Takao Okawara Interview III

by David Milner

Translation by Yoshihiko Shibata

Takao Okawara

(Conducted in December 1995)

Takao Okawara directed GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA (1992), GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA (1993), and GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER (1995). He also directed SUPER GIRL REIKO (1991) and YAMATO TAKERU (1994).

David Milner: I've heard that Toho originally planned to produce GODZILLA VS. GODZILLA instead of GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER. Is this true? (The Toho Company Ltd. produced all twenty-two of the Godzilla movies. It also produced RODAN (1956), MOTHRA (1961), KING KONG ESCAPES (1967), and so on.)

Takao Okawara: Yes.

DM: What was GODZILLA VS. GODZILLA going to be like?

TO: Godzilla's ghost was going to appear about forty years after Godzilla was killed by the Oxygen Destroyer. The ghost gradually was going to materialize into Godzilla, and then that Godzilla was going to do battle with the Godzilla seen in the last few Godzilla films. (Godzilla is killed by the Oxygen Destroyer at the end of GODZILLA - KING OF THE MONSTERS (1954).)

GODZILLA VS. GODZILLA may still be made, so I can't tell you anymore about it. I'm sorry.

DM: Why did Toho decide to produce GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER instead of GODZILLA VS. GODZILLA?

TO: Godzilla was pitted against MechaGodzilla in GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA and Space Godzilla in GODZILLA VS. SPACE GODZILLA (1994). So, it was felt that it would not be a good idea to have him take on another incarnation of himself so soon.

DM: I've heard that after GODZILLA VS. GODZILLA was rejected, Toho considered producing GODZILLA VS. BAGAN. I've also heard that Atragon was going to be in GODZILLA VS. BAGAN. Is any of this true? (Godzilla first was going to be pitted against Bagan, a monster that could transmute into a "water god," a "monkey god," and a "dragon god," in GODZILLA 1985 (1984). Shortly after GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE (1989) was released, Toho considered pitting Mothra against a minotaur-like monster named Bagan in MOTHRA VS. BAGAN. Atragon is the submarine featured in ATRAGON (1963).)

TO: I heard about GODZILLA VS. BAGAN while GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER was being planned, but I didn't hear anything about its plot. So, I don't know if Atragon was going to be in it or not.

DM: Who came up with the idea for GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER? (Godzilla does battle with a monster created by the Oxygen Destroyer in the movie.)

TO: I know that Kazuki Omori wrote the story outline for GODZILLA VS. GODZILLA. However, I don't know who came up with the idea for GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER. My best guess is that it came from one of the members of Toho's planning department. (Mr. Omori wrote and directed GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE and GODZILLA VS. GHIDRAH (1991), but only wrote GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA and GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER.)

DM: Did Toho ask Mr. Omori to write the script for GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER, or did he volunteer to do so?

TO: Shogo Tomiyama asked Mr. Omori to write the script. (Mr. Tomiyama co-produced the six most recent Godzilla films with Tomoyuki Tanaka.)

DM: Did you meet with Mr. Omori and Mr. Tomiyama to write it?

TO: Yes. Koichi Kawakita also was present at the meetings. (Mr. Kawakita directed the special effects for the last six Godzilla movies.)

DM: Which elements did each of you contribute to the screenplay?

TO: The original story outline was written by Mr. Omori and Mr. Tomiyama. However, Mr. Kawakita was the one who suggested that Destroyer gradually grow from a microscopic life form into a huge monster.

I was not happy with the Metropolitan Police vs. Destroyer sequence that was in the first draft of the script. I felt that it did not create any sympathy for the people who were fighting Destroyer. So, I added the scene in which Yukari Yamane is attacked by Destroyer. (Yoko Ishino plays Yukari, who happens to be the granddaughter of Dr. Kyohei Yamane, the paleontologist in both GODZILLA - KING OF THE MONSTERS and GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN (1955).)

DM: Who decided to kill Godzilla?

TO: That was Mr. Kawakita's idea. I remember that during the shooting of GODZILLA VS. SPACE GODZILLA, Mr. Kawakita said that the next Godzilla film should have much more impact.

DM: Who came up with the idea to have Godzilla attack Hong Kong?

TO: I don't know. However, I do know that the Hong Kong sequence was not in the story outline for GODZILLA VS. GODZILLA. The sequence first appeared in the story outline for GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER.

DM: Who decided to have Emiko Yamane return? (Momoko Kochi plays Emiko, the daughter of Dr. Yamane, in both GODZILLA - KING OF THE MONSTERS and GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER.)

TO: Mr. Tomiyama.

By the way, Mr. Omori was the one who came up with the idea that Emiko did not marry Ogata because she was so upset by the death of Dr. Serizawa. (At the beginning of GODZILLA - KING OF THE MONSTERS, Emiko decides not to enter into her prearranged marriage to Daisuke Serizawa, the inventor of the Oxygen Destroyer, because of her love for a marine officer named Hideto Ogata. At the end of the movie, Dr. Serizawa commits suicide so that the knowledge needed to build an Oxygen Destroyer will not fall into the wrong hands.)

DM: How many drafts of the screenplay did Mr. Omori prepare?

TO: He prepared three drafts.

DM: When was the final draft completed?

