second Godzilla but understanding that a direct sequel to Emmerich’s GODZILLA wouldn’t sell, Sony Pictures considered going with a reboot with absolutely no connection to the 1998 film. While the studio mulled over that option, they decided to license Toho’s GODZILLA 2000 for a US theatrical release through TriStar. “When I visited Japan in December during the opening week of GODZILLA 2000 in Tokyo, there were huge lines, standing-room- only crowds, and [a] huge [number of] standees. It just struck me as being a very marketable idea,” acknowledged Sony’s Jeff Blake.29
Part of GODZILLA 2000’s appeal for Sony was that a Japanese Godzilla film would be seen as a break from the look and story of the Devlin and Emmerich version, making it easier for the studio to go forward with their own fresh start down the line. “It’s the classic rubber-suit monster stomping around Tokyo, and that’s the fun of it,” said Blake.30 But, in the end, Sony decided not to make a second Godzilla film and their remake/sequel rights expired on May 20, 2003.
Rob Fried was angered by how badly the studio had mishandled the property he had helped them acquire. “The Sony executive team that took over GODZILLA was one of the worst cases of executive incompetence I have observed in my twenty year career,” he asserted. “One of the golden assets of our time, which was hand-delivered to them, was managed as poorly and ineptly as anybody can manage an asset. They took a jewel and turned it into dust.”31
With Sony Pictures’ option to make additional American Godzilla movies having run out, Toho was free to offer the rights to other studios. In March 2010, Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures announced that they had signed an agreement with Toho to produce a new American GODZILLA.
The new rights holders were quick to distance their GODZILLA from Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin’s interpretation. “Our plans are to produce the Godzilla that we, as fans, would want to see,” said Legendary CEO Thomas Tull. “We intend to do justice to those essential elements that have allowed this character to remain as pop-culturally relevant for as long as it has.”
While Toho publicist Masahiko Suzuki had gone to great lengths to support TriStar’s GODZILLA in 1998, studio reps presented a far different opinion as the 2014 release of the Warner Bros./Legendary film drew near. “This new Godzilla is closer in spirit to the original,” said Toho publicist Yosuke Ogura, who called Emmerich’s take on the monster a “disaster.”1
But Roland Emmerich remained undeterred by the criticism his film received, telling Crave Online, “I’m totally proud of GODZILLA. I’m always saying this, I mean I know there’s a lot of naysayers, but I’m proud of it.”
“I’m not really a fanboy, so I was changing Godzilla. It was also, probably, a situation that I was a little bit talked into it.” Emmerich’s one regret was that he did GODZILLA instead of the movie he really wanted to make; his meteor disaster GROUND ZERO which got derailed by DEEP IMPACT and ARMAGEDDON. “I had this whole thing planned out and a lot of people said, ‘You can do this after GODZILLA.’ And that was a really big lesson for me because there were two [similar] movies after that”, he lamented.2 “GODZILLA was fun, but Michael Bay and Mimi Leder did the movie that I wanted to do. I could have easily beaten them!”3
Dean Devlin, on the other hand, willingly acknowledged that the choices he and Emmerich made on GODZILLA had seriously hurt the film. “We did not commit to anthropomorphizing Godzilla — meaning we did not decide if he was a heroic character or a villainous character. We made the intellectual decision to have him be neither and just simply an animal trying to survive. This was a big mistake,” he admitted in a December 2014 AMA on Reddit.
Asked about the negative reaction to their redesign of the monster, he replied, “I think some of the backlash on Godzilla was warranted, and some was an overreaction, but I understand, because it is a beloved character and any time you mess with something that is so adored, you risk scorn.” His Reddit replies echoed statements Dean Devlin had made before. In the wake of the Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures announcement, Devlin tweeted, “Now I have to hear all over again how our version sucked. Arrg.”
“I know I screwed up my GODZILLA,” he elaborated in an interview for Entertainment Weekly. “I’d be very happy if they pull it off and do a great one. I always wish I had another shot at it. But, listen, Godzilla is something that I grew up loving. We worked hard to go make one. We kind of blew it. I think everyone gets one.” He offered his blessing to the new creative team, saying, “I wish them nothing but the best. I would love it if the whole Godzilla franchise was revitalized for a new generation.”4
Emmerich and Devlin’s GODZILLA has long been a source of confusion — and aggravation — for Godzilla fans, particularly in regards to Toho’s handling of the property following the expiration of Sony’s sequel rights. In 2004, Toho included the TriStar Godzilla in their 50th anniversary Godzilla movie, GODZILLA: FINAL WARS (ゴジラ ファイナルウォーズ, Gojira Fainaru Uozu), in which the CG beast is quickly defeated by the Japanese original. Interviewed by this author the day before the film’s world premiere, producer Shogo Tomiyama explained, “[Director Ryuhei] Kitamura asked me if it was possible for us to use the American Godzilla in FINAL WARS, so I checked our contract with Sony Pictures and found out we could use it. Since this was the 50th anniversary film, I thought ‘Why not include the American Godzilla?'”. Tomiyama felt that, as the first American movie version of Godzilla, the character had left a mark on the franchise. ” There is some special meaning to having him in this film — but mostly, we just wanted to show which Godzilla is stronger.”
While the monster goes unnamed in the film itself, Toho’s GODZILLA: FINAL WARS promotional materials identify it as “Zilla”. This led some fans to declare that Toho had ‘disavowed’ the TriStar movie and officially changed the name and copyright for the 1998 film and creature from “Godzilla” to “Zilla”. But this mistaken belief ignored both the terms of the 1992 contract and Toho’s long history of creating multiple versions of their monster characters.
