Michael Dougherty Interview - Godzilla: King of the Monsters

This interview contains SPOILERS for Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Godzilla: King of the Monsters isn't just a sequel to the 2014 hit Godzilla film, it's also the first time an American production will be allowed to used the other classic Toho monsters. Mothra. Rodan. King Ghidorah. The film needed a true Godzilla fan to helm the next installment, and the fan Legendary Pictures found was writer/director Michael Dougherty. Dougherty, a lifelong Godzilla fan, took the opportunity to the bring the legendary Kaiju creatures to life while finding a way to tie it into the now established MonsterVerse.

Screen Rant had the opportunity to talk to the filmmaker about his love for the character, the new twists on the mythology of another character and more.

Screen Rant: Well first off I wanna tell you that I really loved the film man.

Michael Dougherty: Oh thanks a lot!

Screen Rant: You're welcome man. The last 30 minutes of the film I think I was smiling the entire time. Just wanted you to know that.

Michael Dougherty: You talking about the circle of life?

Screen Rant: (Laughs) Yes I was. So one of the things I wanted to start off with is, you yourself has pointed out that you are a huge Godzilla fan. So when writing the script with (co-writer) Zack Shields, did you have a list of things that you for sure wanted to do with this film?

Michael Dougherty: I...well..yes. I did. (Laughs) Shortly after Legendary offered me the job, my brain cells naturally went crazy, and I think my 10 year old self took over. I then just brainstormed everything I wanted to see in a Godzilla movie. It was all done old school you know. Pen and paper. It all just kind of came out in bits and pieces. Random imagery. So for instance there were certain moments between Godzilla and humans  that I always wanted to see on the big screen. Certain locations that we've never ever seen so for the end of every Godzilla movie, typically he wonders out into the ocean. Where he goes and will always remain a mystery. But I always like to believe like any good dragon or heroic character, Godzilla deserves a place to go. A place he can call home. So seeing that felt like a kind of thing that would fulfill my 10 year old fantasies.

Screen Rant: So I'm a pretty big fan of Godzilla films myself, so I was really excited to learn that with (Composer) Bear McCreary's score, that you guys were gonna include some of the famous original music from Akira Ifukube (Composer of the original Godzilla film and many other Godzilla movies). How early on was that decision to include those tracks?

Michael Dougherty: I was adamant about doing that from the beginning. To me, Godzilla's theme is just as iconic, as pivotal as James Bond's theme, Jaws, Star name it.  There are certain legacy properties where the music is undeniably intertwine with its success. I would put Terminator in that category. If you ever decided on taking the mantle of resurrecting or continuing these franchises, the music is a part of it. The Omen, another great example. So I was thrilled that I go to make the first American Godzilla movie that actually embraced those themes, readapted them, and Bear McCreary ,my composer, was more excited about doing that. He understood the powers of those themes as much as I did. As did Legendary and Toho.

Screen Rant: I'm really glad too. The pivotal moment when I think the Godzilla theme is used, and again it's the moment where I started to get really excited, it was me going "WOW, you really did use it like the Superman theme." (Laughs)

I'm a huge Mothra fan, and I thought what you did with Mothra was fantastic. Including the reveal with Zhang Ziyi's character.

Michael Dougherty: You caught it.

Screen Rant: I loved it. I thought it was great. How did you decide that this is an important element in Mothra's mythology, and finding a way to pay homage to it in your film?

Michael Dougherty: I think in the same way that Godzilla's theme is so intertwined with his iconic status, Mothra has certain traits that are crucial to her as well. She's so much more than just a giant moth. Any true Godzilla fan knows that. She's got such a bold personality, despite her inability to emote. There's something about her presence that's strangely calming and nurturing. Protective.  Hats off to the original incarnation for establishing that. And then there were certain other traits.

She tends to always originate in very mysterious remote locations. Filled with ancient temples. That aspect is important. Typically she's accompanied by these identical twin priestesses who sort of speak and translate for her. They have this strange almost mystic connection with her. And what I love about those elements in the original films is that they help not just elevate Mothra, but all of the Kaiju. To help really communicate that these creatures are more than just monsters. That they are in fact ancient gods. Mothra and her followers are still very active.

So it was important to me to find ways to modernize the ideas that she has  followers. Modernize the priestesses. As much as I would have loved to have made them the size of Barbie dolls (laughs) there are still certain realms of believability to keep in take. You have to ease people into the more fantastical aspects.

We were already pushing the envelope by bringing in a giant glowing moth. So I can only do so much. But, other Toho films have introduced  her twin Priestesses in different forms. They weren't always 13 inches tall. The priestesses have had previous incarnations where they were fully grown adults. We were trying to find something along those lines.

Screen Rant: Well I remember seeing GMK (Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack from 2001) they had a really cute nod to the priestesses when Mothra flew over these twin girls look up at her. I was really hoping you were going to do something like that and you did.

Michael Dougherty: You just NAILED the exact moment I was thinking of.

Screen Rant: (Laughs) Like I said I'm a fan too.

Michael Dougherty: Isn't it funny how, as mutual fans, how much a tiny little visual cameo had an impact on us.

Screen Rant: Absolutely. One last question, this film is pretty packed with Kaiju, but if you could squeeze in one more, who would have it been?

Michael Dougherty: Oh go to..and you're not the first one to ask to question go to is Biollante. Because he's such a Frankenstein creature. He is another great example of what happens when mankind can't help themselves and messes with nature. Because she's a hybrid creature of Godzilla DNA, human DNA, and plant DNA. Which was created for good intentions but then it went awry.  I think she's another example of a great cautionary tale that fits sort of the larger themes of this universe.

More: Ken Watanabe Interview for Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Key Release Dates
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) release date: May 31, 2019
  • Godzilla vs. Kong (2020) release date: Mar 13, 2020
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