King of the monsters trailer final

After the success of 2014’s American Godzilla from Legendary Pictures, director Gareth Edwards and co-writer Max Borenstein began working on a sequel. They ultimately left the project and Michael Dougherty created his sequel, Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

Dougherty spoke with /Film at the film’s Los Angeles press junket about the development of Godzilla: King of the Monsters and creating all-new Titan creatures for the film. Godzilla: King of the Monsters opens Friday, May 31.

Is it pronounced GhiDORah? I’ve been saying it wrong all these years by calling him GHIdorah.

It’s tomato, tomAHto. That’s kind of the fun of the character I think is that no two people can really agree on how to pronounce it. It’s changed so much over the history of the films. They had Gee-dra, Gee-dorah, GhiDORah, so it’s like a regional dialect almost at this point.

Okay, so I’m fine.

You’re fine.

Did you see any of the material Gareth Edwards and Max Borenstein worked on? Is there any of their material left in the film?

What’s funny is that this particular incarnation of the film was developed completely separately from then after they had left the project. So I wasn’t privy to any of their materials at all until it came time for the dreaded WGA credit arbitration which is a process that every movie has to go through to determine the credits. That’s when you finally do get a peak at whatever other creative teams might have been working on. Much to the surprise of Zach Shields, my writing partner, and myself, our stories had so much in common to the point where we were just shocked that we hadn’t seen it or read it. The basic structure, the basic idea of a rogue military organization kidnapping a Monarch scientist in an effort to repopulate the Earth with the Titans was something that Max and Gareth, again unbeknownst to Zach and myself, had started to work on. They started to go down that path. The names were different. The actual events that played out were different but that one basic plotline was there. Zach and I called Max and said, “Why go through this arbitration process? We can just agree to split the credit.” It was just the right thing to do.

Was there ever a version of this where Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen would have returned?

No, no. As much as I enjoyed the adventure that he had in the first film, to me the more interesting characters were Serizawa and Graham and the Monarch scientists working behind the curtain. I’d much rather be the scientists who get to study the creature versus the soldier who has to fight them. I thought it was more complicated and nuanced to explore scientists as heroes versus yet another blockbuster that focuses on soldiers or superheroes. So I really wanted to shift it to the eggheads going on this adventure together. I also feel like after the events of the first film, chances are Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen got off the grid and lived in a wilderness as far away from monsters as possible and there was no way you could convince them to come back for another adventure.

When they decided they were going to have Godzilla vs. Kong, were there any confines you had to work within to leave room for their film?

No, no. That was the beauty of working with Legendary, that they just let us do our thing. They definitely wanted to make sure that we continue the mythology that Skull Island and the 2014 film established, especially Monarch and the idea of a world of potentially hybernating Titans. But other than that really had free reign. There wasn’t anything that we were told to set up regarding Kong and Godzilla, this ultimate showdown.

Or that you couldn’t do because they needed to save it?

No, no. If anything, I feel like it was a more traditional approach of they were willing to let us do our thing and then figure out the next chapter organically based on whatever ending we came up with. But at the same time, I wanted to lay some groundwork and some Easter Eggs and breadcrumbs because I love cinematic universes. This goes back to the original cinematic universe that Toho built. They really pioneered the idea of cinematic universes in the old Godzilla films. So it was a fun and true joy to sprinkle in mentions of Kong and Skull Island here and there.

There are 17 Titans. Did you get to invent 13 completely brand new ones?

Yeah, yeah. Originally we kicked around the idea of letting the other Titans be the more traditional Toho creatures, but the Toho creatures all come at a cost. Even mentioning them by name would cost us a certain amount of money. So I still think that some of the other classic Toho creatures are simply undiscovered because this film says there’s 17 and counting. As far as I’m concerned, they’re probably discovering a new hibernating Titan every other month or so. So you could very easily have King Caesar or Gigan discovered somewhere else on the planet. For now we chose to invent some original creatures because that’s also part of the fun of the Toho monsters is that they’re always adding new monsters. Every movie they come up with a new creature so it was sort of a joy just to get to add to that ecosystem.

Are you hoping any of your original Titans catch on and maybe get a headlined feature film?

That would be fun. That would be a joy. I’d be honored if whatever directors they line up next spark to one of our original creatures in the same way that I sparked to the Muto. I really love those creatures and I was so sad that they both died. That’s why I brought back one more female Muto for this film because I like the idea that species still has a chance at survival.

Do all of your creatures have names?

They do, so every single titan has a name and a mythological backstory. All their names are drawn from names from ancient myths.

Rather than make you go through all 13 names, is there a place fans can look them up?

Yeah, there’s a website, MonarchSciences.com. They’re working on it and obviously revealing it in layers to keep people intrigued.

Did you have to work a lot on the editing of the fights intercutting the monsters and the humans?

Oh yeah. I mean, it was a constant process of choreographing the fights using every tool imaginable so from using action figures on a tabletop, old school storyboards and thumbnails, previs. That was definitely one of the most fun parts of the project was to choreograph these massive battles using modern day visual effects, but ones that still harken back to the films we grew up watching.

You got the classic theme song in the film. Is that brand new Godzilla rock song in the credits?

No, that’s a cover version of the Blue Oyster Cult Godzilla song. The Blue Oyster Cult song is a classic as far as I’m concerned, especially because it also gets the character. If you listen to the lyrics, they pretty much sum up everything that Godzilla’s been trying to say for decades now. It’s a great song but the lyrics, if you listen to them, have a lot of weight and truth and meaning.

Is this the first time the Titans have gotten screen credit as themselves?

I think so. I’m glad you caught that. That was something I added very late in the process. I just like the idea that they’re such true characters that they are just playing themselves.

Have they been paying their SAG dues all these years?

You’d have to ask SAG.

Did you ever start writing a Superman Returns sequel?

No. No, I was busy with Trick ‘r Treat so it just never came together.

I always thought they had time to do two more with Brandon Routh and still could’ve rebooted it in 2013 with Man of Steel.

Life happens.

But you are doing Trick ‘R Treat 2?

We’ll see, honestly. That’s not a definite either. The ball is definitely in Legendary’s court on that. I’d love to return home in a way. Sam is my original child. He’s not an existing franchise character that I’m adopting and raising for somebody else. He definitely sprang from some very dark corners of my mind so I’d love to hang out with him again.

Do you have stories for a new anthology already?

Oh yeah, I’ve got a whole [collection]. There’s definitely the skeleton of the film in my mind. It just needs some time and attention to flesh it out a little bit.

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