The arrangement between Toho and Sony Pictures stipulated that the two companies would share the copyright for the TriStar film in perpetuity, meaning that both parties would have to agree for that copyright to be altered. Beyond that legal hurdle, neither company is interested in changing the copyright; Sony paid handsomely for the right to use the Godzilla name and intends to hold onto those rights, while Toho continues to profit from the Sony deal and can also boast over rival Japanese studios that (now) two major Hollywood productions have been based on their character. As of 2015, the copyrights for the 1998 film are as follows…
Sony Pictures: © 1998 TRISTAR PICTURES, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. GODZILLA ® and the GODZILLA character and design are trademarks of Toho Co., Ltd. The GODZILLA character and design are copyrighted works of Toho Co., Ltd. All are used with permission.
Toho: GODZILLA [1998 Edition] © 1998 TRISTAR PICTURES, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. ©１９９８ TOHO CO．，LTD． ALL RIGHTS RESERVED．
In creating “Zilla” for FINAL WARS, Toho continued a decades-old tradition of assigning unique names, trademarks and copyrights to the different incarnations of their monsters, including such favorites as Mechagodzilla (Mechagodzilla 2, Super Mechagodzilla, Mechagodzilla Kiryu), Mothra (Mothra Leo, Fairy Mothra, Aqua Mothra, Armor Mothra, Eternal Mothra) and King Ghidorah (Mecha-King Ghidorah, Cretaceous King Ghidorah, Grand King Ghidorah, Monster X II, Kaizer Ghidorah). This practice allows the studio to both maintain the original brand while also offering a “new” version for additional films and merchandising.
Toho played with the “same but different” strategy in their GODZILLA: FINAL WARS theater program booklet sold at Japanese cinemas showing the film. Zilla is described as “A monster, similar in appearance to an iguana, that attacks Sydney. Its true identity is unknown, but according to one theory it may be the same monster that struck New York in 1997. There are many common features such as its fast movement and consumption of tuna, but its authenticity remains a mystery.”
Toho has repeatedly stated that they still consider the 1998 film to be GODZILLLA. The November 29, 2004 world premiere of FINAL WARS was part of a celebration in Los Angeles that included Godzilla receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In their application for the award, Toho included the TriStar movie in the monster’s filmography, stating, “GODZILLA has starred in 28 motion pictures including the 1998 blockbuster film produced in Hollywood.”
In 2008, Toho digitally restored the Godzilla series in high definition for the “Godzilla X Hi-Vision” promotion on the Japanese Movie Speciality Channel. The films Toho selected for HD restoration were the 28 Japanese Godzilla movies and the 1998 GODZILLA.
In 2010, Toho Music included composer David Arnold’s GODZILLA 1998 score in their final GODZILLA SOUNDTRACK PERFECT COLLECTION, a 6 volume CD box set of all the Godzilla movie soundtracks released in Japan.
In America, Zilla appeared in the Godzilla: Rulers of Earth comic book series from IDW Publishing in 2013. The monster’s return ignited another round of fan debates, with G:ROE artist Matt Frank stepping in to set things straight. “For the record,” he wrote, “Toho makes zero distinction between ‘Zilla’ and ‘Godzilla 1998’ with the exception of title alone. The film itself is recognized as GODZILLA, as is the animated series. Ever since 2004, Toho’s official stance has been that any future incarnations of the character be referred to hereafter as ‘Zilla’.” Frank also shot down speculation that Zilla was the same as the Godzilla from Sony’s animated show GODZILLA: THE SERIES, stating that the cartoon Godzilla was its own character, “not within [IDW’s] net of licenses, nor do I think we would be able to obtain it.”5
Back in Japan, Toho celebrated Godzilla’s 60th Anniversary by releasing Blu-ray and DVD editions of the entire series in 2014. The lineup included the 28 Toho Godzillas plus the TriStar GODZILLA, with the title spelled out in both English and Japanese.
The most recent example as of this writing occurred in May and June 2015, as Toho partnered with the Japanese satellite service WOWOW for HD airings of the Godzilla series. Both the 1998 TriStar and 2014 Warner Bros./Legendary GODZILLAs aired alongside the Toho-produced films, with WOWOW and Toho promoting the event as the first time “all 30 Godzilla movies” are broadcast together.
As the 1998 GODZILLA holds its odd (and unpopular) place in Godzilla history, Jan De Bont’s 1994 GODZILLA has taken on its own unique status for fans. Nearly 21 years have passed since the film was canceled and it is still a regular topic of discussion on Godzilla websites, message boards and social media. And while they never got the chance to bring their GODZILLA to the screen, many of those involved with the film have gone on to a wide range of high-profile projects.
Visual effects supervisor Boyd Shermis divides his time between feature films, commercials and TV mini-series. His post-GODZILLA credits include BATMAN FOREVER, FACE/OFF, SUPERMAN RETURNS, POSEIDON — which was received nominations from the Academy Awards and the Visual Effects Society — FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER and GI JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA. He said, “In terms of what I’ve been up to; I’ve mostly been writing scripts these last few years, as well as studying acting, directing actors etc., — looking to get a few feature projects of my own off the ground.”
Godzilla concept artist Ricard Delgado has also kept busy. “I’m still working in concept design,” he said. “I’m working over at Disney Feature Animation right now, and teaching part-time at Art [Center College of Design]. I’ve written a couple novels that have been published, and I’m still doing my Age of Reptiles comics.”
“I was supervising director on the TV mini-series DINOSAUR REVOLUTION. A lot of it was initially based on my comic books, but they added some narration and some paleontological bumpers. I got into the DGA, it was my first directing credit and I hope to direct again. It was fun. Giant reptiles have been good to me.”
A variation of Delgado’s 1994 Godzilla was later released as a cold-cast porcelain kit by Needful Things. Dubbed the “Delgadosaurus”, the figure was sculpted by professional prop and costume designer Bob Bagy.
Looking back at De Bont’s GODZILLA, Delgado observed, “It wasn’t fated to be, and I certainly watched the Emmerich GODZILLA with ‘what could have been’ wishful thinking. But that’s the way it works out.”
Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio have become two of the most successful writers in Hollywood with the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN series, THE MASK OF ZORRO, SHREK and NATIONAL TREASURE: BOOK OF SECRETS. “Our GODZILLA screenplay was about inappropriate grief response and the need for both reason and belief to come to terms with an inherent, inescapable and necessary fact of life: death,” Elliott wrote on the duo’s website, Wordplay. “And, of course, we weren’t trying to change minds — except those who held that a GODZILLA movie could not have ‘good writing.’ (And, quite frankly, *we* succeeded. Others decided to ignore what we held to be ‘good writing,’ and ended up making a movie of inferior quality — something which has happened more often than not in our careers).”
On Wordplay, Terry Rossio provided further explanation in his introduction to the 1994 GODZILLA screenplay, writing, “One thing they don’t warn you about in film school, that nobody tells you about regarding screenwriting, is THE SPEECH. For most of the films I’ve worked on that have been produced, I’ve had to learn some version of The Speech. What happens is this: people (friends, relatives) come up to you and say something like, ‘I saw THE PUPPET MASTERS on television the other night,’ or ‘Hey, didn’t you work on GODZILLA?’ And you feel compelled to explain that yes, you worked on the picture, but you know that it’s terrible, it’s okay that they hated it, you would have done it differently, etc. You find yourself in the situation so often, the collection of disclaimers, apologies and explanations for a movie eventually become rote.”
“For example, here’s ‘The Speech’ for GODZILLA: Yes, we worked on it, but our script got thrown out. We got story credit because they kept some basic elements — but in our draft, Godzilla fought a second monster, and kicked his ass. We realized that Godzilla was the hero, and even if people were afraid of him in the beginning, they wanted to root for him in the end.”
“To which people invariably look relieved (‘Great, I don’t have to pretend the movie wasn’t crap’) and say, ‘Oh, that would have been much better’… And it would have been.”
Terry Rossio is now collaborating with comic book artist Todd Tennant on a graphic novel adaptation of the Elliott/Rossio GODZILLA screenplay. Once work is completed the two will look into publishing options.
Storyboard artist David Russell has worked on dozens of popular movies such as THE THIN RED LINE (1998), MOULIN ROUGE (2001), MASTER AND COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD (2003), the CHRONCLES OF NARNIA series, TRANSFORMERS (2007), X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (2009) and Lucasfilm’s RED TAILS (2012). Discussing the latter film, he noted that, “I was very pleased to have been involved with the project, in large part because my father was a Tuskegee Airman. Additionally, it was a pleasure to work with George Lucas again, who gave me my first job into the industry on RETURN OF THE JEDI.”
Russell also created artwork for Alex Proyas’ epic film, PARADISE LOST, which spent several years in development before being canceled in 2014 by Legendary Pictures over budgetary concerns. Outside the film world, he has illustrated several book covers and written some fantasy novels of his own, including Mojo in Oz and Enchanters: Glys of Myradelle (now available as an e-book).
Chris Lee has supervised a number of hit films, among them MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING, LEGENDS OF THE FALL, THE FISHER KING, THE MASK OF ZORRO and THE PATRIOT. In 2000 he was one of the co-founders of Legendary Pictures; fourteen years later the company would release their own GODZILLA remake through Warner Bros.
From 1994-1997, Stan Winston was the host of the AMC documentary series MOVIE MAGIC about the many FX techniques developed for film and television. Episodes would air Friday evenings, followed by a special effects movie shown under the “AMC EFX” banner. Each AMC EFX movie would also feature an introduction by Winston, surrounded by many of the creature props and maquettes created by his studio. The 1994 Godzilla maquette would occasionally be among those displayed, most often before airings of giant monster movies like RODAN, FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD, GAMERA and GODZILLA VS SPACE GODZILLA.
Stan Winston Studio continued as one of the industry’s top FX houses through the passing of Stan Winston in June 2008. SWS supervisors Shane Mahan, John Rosengrant, Lindsay Macgowan and Alan Scott formed Legacy Effects to continue the Winston tradition, while the Winston family founded the Stan Winston School of Character Arts to teach future generations of aspiring filmmakers.
In early 2008, Winston Studio auctioned off a number of production models and concept designs through the Hollywood memorabilia dealer Profiles in History. Among the items sold to private collectors were artwork and resin maquettes for Godzilla and the Probe Bat.
The Gryphon maquette was not offered for sale. Winston artist David Monzingo explained that, “Sadly, the Gryphon did not survive the ages. It was made out of silicone rubber, and in the early 90’s our knowledge of silicone was weak; it was a relatively new material to the industry and we were still learning the ins and outs of it. Silicone has a limited shelf life before it begins to deteriorate, and time finally caught up with that maquette. I believe it was decided to remove it from the SWS display room sometime in the mid 2000’s as it was beginning to fall apart. Now there’s nothing left of it.”
Gryphon sculptor Mark Maitre recalled that, “When were moving out of that studio after Stan passed, we took the Gryphon down and it just fell apart. It was kind of sad. I almost took the head, but I’m like, ‘Nahh!’”
“I don’t know if the molds for the Gryphon still exist or not,” said Monzingo. “SWS at one time had a massive mold library of all it’s projects, but when SWS downsized in the early 2000’s they threw away many molds, I don’t know if the Gryphon mold survived or not.” But Maitre felt that possibility was very unlikely, stating, “I’m sure the mold got either auctioned or destroyed.”
Many of the former Stan Winston artists now work for Legacy Effects. “Sheep’s Clothing Productions is my personal company, but I’m a full time employee at Legacy myself,” David Monzingo explained. “Sheep’s Clothing’s most recent projects were a short film called AMBUSH with Lance Henriksen, and another short called CATERWAUL which we created some puppets for.”
Bruce Spaulding Fuller has worked at Both Legacy and Patrick Tatopoulos Designs, with credits on the UNDERWORLD series, ALICE IN WONDERLAND (2010) and THOR (2011).
Paul Mejias has created designs, sculpts and on set effects for movies like TERMINATOR SALVATION (2009), THOR, THE AVENGERS, LIFE OF PI (2012) and THE BOURNE LEGACY (2012).
