Jun Fukuda Interview

by David Milner

Translation by Yoshihiko Shibata

Jun Fukuda

(Conducted in July 1994)

Jun Fukuda directed GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER (1966), SON OF GODZILLA (1967), GODZILLA VS. GIGAN (1972), GODZILLA VS. MEGALON (1973), GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA (1974), and several other science fiction films. He also directed a number of different crime dramas, comedies, and documentaries.

David Milner: GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER originally was going to be called KING KONG VS. EBIRAH. Why was King Kong replaced with Godzilla?

Jun Fukuda: Godzilla was in the first draft of the script that I saw. I don't know what the earlier drafts were like.

DM: What changes were made after you received the script?

JF: All I can remember is that making GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER was like pouring two cups of water into one. I had to cut one sequence after another.

DM: Do you remember which specific sequences you cut?

JF: I don't remember.

My memories about GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER are not very clear because I was working on a script for a television drama while we were shooting the film. As soon as we completed it, I went to the NHK studios and confined myself so I could finish the script. (NHK is Japan's public television network.)

Toho sent me a copy of the VHS tape edition of GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER when it was released. It was like opening up an old wound. I didn't watch the tape. Instead, I gave it to my daughter as a present. (The Toho Company Limited produced all of the Godzilla movies. It also produced RODAN (1956), MOTHRA (1961), GHIDRAH - THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER (1964), KING KONG ESCAPES (1967), and many other science fiction films.)

DM: Do you remember why Minya was created? (Minya, the son of Godzilla, appears in SON OF GODZILLA, DESTROY ALL MONSTERS (1968), and GODZILLA'S REVENGE (1969).)

JF: We wanted to take a new approach. So, we gave Godzilla a child. We thought that it would be a little strange if Godzilla had a daughter, so we instead gave him a son. We focused on the relationship between Godzilla and his son throughout SON OF GODZILLA.

DM: Was Minya created solely to appeal to children?

JF: No. We just wanted to take a different approach.

DM: Were the production budgets for the Godzilla movies produced during the 1970s smaller than those for the Godzilla movies produced during the 1960s?

JF: The production budgets for the 1970s Godzilla films were about half of those for the 1960s Godzilla films.

DM: Did you make the decision to include only stock music in GODZILLA VS. GIGAN (1972)? (The music was written by Akira Ifukube, one of Japan's most prominent classical composers. He scored GODZILLA - KING OF THE MONSTERS (1954), TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA (1975), GODZILLA VS. GHIDRAH (1991), and many other monster movies.)

JF: Tomoyuki Tanaka made the decision. He was trying to save money. (Mr. Tanaka produced virtually all of Toho's monster movies.)

DM: How much time did you spend working on GODZILLA VS. MEGALON (1973)?

JF: We spent four months working on the film. The production budget for it was even smaller than the one for GODZILLA VS. GIGAN, so we had a very difficult time making the movie.

DM: How much time did you spend working on the other science fiction films you directed?

JF: About five or six months.

DM: In the trailer for GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA, there is an alternate to the sequence in the movie showing MechaGodzilla emerging from its disguise as Godzilla. Why was the alternate sequence shot?

JF: The trailer was directed by the chief assistant director, so I don't know much about it. (Jozaburo Nishikawa was the chief assistant director.)

DM: Ishiro Honda took part in the planning of THE SECRET OF THE TELEGIAN (1960). Was he originally going to direct the film? (Mr. Honda directed many of the monster movies produced by Toho. He also directed a number of war films and documentaries, and worked very closely with director Akira Kurosawa on KAGEMUSHA - THE SHADOW WARRIOR (1980), RAN (1985), AKIRA KUROSAWA'S DREAMS (1990), RHAPSODY IN AUGUST (1991), and NOT YET READY (1993).)

JF: It is possible.

DM: Were you officially promoted to director before you began working on THE SECRET OF THE TELEGIAN?

It was Toho's policy at the time to require assistant directors to direct three films before they would be promoted. Assistant directors were Toho employees, but once they became directors, they would have to quit. They then would have to sign contracts with Toho that came up for renewal annually.

THE SECRET OF THE TELEGIAN was my second movie. My third one was very successful, so I was promoted. (FANGS OF THE UNDERWORLD (1962) was written in part by Mr. Fukuda.)

DM: Why wasn't the sequel to THE SECRET OF THE TELEGIAN, TRANSPARENT MAN AGAINST FLAME MAN, produced? (Mr. Fukuda took part in writing it as well.)

JF: The script wasn't accepted. The film wasn't as successful as Toho had hoped it would be. That's why the sequel wasn't produced.

DM: In what year was the sequel written?

JF: It was written four or five years after THE SECRET OF THE TELEGIAN was released.

DM: Do you remember anything about the plot?

JF: I just remember that the transparent man was pitted against a flame man.

DM: ESPY (1974) was written long before it was produced. Why wasn't it produced sooner?

JF: It was just a matter of timing.

DM: In the book JAPANESE SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY AND HORROR FILMS, Stuart Galbraith IV suggests that THE WAR IN SPACE (1977) is based at least in part on ATRAGON (1963). Is this true? (In both movies, invading forces are countered with a ship commanded by a man who at first refused to fight.)

JF: Yes. It is.

DM: Why was Masaru Sato chosen to score GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER, SON OF GODZILLA, and GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA? (Mr. Sato also scored a number of Akira Kurosawa's films.)

JF: Mr. Sato and I had been very close friends for a long time. I asked him to compose the music for those movies because I wanted them to have a different feel than Mr. Honda's Godzilla films. Mr. Sato's music is a bit lighter than Mr. Ifukube's.

DM: So you made the decision to ask Mr. Sato to score the movies?

JF: Yes. That's right. Mr. Tanaka didn't agree with the decision.

