In Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal, Anne Hathaway stars as an alcoholic who sobers up quick once she realizes her drunken walks home manifest a rampaging monster over Seoul. But this clever creature feature from Timecrimes‘ brilliant writer/director Nacho Vigalondo takes a daring second act turn that leads to a shocking final showdown. And Screen Rant’s got the behind-the-scenes story on how its climax was dramatically changed just days ahead of shooting.
Major spoilers for Colossal lie below!
Once Gloria (Anne Hathaway) realizes that her bullying boss Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) will use his giant robot alter-ego to destroy all of Seoul and its inhabitants just to control her, she flies to the South Korean metropolis to turn the tables. From there, her towering Kaiju appears in her hometown, and not the streets of Seoul. And so she strides it to the playground, to confront the furious Oscar, and end his reign of terror. Her monster picks the raging Nice Guy up in its palm, and rather than backing down or repenting, Oscar spits that Gloria is a “bitch.” Then, she pitches him – and his Seoul-bound Robot – away into oblivion.
It’s a dark moment that had to be handled just right. And it was this very element that worried Colossal’s leading lady, Hathaway. When Screen Rant sat down with this Kaiju comedy’s creator at SWSX, Vigalondo gave us the inside scoop on how Hathaway contributed to a crucial change in the film’s climax.
“Initially, she threw him away in a more dry way,” Vigalondo explained. “It was like a visual confrontation. Two days before shooting the scene, Anne Hathaway called me, on a Sunday.” (Note: Vigalondo only refers to the acclaimed American actress warmly and by her full name.) “She was all of a sudden worried about the scene. She was like, ‘Okay. Can we make the movie in a way that she doesn’t kill him?’ Because it’s capital punishment.” Essentially, it’s not something to be taken so lightly. Oscar is being executed not for crossing Gloria, but for the devastation he’s so mercilessly wreaked on the people of Seoul.
“And I was like, ‘Okay, once we meet that level of destruction, when she’s holding him? The movie is at its basics,'” Vigalondo explained, recounting the discussion. “‘There’s no blood. There’s no dialogue. It’s just this pure thing, a pure elemental scene happening in showdown. It’s like the end of a spaghetti Western. You’ve reached a peak level of destruction. And after that? You can’t go back to plot. The movie ends there.'”
For Vigalondo, Oscar’s rampages on Seoul meant he’d gone too far to be redeemed. “Because he’s not only an abuser, he’s genocidal,” he said. “Oscar commits genocide, the biggest crime, because he doesn’t care about other people. So if the guy ends up forgiven?…At the end of the day, it’s not about killing this character. It’s about killing what he represents. But at the same time, within the plot of the film, the ending has to be satisfactory.”
So Oscar had to die. There’s no way around that. Gloria can’t very well go to the cops and have him arrested. No one would believe her tall tale. And Oscar won’t back down. But Vigalondo began to wonder if Hathaway was right, and that the scene as written undercut his harried heroine. After two days of mulling it over, Vigalondo came up with a compromise. Instead of Gloria’s Kaiju coldly approaching Oscar and pitching him away without a word, he’s given one last chance to humble himself, to repent. Instead, he screams at Gloria’s colossal creature, calling her a “bitch.”
“(The dialogue) was added to make sure: for this guy? There’s no other solution,” Vigalondo said. “This guy, he’s not accepting from every level the lack of power. He needs to be powerful. He’s addicted to power. He can’t let other persons be more powerful than him. So because of panic, because of the stress of being in her hands, he reveals his real nature. He’s not afraid. He’s just angry and desperate to be respected.”
While some directors might bristle at the idea of their star weighing in on such a pivotal plot point, the Spanish filmmaker emphasized he only appreciated Hathaway’s contribution and consideration of the matter. “Anne Hathaway was totally right when she said, ‘If I execute this guy, in this cold way, we’re going to lose the empathy towards the character. Because she’s not like that.'” Vigalondo continued, “At that point in the shooting, I learned that if Anne Hathaway is texting me, she’s right!”
“I say this for real,” he said with a smile, “I’ve made four films. She’s made 400! Every time that we had discussion, either she’d acknowledge you’re right pretty fast, or she keeps fighting for it. And I’d learned by that point in shooting, if she’s fighting for it, it’s because she’s right. And I got a chance to realize that in time. I learned a lot from her.”
Through their collaboration, these two compassionate artists made something truly colossal.