Pacific Rim finally arrives in theaters today (read our review) and – as you’d expect after handing Guillermo del Toro $180 million and instructing him to make a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters – it’s a  fun ride. In a world where a dimensional rift in the depths of the Pacific Ocean has allowed enormous alien creatures called Kaiju to invade Earth and wreak destruction, Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi play to pilots assigned to operate one of the last few remaining robots, called Jaegers, capable of entering into battle with the Kaiju and winning.

Screen Rant caught up with the cast of Pacific Rim at the European premiere in London last week, and asked for a little bit of insight into the making of the film and the characters that they play. We also managed to get a few words from director Guillermo del Toro on the matter of his planned Justice League Dark movie, for which he promises to build up a “rich mythological environment.”

A similar requirement was in place for Pacific Rim, since the film has to efficiently establish the events that sparked the war with the Kaiju and how it unfolded for the first seven years. A great deal of technical work also went into bringing the Jaegers to life in a way that made them feel real, and the Kaiju themselves vary a great deal in appearance and abilities.

Fighting on the front lines of the war with the Kaiju is Chuck Hansen, an Australian Jaeger pilot played by True Blood star Robert Kazinsky. Chuck co-pilots a highly advanced Jaerger model called the Striker Eureka with his father, Herc, and between them they have amassed ten Kaiju kills and a substantial amount of fame and celebrity.

Tasked with one of the most important missions of the war, Chuck is none too happy when he finds out that his back-up consists of Raleigh, a once-great pilot who was struck down by failure and disappeared for five years, and Mako Mori, a completely green new recruit who has never stepped into the cockpit of a Jaeger before in her life. This leads to one of the more notable human conflicts in the film, as Chuck and Raleigh lock horns over the Mako and Ralegih’s – who pilot the Jaeger “Gipsy Danger” – ability to contribute in battle.

We asked Kazinsky whether or not he views his own character sympathetically.

Chuck is described as an egotistical jerk with daddy issues. Do you think that’s a fair assessment?

“I’m not gonna lie, he’s an egotist. But he has a right to be. He has earned the right to be seen as who he is – he’s the best there is, and the world needs him, and he knows it. He was raised as a Jaeger pilot, he knows more about Jaegers than any other pilot on Earth. He’s the best for a reason. Unfortunately that kind of lends itself to a certain ego.”

Is that why he doesn’t get on with Raleigh?

“He has antagonism with Raleigh because the world depends on them being the best. Raleigh is a failure already and [Chuck] doesn’t want a failure on his team. It’s not personal, it’s professional.”

Also on the receiving end of Raleigh’s ill feeling is Raleigh’s co-pilot, Mako (Kikuchi), who has desperately wanted to pilot a Jaeger ever since her early childhood. Getting her wish means joining Raleigh in the Drift: a neural connection that enables the two pilots to co-ordinate seamlessly, but also allows them to access every single one of the other person’s thoughts and memories. Because of the level of trust involved in this process, most of the Jaeger teams in the film are family members; but as two strangers thrown together and forced to share everything, Raleigh and Mako’s connection runs deep. How deep? Kikuchi was reluctant to give a firm answer.

Would you describe the relationship between Raleigh and Mako as a romantic one?

“They have to connect to each other, like mentally connect, so they have to share everything, good or bad – everything. It’s a really cool idea because, in my personal life, I can’t share everything with someone, so it was a cool idea for that.”

What was it like to be rigged up to the equipment and knocked around in battle?

“It was the most physically demanding shoot of my career, but I’ve been training a lot in things like boot camp, running on the beach, some martial arts, so it’s the most intensive preparation but I’ve learned a lot from that.”

While the famous pilots are the ones who get all the glory, the operation would likely fall apart without the support of a two-person science team who have been assigned to dig into the Kaiju (literally) and try to find answers that will help the Jaegers in battle. One half of the team is played by It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia star Charlie Day, who is Pacific Rim’s designated Jeff Goldblum character. Dr. Newton Geiszler tries to fight the nerdy scientist image by plastering his arms with tattoos of the Kaiju and donning a leather jacket, but he still can’t help geeking out whenever he’s around the Kaiju (or pieces of them, at least). This obsession gets him into some pretty dangerous situations, but Day assures us that he had a good time.

Was this a fun set to work on?

“The whole thing was fun, whether it was smaller sets and all the little, minor details that Guillermo put in, or a major set and I’m running from a monster and there’s five hundred extras, chickens and dogs and small fires and people falling off motorcycles – the whole thing was a wild adventure.”

What’s it like to be pursued by the biggest, deadliest assassin in two dimensions?

“It was pretty sweet just to be wanted, you know. To be desired. I don’t care if it’s a giant Kaiju, it’s good to be the centre of attention.”

How much of the special effects were built, and how much was CGI?

“There was some CGI but there was always something real and gooey to go with it.”

Having had a taste of life in an action film, do you want to go back to the genre or do you need a bit of a break?

“I love to be the super action hero, I know it’s not me but if they can find a smaller part for me like this, or even a bigger part, I’ll be thrilled.”

Have you considered getting the tattoos done for real?

“No! I definitely do not want to get those tattoos for real. By Wednesday I’d hate them.”

Newt isn’t completely alone on the research team. While Chuck and Raleigh are at each other’s throats, Newt has his own rivalry going with fellow scientist Gottlieb, who is played by Torchwood‘s Burn Gorman. While Newt is all about biology and a desires to get properly stuck into the hearts of the Kaiju, Gottlieb prefers to record the frequency of attacks and use numbers to predict where and when the next Kaiju will appear. Gorman, however, had no problem with the guts and viscera of the operation.

You spend a lot of time hanging around Kaiju entrails in this movie.

“Oh yeah, hell yeah!”

What were they made of, and what were they like to handle?

“Well, Guillermo comes from a background of practical effects, and he’s worked with the masters of make-up and effects, so he makes absolutely practical things that move – there’s like four people manipulating them – and it was a bit like being on a toy set, to be honest. We’d have a squeeze every now and then just to relieve the tension.

“Guillermo was very open to ideas, to not so much changing the script but being fluid with it, and working with Charlie Day, who plays the other scientist, was a real laugh.”

Are you hoping to come back for a sequel?

“Oh god, always! Fingers crossed. If people come and see the movie…”

How about other action roles?

“I’m a bit of an old fart to be honest, I’ll take whatever comes along.”

If you’re still deciding whether or not to see Pacific Rim in theaters, check out the Screen Rant review to find out what we thought of it. If you’ve already seen it and you’re bursting to talk to other people about the events of the movie, head to the Pacific Rim SPOILERS DISCUSSION to comment without fear of giving to much away to readers who haven’t seen it yet. To hear the Screen Rant editors discuss Pacific Rim in-depth, stay tuned for the next epsiode of the Screen Rant Underground Podcast.

Pacific Rim is now in theaters.