‘Godzilla’ Interview: Elizabeth Olsen Talks About Her First CGI Experience

Published 11 months ago by

Elizabeth Olsen in Godzilla 2014 Godzilla Interview: Elizabeth Olsen Talks About Her First CGI Experience

Elizabeth Olsen has gained quite a following quite rapidly – and not just because of her famous last name (yes, the Olsen Twins are her sisters). The young actress has come up through the ranks of some impressive indie films (Martha Marcy May Marlene, Kill Your Darlings), bold genre fare (Silent House) and some films by acclaimed directors (Spike Lee’s Oldboy remake). Despite all that good work, it’s only now that her career is truly about to shift.

Olsen is making the jump to blockbuster movie starlet, headlining Legendary Pictures’ Godzilla reboot this summer, before entering the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Avengers: Age of Ultron, where she’ll play the iconic (and “out of her mind“) Scarlet Witch. Needless to say, she’s about to officially trade Cannes for Comic-Con.

We caught up with the actress at the NYC junket for Godzilla, where she discussed – among other things – what it’s like trying to act against imaginary space that will later be CGI creations, and why acting with a child may be more difficult than believing in giant monsters.

Now was this your first time doing CGI?

EO: Yup, absolutely. Yeah, it was definitely my first time doing something like this. I didn’t have any green screen to work with, though, it was all just an eye line and imagination.

Godzilla 2014 Interview Elizabeth Olsen Godzilla Interview: Elizabeth Olsen Talks About Her First CGI Experience

So when you got on set [of Avengers 2] with Joss [Whedon], were you already like a pro? Were you already like, “Yup, camera swoops, head movements…”

EO: No, it’s such a different world. It’s so crazy, you know, because you’re like—the main difference is in Godzilla you’re reacting to something that’s not there, and in something like The Avengers, is you’re approaching and almost interacting with something that’s not there. And so that’s what the main difference is for me right now.

Is there a different way to act in a monster movie compared to an independent, low, budget, do-it-in-two takes movie?

Elizabeth Olsen: Actually, we didn’t do so many takes. I think we did, you know, you have the luxury of time to do lots of angles. But, I don’t know, Gareth comes from the same kind of background understanding as I do, so I actually never felt that odd or out of place. I think my two biggest challenges: one was working with a kid. And then the other was the technical aspects of when your working with special effects—the timing and the camera movement, but finding the freedom in that. So I think those were the two things I learned on the job. And the reason why I thought, you know, doing a movie like this, or any of these kinds of big special effects kinds of movies is the childlike imagination you’ve got to have. I root it in such reality, but, you know, from a child’s point of view, almost.

Elizabeth Olsen and Carson Bolde in Godzilla Godzilla Interview: Elizabeth Olsen Talks About Her First CGI Experience

Elizabeth Olsen and Carson Bolde in Godzilla

So, Elizabeth, can you expand a little bit on how that challenge was with the kid? Like how did you bond and that sort of thing?

EO: Yeah. I think I’ve had a lot of different actors tell me how difficult it can be working with some—because we didn’t hire a six-year-old who looked four. We had a four-year-old who played four. And so Carson [Bolde] and his mother and I started emailing before we were in Vancouver. And then I just kind of hung out with him everyday. I would go to the parks with him. He’s very easy to—he’s a very open child, and so it was very easy to connect with him and we just played a lot. And I think Aaron [Taylor-Johnson] did the opposite, actually, because Aaron doesn’t get to see him often [in the movie]. And it’s a lot of improvising. And it’s a lot of using another child when it’s your close up. (laughter) But I would love to do it again. It keeps you on your feet and it’s always going to change and there’s nothing you can rely on to be set, and it’s really fun.

Moving out of, kind of the indie sect, and crossing over into the big, iconic franchises where you are—The Avengers, Godzilla—how is it on this side of the fence when you meet people who are so—you know, have history and love these things so much? What has that experience been like?