Mark Maitre’s recent credits include AVATAR, ALICE IN WONDERLAND, THOR, COWBOYS AND ALIENS (2011), LIFE OF PI and THE BOURNE LEGACY.
Joey Orosco explained that, “I’m freelance now after 15-16 years at Stan’s. And before that I spent close to three years at Rick Baker’s. AVATAR was my last film at Stan’s. What a great film to end on, by the way… the biggest grossing film in history.”
Orosco is currently working on Hiroshi Katagiri’s independent horror film GEHENNA – WHERE DEATH LIVES, and is pleased to see a renewed interest in practical and makeup effects after years of over reliance on CGI. “Working with all my great friends like Matt Rose and Norman Cabrera and Steve Wang — we all feel that makeup effects are making a comeback, resurgence. All those years rolling at Stan’s, we were just a well-oiled machine churning out films. And all that ended when CG just stopped everything. But some of the producers and directors these days love practical, love having something on set again as long as it works right and looks great. CG has just been overloaded. There are so many CG companies, and not every company is great… not every one is Weta or ILM. There’s a lot of bad CG happening and that opens the door for us to come back. Nice to get back into a rhythm again.”
Mark “Crash” McCreery has maintained his status as the top creature and concept designer in Hollywood, with credits on such hit films as A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN series, HULK (2003), ENCHANTED (2007), and the upcoming JURASSIC WORLD (2015).
Jan De Bont had his second box office smash with TWISTER, which earned $241.7 million in the US and more than $600 million in 1996. The director returned to 20th Century Fox as promised to make SPEED 2: CRUISE CONTROL (1997), which proved an expensive box office failure. He was unable to secure studio backing for his proposed sci-fi western GHOST RIDERS IN THE SKY, and instead directed a remake of THE HAUNTING in 1999 and TOMB RAIDER: THE CRADLE OF LIFE in 2003. In recent years he has focused on commercial work and has also produced films such as the Steven Spielberg/Tom Cruise hit MINORITY REPORT (2002).
But GODZILLA is still the movie that got away. “It’s one of those few movies where people go, ‘what a missed opportunity that was’,” Jan De Bont told SciFi Japan. “Especially because the script was really good; it was all in the service of Godzilla. And that’s what Ted and Terry are so good at. Even in their animation films they know exactly what the characters need. In my opinion they made a modern masterpiece, and the studio has to live with that.”
GODZILLA (1994) CREDITS
Based on the character “Godzilla” owned and created by Toho Co., Ltd.
Director: Jan De Bont
Screenplay: Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio
Screenplay (1995 Rewrite): Don Macpherson
Producers: Cary Woods and Robert N. Fried
Executive Producer: Ian Bryce
Associate Producer: Glenn Salloum
VP Motion Picture Production TriStar Pictures: Chris Lee
EVP Motion Picture Production TriStar Pictures: Ron Lynch
Line Producer: Barrie M. Osborne
Production Manager: Louis G. Friedman
Production Designer: Joseph Nemec III
Art Department Coordinator: Carla Nemec
Supervising Art Director: Dan Olexiewicz
Visual Effects Supervisor: Boyd Shermis
Special Effects Coordinator (Practical Effects): John Frazier, Fxperts
Miniature Effects: Mark Stetson, Stetson Visual Services, Inc.
Storyboards: Giacomo Ghiazza and David Russell
Casting Director: Risa Bramon Garcia
Godzilla Concept Design: Ricardo Delgado
Gryphon and Probe Bat Concept Designs: Carlos Huante
Alien Concept Design: David Russell
Production Art: Ricardo Delgado
Stan Winston Studio
Creature Effects Producer: Stan Winston
Production Supervisor: John Rosengrant
Godzilla and Gryphon Concept Designs: Mark “Crash” McCreery
Godzilla Lead Sculptor: Joey Orosco
Godzilla Sculptors: Mark Maitre, Scott Stoddard, Paul Mejias, Bruce Spaulding Fuller, Ken Brilliant, Mike Smithson, David
Gryphon Lead Sculptor: Mark Maitre
Gryphon Sculptor: Scott Stoddard
Probe Bat Concept Design and Lead Sculptor: Bruce Spaulding Fuller
Probe Bat Sculptor: Ken Brilliant
Alien Concept Design: Greg Figiel
Maquette Painter: Jim Charmatz
Special Visual Effects and Digital Animation: Stan Winston, James Cameron and Scott Ross
Visual Effects Producer: Brooke Breton
Visual Effects Supervisor: Jay Riddle
Visual Effects producer: Richard Hollander
Visual Effects Supervisor: Greg McMurray
Sony Pictures Imageworks
Visual Effects Supervisors: Tim McGovern and John Nelson
FX Test Art Director: Jon Townley
FX Test Godzilla Head Sculptor: Michael Hood, Precision Effects
FX Test Godzilla Figure Sculptors: Jeff Farley, Chris Bergschneider and Dirk Von Besser, Obscure Artifacts
