Takao Okawara Interview I

by David Milner

Translation by Yoshihiko Shibata

Takao Okawara

(Conducted in December 1993)

Takao Okawara directed GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA (1992) and GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA (1993). He also directed SUPER GIRL REIKO (1991).

David Milner: Was GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA originally going to be the last Godzilla movie produced by Toho before TriStar Pictures' Godzilla film was due to come out? (The Toho Company Ltd. produced all of the Godzilla movies. It also produced RODAN (1956), MOTHRA (1961), KING KONG ESCAPES (1967), and many other science fiction films. TriStar Pictures' GODZILLA originally was scheduled to be released in 1994.)

Takao Okawara: Yes. It was.

DM: Was Godzilla originally going to be killed in GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA?

TO: Yes. Godzilla was going to be killed by MechaGodzilla. I feel that Godzilla's death is what makes GODZILLA - KING OF THE MONSTERS (1954) so powerful. So, I wanted to kill Godzilla in GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA. However, Toho would not permit it.

DM: Why was Baby Godzilla created?

TO: Baby Godzilla was conceived of some time before planning for GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA began. While we were working on the script for the movie, we came to feel that it needed something more than just Godzilla and MechaGodzilla doing battle. So, we included Baby Godzilla in it.

DM: Some of the scenes in GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA are very similar to scenes in a few of the earlier Godzilla films. Did you shoot them that way because Toho intended to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the release of GODZILLA - KING OF THE MONSTERS with GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA?

TO: Yes. That's correct. I wanted to make the movie a sort of anthology of the earlier Godzilla films.

DM: I've heard that Ishiro Honda originally was going to direct GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA. Is this true? (Mr. Honda directed GODZILLA - KING OF THE MONSTERS, MOTHRA, TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA (1975), and many of Toho's other science fiction movies.)

TO: No. As far as I know, Mr. Honda never was going to be involved in the project.

DM: I've heard that there is going to be a director's cut of GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA released on laserdisc in Japan. Is this true?

TO: I am thinking of doing one that will be two hours and forty minutes long. (The running time of GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA is one hour and forty-eight minutes.) However, I recently saw the director's cut of the THE GODFATHER (1972) trilogy, and it did not appeal to me as much as the original version did. So, I am not sure if I will do a director's cut of GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA or not. (A director's cut was not released.)

DM: GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA is much more lighthearted than GODZILLA 1985 (1984), GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE (1989), and GODZILLA VS. GHIDRAH (1991). What made you decide to have it be that way?

TO: I think that the tone of many Japanese films is too serious. I regard Godzilla movies as pure entertainment. That's why I like to put shots offering comic relief into scenes in which people are seen panicking.

DM: Is that why the computer system that controls MechaGodzilla is called Reiko?

TO: That wasn't my idea. Shomei Tezuka, one of the second assistant directors, directed the sequence in which the name of the computer system is shown, and he is the one who came up with the idea. By the way, Mr. Tezuka also worked on SUPER GIRL REIKO and GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA.

DM: Why were the higher-pitched Godzilla roars that were created for some of the early Godzilla films used in GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA instead of the lower-pitched roars that were created for GODZILLA 1985, GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE, and GODZILLA VS. GHIDRAH?

TO: A new sound director was hired for the movie, and he decided to use the older roars.

DM: Did you make the decision to insert screen wipes into the scenes that take place on Infant Island? (Mothra's egg is discovered on the island.)

TO: Yes. I did. Screen wipes are one of my favorite cinematic techniques. They are very effective in portraying both the passage of time and a change in location.

DM: I have heard that you worked on GODZILLA 1985. Is this true?

TO: Yes. I was the chief assistant director.

DM: Were you involved in the production of either GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE or GODZILLA VS. GHIDRAH?

TO: No. I wasn't.

DM: You're now working on YAMATO TAKERU (1994). What made Toho decide to produce a film based on THE THREE TREASURES (1959)? (It is based on KOJIKI, the mythological story of the creation of Japan.)

TO: Toho wanted to produce a movie featuring a superhero, and so it chose to make a new film based on the myth in which a god does battle with a giant eight-headed snake. (The battle is one of the events that take place in KOJIKI.)

Toho's policy regarding science fiction and fantasy movies recently changed. During the last few years, the studio has produced only Godzilla films. However, it is now planning to release different kinds of science fiction and fantasy movies, just as it did many years ago.

DM: I've heard that Toho is planning to produce a film in which Godzilla will again face King Kong. Is this true? (KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (1962) was more successful in Japan than any of the other Godzilla movies.)