EO: It’s been amazing to do group interviews with people who are a different generation than me. With Bryan [Cranston] and Ken [Watanabe]. Especially Ken’s point of view, because the way he talks about Godzilla is with so much love, and it’s so part of his country’s culture. And it represents something so much larger than it has for an American culture. But for Bryan it was his favorite thing as a kid. And I feel like I didn’t grow up with a generation that loved Godzilla. Like, I loved Star Wars. That was my Godzilla, I guess. And it’s amazing to be part of the history. Especially for this film, because we are being supported by Toho. And we are being supported by the original production company. It has been collaborative, and we are respecting the whole origin of the reason why it was made to begin with. So I feel like our film is empowered with that knowledge.

Gareth Edwards Bryan Cranston and Aaron Taylor Johnson on Godzilla set Godzilla Interview: Elizabeth Olsen Talks About Her First CGI Experience

Gareth Edwards, Bryan Cranston and Aaron Taylor-Johnson on Godzilla set

How does Gareth work with actors? Because there’s so much—of course he’s got to deal with so many effects things and the cameras and cranes and swooping…

EO: Well I think that’s what Gareth’s big strength is. I think a lot of times when you make these big films, action films, anything that has to do with special effects, I think the trend right now—or has been—is to get these really great storytellers, these really great, story-driven directors. And a lot of the time they know nothing about special effects, or they don’t understand the larger picture of everything. Gareth is the opposite. Gareth comes from special effects, but loves story-driven pieces. But instead of working at a production company, he worked for a special effects company. And so he had confidence in that fully, and he had confidence also in working with the actors, so all he really was there to do was to make us feel like he was there for the story. And I never felt overpowered or overshadowed by special effects. And also working with Legendary, as well, they weren’t stepping on his toes. They weren’t a very loud presence, except for support. And that I think is really rare when you make a big studio film.

Godzilla 2014 Full Monster Godzilla Interview: Elizabeth Olsen Talks About Her First CGI Experience

What was it like seeing Godzilla put all together?

EO: It was amazing. I had such a great time watching it. And I was shocked by—because I feel like I’m usually pretty distant from and critical when I’m watching a film that I’m in. But I don’t play such a huge role that it’s distracting for me, so I got to just like sit and relax and I really cared about everyone and cared about the world and cared about them figuring this thing out, and I loved getting to watch what all the other actors were doing, and how it translated from the script I read to it being on screen and not being there for any of it. And then also, you know, just seeing how all the monsters were interacting and it was just kind of wild and amazing and I really loved it.


MORE: Elizabeth Olsen Talks Avengers 2


Godzilla Trailer

Godzilla is now in theaters. Click the tag below for more of interviews with the cast & crew, and our official review of the film.

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  1. It’s kinda cool to learn how each experience is different, although having seen Godzilla (it’s brilliant, best film I’ve seen since Dredd, 5/5 from me), it’s obvious there will be huge differences in shooting styles since Avengers will need her to have CGI coming out of her hands and constantly surrounded by it. Most of her Godzilla scenes seemed more like practical stuff, the kind that Chris Nolan prefers.

    I also have to say, watch out for a label on a glass tank early in the movie, I won’t give it away and hope no one else does but lets see if it’s mentioned in the comments for the SR review. It had me extremely excited when I spotted it (as did several other aspects of the film, including the aforementioned atomic breath that Gareth Edwards promised us a while back).

  2. if you want to watch a movie where godzilla is only in it for a total of no more then 15min, then this is for you -.- the whole movie comes across as american propaganda to join the army =.=

    this would have all been kinda fine if the characters where deep, complex and relateable…. but non where, the only character i remotely cared for was cranston b/c of the things he goes through (avoiding spoilers).

    i wish hollywood would get over their destruction fetish and start getting back into creating movies with depth, complexity and meaning =.=

    • Were you watching the same film that I saw? It felt in no way like a propaganda movie (not like Battle: Los Angeles was) and your complaint is contradictory too. You whine that Godzilla’s only in it for 15 minutes (not true, he’s in it for longer but thankfully not too much, the amount of Godzilla we got was perfect in my opinion, any more would’ve been boring and any less would’ve been disappointing) but then you complain about “destruction fetishes” as if you initially wanted MORE destruction during the Godzilla scenes.