Scanning: Viewpoint DataLabs
1. Steve Ryfle, Regarding Henry, August 1993/July 1995↩
2. Stuart Galbraith IV, Godzilla’s American Cousin, Filmfax #45, June/July 1994, p63↩
3. Peter Bart, The Gross, (St. Martin’s Press, 1999), p100↩
4. Steve Ryfle, I’m Ready For My Close-Up, Mr. De Bont, Sci-Fi Universe #5, February/March 1995, p50↩
5. Chris Nashawaty, Stomp the World, I Want to Get Off, Entertainment Weekly #433, May 22, 1998, p26↩
6. POWER LUNCH, CNBC, May 1998↩
7. Rachel Aberly, The Making of GODZILLA, (HarperPrism, 1998), p13↩
8. Peter Bart, The Gross, (St. Martin’s Press, 1999), p105↩
9. Rachel Aberly, The Making of GODZILLA, (HarperPrism, 1998), pp13-14↩
10. Peter Bart, The Gross, (St. Martin’s Press, 1999), p101↩
12. Chris Nashawaty, Stomp the World, I Want to Get Off, Entertainment Weekly #433, May 22, 1998, p26↩
13. POWER LUNCH, CNBC, May 1998↩
14. Bob Strauss, New-Look Godzilla Unleashed in Remake, Daily News, May 17, 1998↩
15. Teresa Watanabe, Godzilla Suits Up Again: Low-Tech Dinosaur Is Due for High-Tech Hollywood Make-Over, Los Angeles
Times, August 1, 1994↩
16. Peter Bart, The Gross, (St. Martin’s Press, 1999), p102↩
17. John Evan Frook, TriStar Lands Monster of Deal with GODZILLA, Daily Variety Vol 237 #40, October 30, 1992, p2↩
18. Ryan Murphy, Godzilla, Call Your Agent, Los Angeles Times, October 29, 1992↩
21. John Evan Frook, TriStar Lands Monster of Deal with GODZILLA, Daily Variety Vol 237 #40, October 30, 1992, p2↩
22. Dan Cox, GODZILLA Stomps Ahead, Variety, November 7-13, 1994, p3↩
23. Associated Press, Godzilla Heads for Film Role in Hollywood, December 19, 1992↩
24. David Milner, Haruo Nakajima Interview, Cult Movies #17, 1996, p58↩
25. David Milner, Koichi Kawakita Interview, Cult Movies #14, 1994, p52↩
26. David Milner, Teruyoshi Nakano Interview, Cult Movies #12, 1994, p57↩
27. David Milner, Jun Fukuda Interview, Cult Movies #13, 1994, p53↩
28. David Milner, Ishiro Honda Interview, Cult Movies #9, 1993, p36↩
29. David Milner, Kenji Sahara Interview, Cult Movies #17, 1996, p59↩
30. GODZILLA KING OF THE MONSTERS, BBC, May 16, 1998↩
DEVELOPING THE STORY
1. Peter Bart, The Gross, (St. Martin’s Press, 1999), p102↩
2. Jim Bailey, Your City Could Be Next: Now, Godzilla Takes on the World, Asiaweek, December 21-28, 1994), pp38-43↩
3. Steve Ryfle, Regarding Henry, August 1993/July 1995↩
4. Jeff Gordinier, Leapin’ Lizards!, Entertainment Weekly #228/229, June 24, 1994, p10↩
5. Peter Bart, The Gross, (St. Martin’s Press, 1999), p103↩
6. Michael Gingold, Godzilla Vs. the Development Monster, Fangoria #145, August 1995, p41↩
7. Mark Shultz, Ameri-Goji: Rossio Sees Exciting Prospect, G-Fan #9, May/June 1994, p24↩
8. Steve Ryfle, I’m Ready For My Close-Up, Mr. De Bont, Sci-Fi Universe #5, February/March 1995, p50↩
9. Steve Ryfle, Japan’s Favorite Mon-Star, (ECW Press, 1999), p331↩
10. Michael Gingold, Godzilla Vs. the Development Monster, Fangoria #145, August 1995, p41↩
12. Steve Ryfle, Japan’s Favorite Mon-Star, (ECW Press, 1999), p331↩
13. Steve Ryfle, Japan’s Favorite Mon-Star, (ECW Press, 1999), p330↩
14. Steve Ryfle, Japan’s Favorite Mon-Star, (ECW Press, 1999), p331↩
16. Tom Shone, Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summer, (Free Press, 2004), p268↩
17. Jeff Gordinier, Leapin’ Lizards!, Entertainment Weekly #228/229, June 24, 1994, p10↩
18. Steve Ryfle, Japan’s Favorite Mon-Star, (ECW Press, 1999), p331↩
1. Steve Ryfle, Japan’s Favorite Mon-Star, (ECW Press, 1999), pp324-327↩
1. Ryan Murphy, Godzilla, Call Your Agent, Los Angeles Times, October 29, 1992↩
2. Bob Strauss, New-Look Godzilla Unleashed in Remake, Daily News, May 17, 1998↩
3. Phil De Semlyen, Why Monster, Empire #298, April 2014, p76↩
4. Peter Bart, The Gross, (St. Martin’s Press, 1999), p107↩
5. Steve Ryfle, I’m Ready For My Close-Up, Mr. De Bont, Sci-Fi Universe #5, February/March 1995, p51↩
6. Pat Jankiewicz, Godzilla American Style, Starlog #193, August 1993, p55↩
7. Bill Moseley, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: An Interview with James Cameron, Omni, 1998↩
8. Chris Nashawaty, Stomp the World, I Want to Get Off, Entertainment Weekly #433, May 22, 1998, p26↩
9. Mike Fleming Jr, Cary Woods And His Long Road Back Into Film, Deadline Hollywood, June 17, 2013↩
10. Don Shay and Jody Duncan, The Making of JURASSIC PARK, (Ballantine Books, 1993), p22↩
11. Bob Strauss, New-Look Godzilla Unleashed in Remake, Daily News, May 17, 1998↩
12. David Milner, New Wave Godzilla, Cult Movies #19, 1996, p34↩
13. Stuart Galbraith IV, Godzilla’s American Cousin, Filmfax #45, June/July 1994, p63↩
THE FIRST FX TEST
1. Rachel Aberly, The Making of GODZILLA, (HarperPrism, 1998), p87↩
JAN De BONT
1. Donna Parker, Monstrous Deal for De Bont: New GODZILLA, The Hollywood Reporter Vol. 232 #42, June 28, 1994, p57↩
