Adam Wingard On ‘Godzilla x Kong,’ ‘Thundercats,‘ And ‘Face/Off 2‘

Godzilla and Kong haven’t quite settled their beef yet. In Godzilla v Kong: The New Empire, set after the events of Godzilla vs. Kong, Kong leads a seemingly peaceful life in the center of the Earth. Godzilla now roams the planet, defending it from assorted monsters that show up – usually causing a lot of damage in the process, but better than no protection at all. And Godzilla has taken up a residency of sort in the Roman Colosseum, which he now uses as a bed. The good news is, these two are living far apart. That is, until Kong gets a nasty tooth ache and comes back to the surface seeking help, which sets off a whole host of problems for Rebecca Hall’s Dr. Ilene Andrews – who must first call in Trapper (Dan Stevens, seemingly having the time of his life) to fix Kong’s tooth. Then she must reunite with Brian Tyree Henry’s Bernie Hayes, who can help her with all the monster activity now going on.

This is the first of the new Monterverse movies to bring back members of the human cast from the previous films. As director Adam Wingard says ahead, it’s really the first direct sequel in the series so far so it made sense to bring back some characters. Ahead, Wingard explains why this movie isn’t just a “rematch” movie and that it’s more complicated than that. That’s the thing about Wingard, he truly does love these characters. And even though we might be tempted to have Godzilla do a little dance like he does in the Showa-era film Invasion of Astro-Monster – or really wonders what Godzilla would look like flying backwards using modern CGI – he knows how much others care about these characters, too, and as he puts it, doesn’t want “death threats.”

He also still plans on making a Thundercats movie and still plans on making a sequel to Face/Off with both Nicolas Cage and John Travolta. The last time we spoke to Wingard, for the release of Godzilla vs. Kong, these were his priority then, too. But, of course, the pandemic and a writers strike slowed down both projects. But, according to Wingard, they are still very much a priority.

These two, they’re at it again.

Yeah… But it’s one of those things where, yes, this is a rematch. But it’s not as straightforward as that, right? These monsters are complicated characters.

Over the last few months, I’ve been going through the Showa-era Godzilla movies. The monsters are actually complicated. Mothra is pretty complicated.

Well, that’s the thing, I always remembered, as a kid, that was so inspiring. Now making this film as an adult is that when you’re watching the films as a kid, you really understand the interactions. There’s a shorthand to Godzilla and Mothra being buddies and all the allegiances and those kind of things they have towards each other or not. Even though the monsters don’t talk, it’s easy to understand how they’re communicating with each other and what they are communicating.

Though you could have gotten away with Mothra talking. Well, not “talking,” but in the original we see her subtitles.

There are obviously a lot of sequences in this film which are just full monster sequences told from their POV. And what’s kind of funny is whenever you send out a script to people, a lot of the time people tend to just sort of skim over a lot of the full descriptive sequences and they just go right to the dialogue. And so knowing that, even when we were creating the monster scenes we actually wrote out what that dialogue would be in the script. So when you read it would say, Kong says, “Hey, back off.” And Scar King’s like, “Don’t tell me what to do.”

So in your mind they use slang? “Hey, back off, man.

I’m giving you sort of more of a shorthand.

Oh, I see. Because I’d pay to see the version where they all speak in casual American slang.

I know, they should do a special edition though with subtitles like you’re saying so that you can just follow it.

“Take a long walk off a short pier, Godzilla.”

“You son of a bitch.”

Now you’ve escalated things. Now they’re going to come to blows.

Oh, you don’t think they’d be swearing? They would definitely be swearing at each other, yeah. These be some filthy monsters.

I also like how, going through the Showa films, Godzilla goes from a pure force of destruction to this ambivalent grump.

I had a conversation with Takashi Yamazaki recently, who directed Godzilla Minus One, and I was impressed to find out what a big fan he was of the Showa films, which are my favorite ones. And you haven’t gotten to it yet, but Godzilla versus Hedorah, that’s probably my favorite of that era because of how just over the top … like psychedelic, colorful…

I know I haven’t gotten to that one yet. You’re the second person I’ve interviewed that’s just randomly brought that one up. You know who the other person was? Nicolas Cage.

Oh really?

Yeah. And I know you still hope to do Face/Off 2 with him.

I specifically had a meeting with Nic Cage about Face/Off 2. And one of the things we specifically talked about a lot is Hedorah, because that’s also his favorite Godzilla movie. And probably for all the same reasons that I love it. It’s almost borderline experimental sometimes. I mean, there’s a sequence with 50 split screens going on at once. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie do that outside of that film. But again, going back to your question, I mean, that’s the thing about Godzilla is that he has been overtly a metaphor. He’s been good, he’s been bad.