      I also have to say, if you missed the “man vs nature” theme and the use of nuclear weapons as a solution then you can’t complain about lack of depth either because there was plenty.

      • yeah no propaganda when we see white american soldiers saving the day for 1hr and 30min with godzilla only doing nothing for like 10min tops =.=

        how do i contradict myself by saying modern movies have a fetish with showing buildings blowing up etc ? the destruction was pointless, generic and boring (like all movies with destruction fetishes).

        they teased godzilla for way too long imo, they should have teased him for a hour or so and once you saw him, it should have been all about him ‘restoring the balance’ -.-

        boring movie with flat characters (minus cranston), lack of action (for something that promised tons of action), lack of depth to anything, boring score and a really f***ing stupid ending = garbage overhyped propaganda >.>

        • I agree with jwalka, except the army propaganda part. Definitely not the sort of movie you’d expect from the previews. Reasons why better left for the spoilers discussion, but I can see a lot of people walking away going “Meh”.

          • I completely disagree.

            There were more times when I felt excited about what was going on and buying completely into the film than times I wasn’t (of which there were zero). Not many films do it for me and this definitely did it for me (I say this as someone who has only ever seen the 98 Godzilla and Godzilla Vs King Kong so not really as big a fan as some people here).

            Then again, people call The Godfather II a masterpiece. I finally saw it on New Year’s Day this year, didn’t think much of it, wasn’t very good at all, just way too long. The first was the best.

        • So again, you seem to know nothing about the film you claim to have seen.

          You call a movie about the military trying to fight these monsters “propaganda”? Would you rather see civilians try to attack them with table legs? Didn’t you see clips of previous entries where the main point was “Godzilla attacks, military intervenes”? Would you rather the military have just sat back saying “nope, we’re not gonna attempt this one, let them handle themselves”? If the military did that to any threat to civilians in real life, we’d all complain and give them hell for not doing their duty by serving their country and the people in it.

          They didn’t tease Godzilla for way too long, the tease was perfect and he appeared at the right time. I didn’t want to see him within 5 minutes of the movie starting, I liked the suspenseful build towards his first full appearance and the more the movie went on, the more we saw of him.

          You’d rather they say “ok, that’s enough human story now, eff the public, lets just have an hour of non-stop destruction that I admit to hating because I don’t like Hollywood’s destruction fetish but I wanna see it anyway and just scrap the rest of the plot for a monster smackdown, doing the exact same things that people complained about with the Transformers franchise having hour long battle scenes with no drama involved”?

          Did you fall asleep during the dramatic moments and miss the action? There was plenty of it. There was also depth, the score was exciting and helped build the tension and the “f***ing stupid ending”…..which one, Godzilla walking back into the ocean like he always does at the end of his films? Have you not seen a Godzilla film until now?

          I have a feeling you clearly haven’t seen the film or are just hating on it for the sake of hating and therefore, I can’t take your opinion on this movie seriously. I will also avoid reading any and all posts you make about this film for fear of losing IQ points and facepalming myself too hard, causing a self-inflicted headache.

          • to each their own, not gonna bother explaining my point to someone that says i haven’t watched the movie b/c his opinion and mine are different =.=

            have fun feeding hollywood money for derivative garbage that only casual fans might fine ‘decent’ or ‘good’, i’ll gladly sit back and encourage writers and directors to be more creative and visionary with their stories…

            • Did you watch the movie for free? If not you are a hypocrite, feeding Hollywood money for derivative garbage.

              It’s fine if you didn’t like the movie, but that holier than thou attitude is completely uncalled for. You aren’t a better human being for not liking it.

        • Your argument can not be taken seriously because of your “white american” comment. Clearly you are someone who has a problem with race. The first solider they showing taking over the plant was african american. Cranstons character spoke in Japanese probably about 40% of the time he was on screen and they accurately portrayed the Hawaiian boy of (probably) being of japanese decent, like a large percentage of people living in Hawaii are.