2. Chris Nashawaty, Stomp the World, I Want to Get Off, Entertainment Weekly #433, May 22, 1998, p27↩
3. Rex Weiner, De Bont Helms New GODZILLA, Daily Variety, July 8, 1994, p3↩
4. Mark Salisbury, Monster Invasion: Godzilla, Fangoria #140, March 1995, p10↩
5. Donna Parker, Monstrous Deal for De Bont: New GODZILLA, The Hollywood Reporter Vol. 232 #42, June 28, 1994, p57↩
6. Mark Salisbury, Monster Invasion: Godzilla, Fangoria #140, March 1995, p10↩
7. Rex Weiner, De Bont Helms New GODZILLA, Daily Variety, July 8, 1994, p3↩
8. Rex Weiner, De Bont Helms New GODZILLA, Daily Variety, July 8, 1994, p19↩
9. Donna Parker, Monstrous Deal for De Bont: New GODZILLA, The Hollywood Reporter Vol. 232 #42, June 28, 1994, p57↩
10. Rex Weiner, De Bont Helms New GODZILLA, Daily Variety, July 8, 1994, p19↩
11. Steve Ryfle, I’m Ready For My Close-Up, Mr. De Bont, Sci-Fi Universe #5, February/March 1995, p51↩
12. Chris Nashawaty, Stomp the World, I Want to Get Off, Entertainment Weekly #433, May 22, 1998, p27↩
13. Tom Shone, Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summer, (Free Press, 2004), p269↩
14. Rachel Aberly, The Making of GODZILLA, (HarperPrism, 1998), p17↩
15. Mark Salisbury, Monster Invasion: Godzilla, Fangoria #140, March 1995, p10↩
16. Teresa Watanabe, Godzilla Suits Up Again: Low-Tech Dinosaur Is Due for High-Tech Hollywood Make-Over, Los Angeles
Times, August 1, 1994↩
17. Jim Bailey, Your City Could Be Next: Now, Godzilla Takes on the World, Asiaweek, December 21-28, 1994, pp38-43↩
1. Mark Salisbury, Monster Invasion: Godzilla, Fangoria #140, March 1995, p10↩
CONCEPTUAL DESIGN, ROUND ONE: GOJIRA PRODUCTIONS and STAN WINSTON
1. Stephen Rebello, Stan Winston: The Michelangelo of Monsters, Movieline, November 1, 1994↩
2. Don Shay and Jody Duncan, The Making of JURASSIC PARK, (Ballantine Books, 1993), p22↩
3. Steve Ryfle, Japan’s Favorite Mon-Star, (ECW Press, 1999), p331↩
1. Mark Shultz, Ameri-Goji: Rossio Sees Exciting Prospect, G-Fan #9, May/June 1994, p24↩
2. Brant Elliot, The Tri-Star “G” We’ll Never See, G-Fan #33, May/June 1998, pp25↩
3. Rex Weiner, De Bont Helms New GODZILLA, Daily Variety, July 8, 1994, p194↩
4. Michael Gingold, Godzilla Vs. the Development Monster, Fangoria #145, August 1995, p41↩
5. Dan Cox, TriStar Stix 3 Pix in Mix, Daily Variety, October 11, 1994, p1↩
6. Tom Shone, Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summer, (Free Press, 2004), p137↩
7. Stephen Rebello, Stan Winston: The Michelangelo of Monsters, Movieline, November 1, 1994↩
8. Bill Moseley, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: An Interview with James Cameron, Omni, 1998↩
9. Mark Salisbury, Monster Invasion: Godzilla, Fangoria #140, March 1995, p10↩
10. Bill Moseley, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: An Interview with James Cameron, Omni, 1998↩
FINAL PREPARATIONS: CASTING plus MINIATURE and PRACTICAL EFFECTS
1. Dan Cox, GODZILLA Stomps Ahead, Variety, November 7-13, 1994, p3↩
2. Jeff Gordinier, Leapin’ Lizards!, Entertainment Weekly #228/229, June 24, 1994, p11↩
3. Chris Nashawaty, Stomp the World, I Want to Get Off, Entertainment Weekly #433, May 22, 1998, p27↩
4. Steve Ryfle, I’m Ready For My Close-Up, Mr. De Bont, Sci-Fi Universe #5, February/March 1995, p51↩
THINGS FALL APART
1. Mark Salisbury, Monster Invasion: Godzilla, Fangoria #140, March 1995, p10↩
2. Money Down The Drain, Newsweek, October 9, 1994↩
5. Peter Bart, The Gross, (St. Martin’s Press, 1999), p27↩
6. Peter Bart, The Gross, (St. Martin’s Press, 1999), p105↩
7. Chris Nashawaty, Stomp the World, I Want to Get Off, Entertainment Weekly #433, May 22, 1998, p27↩
8. Steve Ryfle, Godzilla in America!, Cinefantastique Vol 30 #7/8, October 1998, p113↩
9. Michael Gingold, Godzilla Vs. the Development Monster, Fangoria #145, August 1995, p41↩
10. Peter Bart, The Gross, (St. Martin’s Press, 1999), p109↩
11. Dan Cox, De Bont Vs. GODZILLA, Daily Variety, December 16, 1994, p33↩
12. Steve Ryfle, Regarding Henry, August 1993/July 1995↩
13. Steve Ryfle and Steve Biodrowski, Godzilla Greenlighted, Cinefantastique Vol 28 #1, August 1996, p61↩
14. Michael Gingold, Godzilla Vs. the Development Monster, Fangoria #145, August 1995, p41↩
1. Dan Cox, De Bont Vs. GODZILLA, Daily Variety, December 16, 1994, p33↩
2. Amy Longsdorf, The Twist On `Twister’ A Whirlwind Of Traumatic Fun For Cast And Crew, The Morning Call, May 10,
3. Bill Moseley, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: An Interview with James Cameron, Omni, 1998↩
4. Steve Ryfle, Regarding Henry, July 1995↩
5. Mike Fleming Jr, Cary Woods And His Long Road Back Into Film, Deadline Hollywood, June 17, 2013↩
6. David Milner, New Wave Godzilla, Cult Movies #19, 1996, p36↩