TO: Toho wanted to pit Godzilla against King Kong once again, but the studio could not obtain permission to use King Kong.

DM: Are there any plans to produce films featuring monsters other than Godzilla?

TO: A new Gamera movie is going to be released within the next year or two. (The Daiei Company Ltd., which so far has produced eight Gamera films, is planning to recreate Gamera in GAMERA - THE GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE.)

DM: What do you think the next few Godzilla movies should be like?

TO: That's a very difficult question to answer. There should be several different kinds of Godzilla films made. Not only should there be movies in which Godzilla battles other monsters, but also films that feature Godzilla alone. In addition, some of the Godzilla movies should have more fantasy elements in them.

DM: Have you ever considered writing a script?

TO: Yes. I have several different ideas in mind.

DM: Would you say that your work on GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA and GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA was influenced by Mr. Honda's work on GODZILLA - KING OF THE MONSTERS, DESTROY ALL MONSTERS (1968), and so on?

TO: At first, the scene in GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA that features Mothra landing at a military air base to retrieve the cosmos was going to take place at a huge sea port. (In GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA, Mothra acts as the guardian of the cosmos, two tiny women from outer space. The cosmos are played by Sayaka Osawa and Keiko Imamura.) Then, we thought of having the scene take place in a stadium. However, the stadium wasn't big enough. So, we decided to pay tribute to Mr. Honda by changing the setting to an air base. (At the end of MOTHRA, Mothra retrieves two tiny fairies called "the peanuts" at an airport.) Aside from that one scene, whatever influence there may have been was purely unconscious.

DM: What other changes did GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA go through before it was completed?

TO: The light originally was going to lead Takuya Fujita, Masako Tezuka, and Kenji Ando into the cave of the cosmos. (They instead see the light shaped in the sign of the cosmos, a cross with a circle around it, only after they enter the cave. Fortune hunter Fujita is played by Tetsuya Bessho, his ex-wife Masako is played by Satomi Kobayashi, and Marutomo Corp. executive Ando is played by Takehiro Murata.) In addition, the three originally were going to first meet the cosmos in front of Mothra's egg. (The cosmos instead introduce themselves after emerging from behind a plant.)

DM: Did Kazuki Omori make the decision to include a character similar to Indiana Jones in the film? (Mr. Omori wrote and directed GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE and GODZILLA VS. GHIDRAH. He also wrote GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA, but chose not to direct it.)

TO: Yes. He did. It was my idea, however, to have Fujita quarrel with Masako. I thought it would provide comic relief. I also came up with the idea of having Mr. Fujita flail his arms and call out to Masako after he learns that he is going to be stuck in jail for fourteen years. I got that idea after watching THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991).

DM: What changes did GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA go through before it was completed?

TO: I decided that Azusa Gojyo should be responsible for the care of Baby Godzilla. I also decided that Miki Saegusa should be in the MechaGodzilla cockpit at the end of the movie. (Megumi Odaka plays Miki, the psychic with a telepathic link to Godzilla, in the three most recent Godzilla films. Ryoko Sano plays Azusa.)

DM: Did you come up with the idea of having Ms. Imamura and Ms. Osawa appear in GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA? (They play Mind Development Center attendants who help care for a number of psychic children.)

TO: Yes. I decided to put them in the movie.

DM: Do you enjoy working on giant monster films any more or less than you enjoy working on movies such as SUPER GIRL REIKO? (It is a psychological thriller.)

TO: I like working on both types of films. They both simply are meant to provide entertainment.

DM: Which of the older Godzilla movies are your favorites?

TO: I especially like GODZILLA - KING OF THE MONSTERS, but I am also fond of KING KONG VS. GODZILLA and GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA (1964).

DM: How do you think Wataru Mimura's sceenplay for GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA compares to Kazuki Omori's scripts for GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE, GODZILLA VS. GHIDRAH, and GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA?

TO: Mr. Omori and Mr. Mimura both simply try to provide entertainment. They both also like to use comic relief. However, only Mr. Omori enjoys parodying American films.

DM: How did you like JURASSIC PARK (1993)?

TO: I enjoyed it. I generally like movies that are shocking. However, I felt that the film should have had more fantasy elements in it.

DM: Some have criticized JURASSIC PARK for having such a limited plot. Do you feel that this is a shortcoming of the movie?

TO: Yes. I do. The film technically is a masterpiece, but there really isn't much to the story.

DM: How do you feel about TriStar Pictures producing a Godzilla movie?

TO: Just two words - let's see.

Takao Okawara Interview I © 1998 David Milner