This interview contains SPOILERS for Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Acclaimed actor Ken Watanabe returns to the MonsterVerse in Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Reprising his role from Godzilla (2014) Watanabe plays Dr. Ishiro Serizawa, a scientist for the Monarch organization. This time, Serizawa will witness the awakening of many more Titans on Earth, which now includes famous Kaiju from other Godzilla films.
We had the chance to speak to Watanabe about the new film, and his general history and experience with the King of the Monsters in cinema.
Screen Rant: I wanna talk about your first exposure to Godzilla, when was the first time you saw the king of the monster?
Ken Watanabe: Maybe the fourth or fifth series of Godzilla movies because I was born in 1959. So maybe in 10 or 11 years, it’s the feeling of seeing JUST the Monster movie..enjoying...the YA! WOW! I saw a couple of movies more during middle school. I did step back on the monster movies at one point as it was viewed as just for kids. Then I heard about the project about the first one (Godzilla 2014) So I went back and saw just the original one in black and white, 1954. I was so surprised. We could make a great movie, with all the great themes and be deep. I thought about just...each Godzilla movie has a different kind of theme. Society problem, world problem. After World War II, we were bombed, and then Cold War...and…(looks at translator )
Translator: Pollution, greenhouse gas….
Screen Rant: Smog monster.
Ken Watanabe: Right right. I got offered the first Godzilla, but the timing was after the tsunami, 2011, when I lost the motivation to to work in a movie and acting.
Screen Rant: I remember hearing about that actually.
Ken Watanabe: Then it was a great theme we had a nuclear bomb, after the effect to the society, and so then I decided to try.
Screen Rant: You’ve been an actor for quite a bit, BIG fan by the way of Tampopo, that’s one of my favorite films...
Ken Watanabe: Oh yeah...a long time ago…(laughs)
Screen Rant: Was there ever an opportunity for you to audition to be in a Toho Godzilla film, back in the day?
Ken Watanabe: No...no...nothing.
Screen Rant: Would you have ever wanted to?
Ken Watanabe: Ummmm...no. (LAUGHS) You know, just because...last 10 movies, doesn’t have a great theme.
Screen Rant: That’s fair. They were mostly action.
Ken Watanabe: Yeah yeah, action and science fiction, and we need a good script. A good story. And then, same thing...after the first Godzilla, in Japan, Toho made Shin Godzilla…
Screen Rant: I saw that.
Ken Watanabe: Yeah...this was not a monster movie. It was a panic movie.
Screen Rant: Absolutely.
Ken Watanabe: Panic disaster movie or something.
Screen Rant: ...that has a monster in it.
Ken Watanabe: Right, a lot of meetings to the government...uhh (pantomimes looking tired)
Screen Rant: (Laughs)
Ken Watanabe: And...uh...I totally understand about the...we can not fight to the Hollywood scale. A little different point to the storytelling.
Screen Rant: The message there was very different.
Ken Watanabe: Yeah yeah.
Screen Rant: There are two stories I’ve read about you and they are both about you wanting to say the correct pronunciation of the franchise film you’re in. It’s both Godzilla and Pokemon. I heard that in both incidents that you wanted to make sure you said them...correctly. So with this film….
Ken Watanabe: Well...uhh...which is correct?
Screen Rant: Fair!
Ken Watanabe: I don’t know! We don’t know. But the first...original...is Gojira...in Hollywood, also Godzilla. And we always called Radon and here...Rodan. But unfortunately, I could not say in this movie...Radon..and I was (mimics cringing)
Screen Rant: YOU WANTED TO!
Ken Watanabe: (Laughs and nodded in agreement) But I didn’t persist to the call of the name, but...Gojira is Gojira for Japanese. And then I fight to the producer (of the first film) And then when I saw the first premier in New York with the audiences...and I said...Gojira. And…(mimics clapping hands.) All the audience! And I was...we got it..I got it.
Screen Rant: I rewatched the first one last night, and I got that scene again, and STILL, your moment gives me chills.
Ken Watanabe: (Laughs) Good!
Screen Rant: Very dramatic. I wanna go over something that director Michael Dougherty said earlier today, he feels that having your city being destroyed by Godzilla is giving a badge of honor to your city. I saw your reaction about that and it seems like you agreed. Do you think that’s true?
Ken Watanabe: Sure! The first one destroyed Hono Airport. Hawaiian Audiences went “YAAAAAA!!!”. And maybe the Boston audience will be yelling in this movie.
Screen Rant: I’ve read some older interviews you did for the last film, and it seemed like anytime someone mentioned that Dr. Serizawa was a champion for Godzilla, your answer was always “No No, HE’S A SCIENTIST!” Do you still feel the same about the Serizawa in this film? Or do you think has changed and he is now championing Godzilla?
Translator: What do you mean by champion?
Screen Rant: Well...you were hesitant to call Godzilla hero in the first film. And that's why people were calling him a champion. Do you think Serizawa is supporting him now?
(WARNING: Mild SPOILERS ahead)
Ken Watanabe: No. Same thing. I didn’t think about the competition to the creatures. They had the right to live. But King Ghidorah...Rodan was controlled by King Ghidorah. Then maybe the same feeling of humankind. After the fight...All creatures lie down to Godzilla. Then...when I saw that movie….I felt...it was kind of like The Last Samurai.
Screen Rant: Really?!
Ken Watanabe: Last scene...I had a suicide and then all the soldiers, lied down...with some kind of respect. It’s the same feeling. Not champion…
Screen Rant: But respect.
Ken Watanabe: Yeah, respect.
Screen Rant: I see.. I get that.
Ken Watanabe: Yeah! (Laughs)
Screen Rant: Now...I have one more question for you...I’m a big fan of Tokusatsu superhero shows...if possible, if they decided to do an American Ultraman movie….I would love to see you as the Captain of the Science Attack Team, would you be open to that?
Ken Watanabe: Uhhh...mmmm….different kind of Godzilla movie (Laughs)….but...yeah. I would think so.
Screen Rant: I will take that answer.
- Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) release date: May 31, 2019
- Godzilla vs. Kong (2020) release date: Mar 13, 2020