I love in Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Mothra tries to get Godzilla to fight Ghidorah to save Earth. Mothra has to report back to the humans, “Godzilla says he doesn’t care.”

[Laughs] Totally. Especially in the monster verse, he’s the protector of the world. But at the end of the day, I don’t think he’s going to lose sleep if he crushes a building filled with people. You’ve got to stay out of his way because he’s going to do everything he can to, in the long run, protect you. But he’s not going to go out of his way directly to protect anybody.

Did you ever think about putting that little dance Godzilla does on the alien planet in Invasion of Astro-Monster?

I love that dance. Hey, I mean, anything’s possible in time. I will say we did not get around to the dance in this movie, but it’s one of my favorite things in the series, because it’s just so celebratory, isn’t it?

It is.

It’s kind of cute and I like it. I mean, Godzilla can be cute.

He’s also cute when he’s shooting the energy from his mouth and he’s flying backwards.

Well, and in a weird way, we kind of pay homage to some of that in this movie, in one of the battle sequences, but we do it in kind of a grounded way. I think if I ever just had Godzilla specifically do that, the fans would never forgive me. Even though I’d love to see that with modern expensive CGI technology. I think I’d get death threats after that.

Why would you get death threats for that? It’s fun.

Some people like it, and some Godzilla fans don’t want to see that. They take Godzilla very seriously. And I take Godzilla very seriously. And there are just certain things that are a bridge too far when it comes to that character. And it’s always about the context. We find pretty crazy things to have Godzilla do in this movie, but I think we always try to ground it within the context of the movie.

You know what else is unusual for this movie? You bring a lot of the human characters back, which is unusual for the movies back then and unusual for this series now.

I mean, in a lot of ways, this film is a direct sequel to Godzilla vs Kong, whereas the MonsterVerse films up until this point had really been, even though they were part of a larger series, they had a little bit more of a one-off feel. And even though I think King of Monsters kind of kicked it off, obviously our film really follows much more directly within the same plot line and characters as GvK. And I’m the first director that’s come back for one of the MonsterVerse films, and I don’t take that kind of responsibility lightly. So I try to use everything I learned in the last film and bring it back to this. And one of the main lessons is that being able to build characters and be able to allow the film to focus on them in a more intimate way was very important.

Dan Stevens is certainly enjoying himself.

Well, we wrote that character specifically for Dan. Because I worked with Dan on one of my first films called The Guest, and it’s one of my favorite movies that I’ve made. Dan has these very specific qualities that are rare in a Hollywood actor. He could both be the handsome leading man, but he’s also not afraid to be really quirky and a little weird, but it doesn’t take away from his charisma.

So I read the interview where you say making ThunderCats is a top priority. But “top priority” kind of comes off like the “top men” line in Raiders of the Lost Ark. So I’m worried that means no “top men” are actually looking at the Ark.

No, I mean, I was just having a conversation with Simon Barrett, who’s writing it with me, on the phone yesterday because we’re kind of in our final push on this next draft. So there’s still a lot happening with it. And I’m really excited in the direction that it’s going. And I mean, it’s super cool. So yeah, I wouldn’t downplay it necessarily either.

We mentioned Face/Off 2. That one seems like we might be waiting a little bit, at least reading between the lines.

Well, who knows? Like I said, I’ve already met with Nic and John and really hit it off with them. It’s just a matter of the script’s actually not that far off. We’re kind of in that final phase of like, okay, let’s try a couple of other little things and then it’s going to come back around and we’ll do another pass on it. And it’s been a good process.

I mean, Simon and I started that during the pandemic and because I had to prioritize making this film. That’s the only thing that slowed it down. But I mean, in terms of what’s next, I mean, Face/Off 2 or ThunderCats could take off really quickly. But frankly, I’ve been in the middle of Godzilla-land for a little while and haven’t decided what’s going to be the next actual priority in terms of getting made. But we’ll see. I’m excited about both of them honestly. I know that there are so many filmmakers who always have a ton of different projects that they’re into, and half of them never get made. But I’m equally excited about both of them. It’s just a matter of what’s going to magically come forward in that studio sort of way – where it’s always a miracle when things get made and it’s just about timing a lot of the time.

Here’s my one suggestion, if I may, with Face/Off 2. Get them in a room and switch their faces.

Great idea.

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