DM: Did he want you to ask Mr. Ifukube to score the films?

JF: Yes.

DM: How would you say your approach to making Godzilla films was different from Mr. Honda's?

JF: I generally think of my movies as action dramas.

DM: What was your professional relationship with Eiji Tsuburaya like? (Mr. Tsuburaya directed the special effects for GODZILLA - KING OF THE MONSTERS, KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (1962), GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER, and many of Toho's other science fiction films. He also founded Tsuburaya Productions, Inc., which produced ULTRAMAN (1966), MIGHTY JACK (1968), and a number of other science fiction television series.)

JF: We were just like father and son. He offered suggestions about my work. He always took very good care of me.

DM: Did Mr. Tsuburaya act solely in an advisory role on SON OF GODZILLA, or was he more actively involved in the production of the movie? (Mr. Tsuburaya is credited as the "special skill supervisor" on the film. Teisho Arikawa is credited as the "special skill director." He previously had worked on many of Toho's monster movies as a special effects cinematographer.)

JF: Mr. Tsuburaya was actively involved in the production of the film.

DM: Was Mr. Tanaka actively involved in the production of the Godzilla movies you directed?

JF: He didn't take part in production. However, he did take part in preparing the production budgets.

DM: Did Mr. Tanaka come to visit the set very often?

JF: Yes - quite often.

DM: Would he offer suggestions or just watch?

JF: He would just watch.

DM: What was your professional relationship with Teruyoshi Nakano like? (Mr. Nakano worked as an assistant to Eiji Tsuburaya for many years. Shortly after Mr. Tsuburaya died in 1970, Mr. Nakano was placed in charge of special effects.)

JF: We worked together very closely. After reading the scripts, I would ask Mr. Nakano to draw the storyboards. I would check them, and sometimes I would ask Mr. Nakano to make revisions. Once we both found the storyboards acceptable, we would begin filming.

DM: The two of you worked together during planning, but once shooting got underway, you worked separately. Is this correct?

JF: Yes. That's correct. However, we did ask each other for advice whenever we ran into problems.

DM: Did you or Mr. Nakano choose which special effects footage would be used?

JF: The final decisions were mine. If I didn't like the editing that Mr. Nakano had done, I would ask him to make revisions. I once even asked him to re-shoot a sequence.

DM: I've heard that very little improvisation was allowed during filming. Is this true?

JF: It was very difficult to do improvisation because of the tight shooting schedule and the nature of the movies.

DM: Can you remember any improvised lines that made it into one of the Godzilla films you directed?

JF: I can't remember any such lines.

DM: You directed a number of episodes of the METEOR MAN ZONE (1973) television series. (The series is very much like ULTRAMAN (1966). Godzilla, Ghidrah, and Gigan all make guest appearances in it.)

JF: You don't have to mention that show!

DM: Just one question! How was that different from working on the monster movies you directed?

JF: The shooting schedule was very tight.

People watch television on a small screen in a well-lit room instead of a large one in a dark theater. Because of this, I think television is not the right medium for giant monster movies.

DM: Which of the science fiction films you directed are your favorites?

JF: None of them.

DM: If you had to pick one?

JF: THE SECRET OF TELEGIAN.

DM: Which of the Godzilla films you directed are your favorites?

JF: None of them.

DM: Are there any with which you are especially unhappy?

JF: Many.

DM: Do you feel that Toho should not have produced any sequels to GODZILLA - KING OF THE MONSTERS?

JF: I don't think that any sequels to the first Godzilla movie should have been made.

DM: With which of the actors who worked on the Godzilla films you directed did you most enjoy working?

JF: I enjoyed working with the entire cast of GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER. However, both Akihiko Hirata and Kumi Mizuno stood out. They were very impressive. (Ms. Mizuno, who also appears in GODZILLA VS. MONSTER ZERO (1965), WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS (1966), and several other science fiction movies, plays Dayo, a native girl. Mr. Hirata, who also appears in GODZILLA - KING OF THE MONSTERS, TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA, and many other monster films, plays a squad leader in the Red Bamboo, the paramilitary organization producing nuclear weapons.)

DM: How did you like working with Robert Dunham? (Mr. Dunham plays Antonio, the leader of an underground civilization called Seatopia, in GODZILLA VS. MEGALON. He also appears in MOTHRA and DAGORA - THE SPACE MONSTER (1964).)

JF: He was not a professional actor. He was just an American living in Tokyo.

DM: You directed a number of comedies. Did you enjoy working on them more than you enjoyed working on monster movies? (Among Mr. Fukuda's comedies are YOUNG GUY IN JAPAN (1962) and YOUNG GUY IN HAWAII (1963).)

JF: Yes!

DM: Have you worked only as a film director?

JF: I've worked only as an assistant director and a director.

DM: I've heard that you recently finished working on a documentary. Is this correct?

JF: I recently finished working on two different documentaries. One tells the tragic story of a warlord living in a small country during the medieval era. The other is a documentary about the Sahara desert that was commissioned by a Moroccan television station. No people are shown in it. Instead, only images of the desert are shown in it.

DM: Have you seen the newer Godzilla movies? (Among them are GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE (1989), GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA (1992), and GODZILLA VS. SPACE GODZILLA (1994).)

JF: No.

DM: How do you feel about TriStar Pictures producing a Godzilla film in the United States?

JF: I'm looking forward to seeing it. It is easy for me to imagine what Mr. Nakano would do with the movie, but I can't imagine what Americans would do with it. I think that Godzilla films must be produced by Americans.

DM: Is that because Godzilla films cost so much to make?

JF: Yes. That's right. (Production budgets for movies made in the United States generally are ten times those for Japanese movies.)

Jun Fukuda Interview © 1998 David Milner