7. Linda Sieg, After 4 Decades, Godzilla Faces Extinction, Maybe, Reuters News Service, December 11, 1995↩
1. Rachel Aberly, The Making of GODZILLA, (HarperPrism, 1998), pp15-16↩
2. Bob Strauss, New-Look Godzilla Unleashed in Remake, Daily News, May 17, 1998↩
3. Peter Bart, The Gross, (St. Martin’s Press, 1999), pp107-108↩
4. Mike Ryan, Roland Emmerich, ‘White House Down’ Director, Explains Who And What We’ll See In ‘Independence Day 2’
(Not Boomer), Huffington Post, June 26, 2013↩
5. Peter Bart, The Gross, (St. Martin’s Press, 1999), p107↩
6. Bob Strauss, New-Look Godzilla Unleashed in Remake, Daily News, May 17, 1998↩
7. Howard Chua-Eoan, What In The Name Of Godzilla…?, Time, May 25, 1998↩
8. Kevin H. Martin, The Sound and the Fury, Cinefex #74, July 1998, p85↩
9. Peter Bart, The Gross, (St. Martin’s Press, 1999), p107↩
10. Kevin H. Martin, The Sound and the Fury, Cinefex #74, July 1998, p85↩
11. Peter Bart, The Gross, (St. Martin’s Press, 1999), pp108-109↩
12. Kevin H. Martin, The Sound and the Fury, Cinefex #74, July 1998, p86↩
13. Sean Mitchell, The Return of Godzilla, Los Angeles Times, May 17, 1998↩
14. Steve Ryfle and Steve Biodrowski, Godzilla Greenlighted, Cinefantastique Vol 28 #1, August 1996, p6↩
15. Chuck Wagner, Waiting for Godzilla, SFX #30, October 1997, p62↩
16. Steve Ryfle and Steve Biodrowski, Godzilla Greenlighted, Cinefantastique Vol 28 #1, August 1996, p6↩
17. Mike Fleming Jr, Cary Woods And His Long Road Back Into Film, Deadline Hollywood, June 17, 2013↩
18. Rachel Aberly, The Making of GODZILLA, (HarperPrism, 1998), p25↩
19. Chuck Wagner, Monster! Monster!, SFX #37, April 1998, p56↩
20. Steve Ryfle and Steve Biodrowski, Godzilla Greenlighted, Cinefantastique Vol 28 #1, August 1996, p61↩
21. Jeff Dawson, We’re Off to See the Lizard, Empire #110, August 1998, p118↩
22. Mike Ryan, Roland Emmerich, ‘White House Down’ Director, Explains Who And What We’ll See In ‘Independence Day 2’
(Not Boomer), Huffington Post, June 26, 2013↩
23. Jeff Dawson, We’re Off to See the Lizard, Empire #110, August 1998, p118↩
24. Rachel Aberly, The Making of GODZILLA, (HarperPrism, 1998), pp24-25↩
25. Rachel Aberly, The Making of GODZILLA, (HarperPrism, 1998), p24↩
26. Mike Ryan, Roland Emmerich, ‘White House Down’ Director, Explains Who And What We’ll See In ‘Independence Day 2’
(Not Boomer), Huffington Post, June 26, 2013↩
27. Rachel Aberly, The Making of GODZILLA, (HarperPrism, 1998), p25↩
28. Howard Chua-Eoan, What In The Name Of Godzilla…?, Time, May 25, 1998↩
29. Patrick Tatopoulos, The Art of GODZILLA, (Panpo Pirorin, 1998), p4↩
30. Rachel Aberly, The Making of GODZILLA, (HarperPrism, 1998), p26↩
31. Rachel Aberly, The Making of GODZILLA, (HarperPrism, 1998), p27↩
32. Chris Nashawaty, Stomp the World, I Want to Get Off, Entertainment Weekly #433, May 22, 1998, p27↩
33. Rachel Aberly, The Making of GODZILLA, (HarperPrism, 1998), p20↩
34. Howard Chua-Eoan, What In The Name Of Godzilla…?, Time, May 25, 1998↩
36. Chuck Wagner, Monster! Monster!, SFX #37, April 1998, p56↩
37. Mike Ryan, Roland Emmerich, ‘White House Down’ Director, Explains Who And What We’ll See In ‘Independence Day 2’
(Not Boomer), Huffington Post, June 26, 2013↩
38. Valerie Reitman, Godzilla Returns Home Something of a Stranger, Los Angeles Times, July 13, 1998↩
39. Chuck Wagner, Monster! Monster!, SFX #37, April 1998, p55↩
40. Chuck Wagner, Godzilla, Cinefantastique Vol 30 #1, May 1998, p11↩
41. Katsunobu Higashino, Toho Monster Graffiti, (Kindai Eigasha, 1991), pp35-37↩
42. Howard Chua-Eoan, What In The Name Of Godzilla…?, Time, May 25, 1998↩
43. Sean Mitchell, The Return of Godzilla, Los Angeles Times, May 17, 1998↩
44. Katsunobu Higashino, Toho Monster Graffiti, (Kindai Eigasha, 1991), pp35-37↩
45. Tim Carvell, How Sony Created A Monster, Fortune, June 8, 1998↩
47. Peter Bart, The Gross, (St. Martin’s Press, 1999), p108↩
48. Chris Nashawaty, Stomp the World, I Want to Get Off, Entertainment Weekly #433, May 22, 1998, p28↩
49. Tom Shone, Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summer, (Free Press, 2004), p270↩
50. ‘Godzilla’ Revived By ‘ID4’ Script Duo, Daily Variety, October 15, 1996↩
52. Steve Ryfle and Steve Biodrowski, Godzilla Greenlighted, Cinefantastique Vol 28 #1, August 1996, p61↩
53. Rachel Aberly, The Making of GODZILLA, (HarperPrism, 1998), p7↩
54. Rachel Aberly, The Making of GODZILLA, (HarperPrism, 1998), p9↩
55. Tom Shone, Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summer, (Free Press, 2004), p270↩
56. Dave Golder, Two-Headed Monster Makers, SFX: The Making of GODZILLA, August 1998, p8↩
58. Rachel Aberly, The Making of GODZILLA, (HarperPrism, 1998), p23↩
59. Monica Roman, Monster Promo for Sony, Variety, February 9, 1998↩