          What if all the American soldiers where African american would that have made it a better movie?

          You obviously have a problem with race. And thats on you buddy.

        • Nooooooope. Way off base. You might need to rewatch Godzilla. Seeing how the “army” didnt save the day and the armed forces on screen the most were Navy and Air Force… Yeah. GREAT film. And that Ending calls back to the classic Godzilla / Kaiju movies. Its something older than you that was a welcomed addition.

    • Lol. You sure have some cynical views from this movie. I thought Dazz was bad in some of his movie remarks but this is really disturbing. I can assure you it’s not about joining the army. I think you’ve missed the whole point of the army being included in the movie. As for your ending comments you really have to avoid any further Godzilla movies or ANY giant monsters fighting on populated land. You might as well say hi to Santa Claus than hope to have that happen.

      • Wait, why am I “bad in some of my movie remarks” for having genuine opinions? Am I not allowed to have them or should we all just hold hands, sing songs and agree with everything everyone says forever and ever?

        Sorry but if I think a movie is bad, I’ll it out and if I like a movie, I’ll talk about my enjoyment of it.

        Sorry if you and I clearly have different taste in films and don’t agree on a few things but I can assure you, everything I say is as 100% genuine as far as my actual thoughts and feelings on films as the next person. How that can be construed as “bad”, I’ll never know.

        I agree with you as far as your response to that other guy but I just can’t see your comments about me as anything other than bullying and trolling to get a reaction and guess what? You succeeded, well done. It’s at this point I have to wonder if I should start putting in complaints to Vic about people taking shots at me in the comment section because it seems to me like those kids in high school who beat up the kid who answers questions whenever the teacher asks them and finding it somehow “cool” to attack someone for no reason at all.

        Failing that, f*** this site for not getting a better control of some of its members, yourself included.

        • You think your opinions are more valid and much better than everyone else’s opinions that’s why he called you bad.

          • He still refuses to see what he’s actually doing lol.

        • umm d***head you’re the w***er going around pissing on people that have a different opinion to you, yet you cry like a little b**ch when poeple put you in your place ?

          f***off and go watch more michael bay movies f***pump =.=

          • WOW! Its just a movie…….go see your therapist.

          • Because throwing around foul language always makes one’s point more valid, right? :D

          • Rules: No profanity or personal attacks.

            Well Jwalka, if you can’t read the only two posting rules on the site, how can you expect us to take anything you say seriously.

      • I’m not sure why so many people are calling him out on suggesting the film is propaganda. It definitely romanticizes serving. And with the ending, if you didn’t see the 9/11 undertones, you’d be blind.

  3. I don’t know, she seemed a bit lost to me. There is a certain scene when she is looking for shelter while she sees Godzilla and her reaction to him is rather stone faced. She didn’t show a lot of emotion.

    • I dunno, I took that as her being too shocked to react (saw that when an unfortunate guy jumped to his death from a bridge onto a busy freeway, one driver just didn’t react to it, he was in complete shock).

  4. Really excited for this movie. Have ticket for real imax 3D tomorrow(not liemax)..

    What kind of trailer does it show? Does it show transformers? When they do, do they expand the screen all the way for real imax scenes?? How was the 3D ? Some help please.

    • For my screening in the UK, they showed a trailer for The Wizard Of Oz (getting a special one week only IMAX 3D release in September to celebrate the 75th anniversary), Guardians Of The Galaxy (also releasing in IMAX 3D), Edge Of Tomorrow and that first Transformers trailer from a month or so ago (though I’m not interested in that film anyway).

      All were in IMAX 3D covering the entire screen.

      Not sure if you’re asking how the 3D was in the film itself but I thought it was great. I’ve seen a lot of movies in 3D and three in IMAX 3D and honestly, the only ones that were worth it in my view were:

      Life Of Pi
      Pacific Rim
      The Amazing Spider-Man 2

      The opening title for Godzilla looked cool, white screen, black title and black specks of dust floating around the screen in full 3D.