60. Tim Carvell, How Sony Created A Monster, Fortune, June 8, 1998↩
61. Simon Ashdown, Godzilla under wraps, KidScreen, February 1, 1998↩
62. Tim Ryan, Godzilla: Reporters got in the action during filming in Oahu, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, August 28, 1997↩
63. Bob Strauss, New-Look Godzilla Unleashed in Remake, Daily News, May 17, 1998↩
64. Claudia Eller and James Bates, Attack of the Killer Franchise: Sony Banks on GODZILLA Becoming a Monster Hit, Los
Angeles Times, November 7, 1997↩
65. Chuck Wagner, Monster! Monster!, SFX #37, April 1998, p55↩
66. Kevin H. Martin, The Sound and the Fury, Cinefex #74, July 1998, p101↩
67. Matthew Scott, Monster hopes for the new Godzilla, South China Morning Post, May 17, 1998↩
68. Chuck Wagner, Waiting for Godzilla, SFX #30, October 1997, p62↩
69. Tom Shone, Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summer, (Free Press, 2004), p267↩
70. Tim Carvell, How Sony Created A Monster, Fortune, June 8, 1998↩
71. Chris Nashawaty, Stomp the World, I Want to Get Off, Entertainment Weekly #433, May 22, 1998, p28↩
72. Eric Lichtenfeld, Action Speaks Louder: Violence, Spectacle and the American Action Movie, (Wesleyan University Press,
73. Robert W. Welkos, There Will Be No Escaping ‘Godzilla’, Los Angeles Times, May 14, 1998↩
74. Godzilla: He’s Big. He’s Upset. He’s Invisible, BusinessWeek, April 5, 1998↩
75. Robert W. Welkos, There Will Be No Escaping ‘Godzilla’, Los Angeles Times, May 14, 1998↩
76. Kate O’Hare, Predicting the future is what…, Chicago Tribune, October 18, 1998↩
77. Ian Spelling, Maria Pitillo as Audrey Timmonds, GODZILLA- The Official Movie Magazine, p45↩
1. Chuck Wagner, Monster! Monster!, SFX #37, April 1998, p56↩
2. Peter Bart, The Gross, (St. Martin’s Press, 1999), p203↩
3. Michael Fleeman, ‘Godzilla’ team admits lizard flick was turkey, Associated Press, September 14, 1998↩
4. Peter Bart, The Gross, (St. Martin’s Press, 1999), p204↩
5. Michael Fleeman, ‘Godzilla’ team admits lizard flick was turkey, Associated Press, September 14, 1998↩
6. Eric Lichtenfeld, Action Speaks Louder: Violence, Spectacle and the American Action Movie, (Wesleyan University Press,
7. Rose DeWolf, It’s Big, All Right – A Big Flop: `Godzilla’ Takes A Stomping At The Box Office And In The Stores, Daily
News, June 12, 1998↩
8. Peter Bart, The Gross, (St. Martin’s Press, 1999), p200↩
9. Tom Shone, Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summer, (Free Press, 2004), p270↩
10. Michael Fleeman, ‘Godzilla’ team admits lizard flick was turkey, Associated Press, September 14, 1998↩
11. Dave Golder, Two-Headed Monster Makers, SFX: The Making of GODZILLA, August 1998, p9↩
12. Dave Golder, Two-Headed Monster Makers, SFX: The Making of GODZILLA, August 1998, p10↩
13. Anita M. Busch, Godzilla Too?, Entertainment Weekly #437, June 19, 1998, p46↩
14. Rose DeWolf, It’s Big, All Right – A Big Flop: `Godzilla’ Takes A Stomping At The Box Office And In The Stores, Daily
News, June 12, 1998↩
15. Tom Shone, Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summer, (Free Press, 2004), p270↩
17. Eric Lichtenfeld, Action Speaks Louder: Violence, Spectacle and the American Action Movie, (Wesleyan University Press,
18. Valerie Reitman, Godzilla Returns Home Something of a Stranger, Los Angeles Times, July 13, 1998↩
20. A Lizard Leaps From Tokyo To Hollywood, Newsweek Vol 131 #21 May 25, 1998, p49↩
21. Aaron Smith, G-CON `98 Interview with Haruo Nakajima and Kenpachiro Satsuma, Sci-Fi Channel↩
22. Calvin Sims, Japanese Trying To Restore Godzilla To Its Roots With `Millennium’, New York Times, December 9, 1999↩
23. Linda Sieg, Godzilla Back for New Millennium, Reuters News Service, November 6, 1999↩
24. Dave Golder, Two-Headed Monster Makers, SFX: The Making of GODZILLA, August 1998, p10↩
25. Claudia Eller, Sony Relying on a Compact Import for Next ‘Godzilla’, Los Angeles Times, June 13, 2000↩
27. Michael Fleeman, ‘Godzilla’ team admits lizard flick was turkey, Associated Press, September 14, 1998↩
28. Claudia Eller, Sony Relying on a Compact Import for Next ‘Godzilla’, Los Angeles Times, June 13, 2000↩
31. Tom Shone, Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summer, (Free Press, 2004), p269↩
1. Mark Schilling, Japanese Warm Up to Idea of American ‘Godzilla’, Variety, May 18, 2014↩
2. Mike Ryan, Roland Emmerich, ‘White House Down’ Director, Explains Who And What We’ll See In ‘Independence Day 2’
(Not Boomer), Huffington Post, June 26, 2013↩
3. Phil De Semlyen, Why, Monster, Empire Magazine #298, April 2014, p76↩
4. Adam B. Vary, Dean Devlin on the recently announced ‘Godzilla’ reboot: ‘I know I screwed up my Godzilla’, Entertainment
Weekly, July 27, 2012↩
5. Matt Frank, Comment on Godzilla: Rulers of Earth #2, DeviantArt, May 9, 2013↩