  5. Just got back from the 1hr drive, each way, from the ONLY freaking IMAX around here and I have to really recommend this movie. The reviews are too harsh although not entirely incorrect. The pace of the movie is really top notch. No one, I mean, absolutely no one got up to use the restroom because the suspense was always there. By the end, half of the audience RUSH to the restrooms so they can make it in time for a possible post credit scene. Before that, however, everyone roar and cheer. I’ll leave it at that. It was simply amazing and the audience love this monster.

    There are a few major characters and the supporting cast do not get much attention at all. This is where most of the complaints are coming from but they are supporting casts and really the human, touchy, feel good, parts could be remove and you still have a good, entertaining movie.

    The beginning was informative in regards to Godzilla’s past while at the same time heartbreaking due to the talented actor known as Cranston. I loved it. And since this is a Godzilla movie it really does not stray from the old formula much. Humans make extremely stupid decisions, Godzilla saves the day.

    The most misunderstood character, and this shows in many of the reviews, is Dr. Ichiro. The reviews are correct in that he is mostly inanimate. But really his character harbors a lot of quilt, shame, responsibilities and purpose. He may not look it but he is no less different than Cranston was.

    Regarding Elizabeth Olsen she did a good job for her limited role. She is very pretty to look at so I enjoy seeing her onscreen.

    3D was only so so. It is the IMAX screen that really makes the movie shine. Everyone MUST see this in IMAX. I cannot stress and agree with earlier reviews on this point. It is simply amazing.

  6. AAAIIIEEEEE! Godzilla! I am so ready for these films–Godzilla and Avengers #2!!

  7. I just got back and I really dug it. I feel like if the characters were a little more interesting it could’ve been on the same level as Jaws or Jurassic Park, but it turns out it’s just a good movie, not a great one. The tone and look and feel and everything else is perfection. The only thing that bothered me was Godzilla collapsing like 15 times at the end there. It just felt a little overboard in trying to ring out some extra sympathy from us for the big fella.

    Also I’m sorry but I have to say that I laughed every time Ken Watanabe’s character was on screen because he always had the same mouth agape, stupid look on his face, it was quite weird and pulled me out of the movie every time they cut to him and I’ve always loved him. It’s like he just wandered on the set and had no idea what to do except say “Godzilla” and “Let them fight” really cool-like and look confused.

    • ^ agreed. ahaha

      Perhaps we can get some drifting next one? two pilots….molded to metal….we built monsters of our own.

      • MechaGodzilla, drift style.

    • He collapsed several times because he fought two Muto’s that used their limbs to pound the crap out of him. If you don’t pay attention you may have missed this part. It was excruciating for me to watch that scene as you can see Godzilla’s body jolting with every punch. If you recall the Muto’s limb are very, very strong.

  8. The one thing I can say after seeing Godzilla is that her acting skills are good.

    Other than that the movie is dreadful.

    • I actually had a somewhat opposite view. Not so much that she was bad but it felt like the way she played that character didn’t bring much to the human side of the movie. It would have worked just the same without her character.

      • Many of the supporting characters are like this. Limited and shallow. But the few major characters did well.

  9. Miss Olsen did a good job as Mr. Edwards made sure she was not over the top and believable. She made us care about her and the boy, her whole family ( as she states in the film.) We were on the edge of our seat and must go again next week to be sure. Side bar: The “Interstellar” trailer in IMAX was pretty bloody awesome.

  10. I really don’t get it…
    Why some much people liked this movie?
    The first part was fine, then it was all pretty much about:

    -Unnecessary family Love story,
    -Super Cool Catastrophe Well Prepared Army (Yes, propaganda),
    -and just a tiny little bit of monster action.

    When you are finally about to see some action, they CUT (yes cut)the first two fights and change to a boring unnecessary long Hollywood generic scene.
    Plus the acting was really really BAD with some exception of Cranston.