TO: It was completed at the end of May.

DM: In what ways was the final draft different from the first one?

TO: I made two major changes. I added the attack on Yukari to the Metropolitan Police vs. Destroyer sequence, and I decided to have Destroyer destroy the helicopter that had just brought Miki Saegusa and Meru Ozawa to Haneda Airport. I added that scene because I felt the ending needed to be a little more jarring. (Megumi Odaka plays Miki, a psychic with a telepathic link to Godzilla, in the last six Godzilla films. Sayaka Osawa plays Meru, a psychic who only appears in GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER.)

DM: I've heard that the battle between Godzilla and Destroyer originally was going to take place at the 1996 Tokyo World City Exposition. Is this true?

TO: That's right. The battle originally was going to take place at the exposition, but it was cancelled. (Yukio Aoshima, the Governor of Tokyo, cancelled the exposition because he felt that it would cost taxpayers too much money.)

DM: I've heard that Mothra originally was going to be in GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER. Is this true?

TO: No. I've never heard that.

DM: Were only Godzilla, Destroyer, and Godzilla Junior going to be in the movie from the start? (Baby Godzilla is introduced in GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA. He grows into Little Godzilla in GODZILLA VS. SPACE GODZILLA, and Godzilla Junior in GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER.)

TO: Yes. That's right.

DM: Did you select the members of the cast?

TO: I did, but I had to get Mr. Tomiyama's approval.

DM: How much time did you spend in production?

TO: We spent fifty days shooting the standard footage. (Mr. Kawakita and the members of his staff spent three months shooting the special effects footage.)

DM: Did you direct any of the special effects footage?

TO: I directed the entire Metropolitan Police vs. Destroyer sequence. It was the most difficult sequence for us to film.

DM: How long did you spend filming it?

TO: Twenty days.

DM: Were any changes made to the story during production?

TO: Several were made. Godzilla and Godzilla Junior, for example, originally were not going to meet. Destroyer originally was going to kill Godzilla Junior much sooner.

DM: Who came up with the idea to have Godzilla and Godzilla Junior meet?

TO: Mr. Kawakita.

DM: Did budgetary constraints force any changes to be made?

TO: No standard scenes were cut because of budgetary constraints. However, I've heard that a few special effects scenes were.

Several standard scenes originally were going to be shot on location instead of on the set, and vice versa.

DM: Was the production budget any larger or smaller than the production budgets for the other Godzilla movies that you directed?

TO: It was about the same.

DM: The Metropolitan Police vs. Destroyer sequence is very reminiscent of ALIENS (1986). Did you intend to have it turn out that way?

TO: Any footage featuring a battle between a military force and a monster like Destroyer would be reminiscent of ALIENS. I generally am hesitant to include footage in a film if it will remind the members of the audience of some other film, but in the case of the Metropolitan Police vs. Destroyer sequence, I said, "Why not?"

DM: Both the first and last scenes take place at an airport. Did you intend to have them mirror each other?

TO: The Hong Kong airport sequence was in the original story outline. (Godzilla appears in Hong Kong at the beginning of GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER.)

There was no scene featuring a plane flying right by Godzilla in the outline. I came up with the idea to add that scene just before the final draft of the script was completed. Since the model builders were going to have to make several airplanes for the Haneda Airport sequence anyway, I thought that including one in the Hong Kong sequence wouldn't require much extra work. So, I suggested the idea to Mr. Kawakita. (Godzilla and Destroyer do battle at Haneda, which is one of Tokyo's two major airports.)

I wanted to have Godzilla destroy the plane, but I knew that none of the airlines would allow us to shoot in one of their cockpits if I did. As it turned out, Godzilla's appearance was impressive enough by itself, so I was satisfied anyway. (The plane flies by Godzilla immediately after he makes his first appearance.)

I asked someone who worked for Japan Airlines if we could shoot in one of the company's simulators. He fortunately gave us permission. Since only the special effects staff went to Hong Kong, Mr. Kawakita had to add the footage that's seen in the windows of the simulator.

DM: What location filming did you do?

TO: I directed the Omaezaki sequence. (Godzilla Junior makes his first appearance at Omaezaki beach.)

The special effects staff shot Hong Kong, but the standard staff filmed the people running away from Godzilla. So, I had to matte my footage onto Mr. Kawakita's. (Matting is the process by which footage is superimposed onto other footage.)

DM: Are the people Japanese?

TO: The people are Japanese instead of Chinese.

DM: Did the special effects staff shoot Miki and Meru mourning as Godzilla Junior died?

TO: The footage of Godzilla Junior dying was supposed to be shot by the special effects staff before we began filming Ms. Odaka and Ms. Osawa. However, the special effects staff fell behind schedule. So, we had to shoot without being able to refer to the footage of Godzilla Junior.

DM: Did you do any improvisation?

TO: Almost none. I tried to stick to the screenplay as much as possible.

There were a number of last minute changes to the screenplay. The Oxygen Destroyer, for example, was first mentioned at the beginning of the script, but I felt that the device should be treated as a forbidden subject. So, I delayed the first mention of it until the middle of GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER.

DM: Did you come up with the idea to show footage from GODZILLA - KING OF THE MONSTERS immediately after the Oxygen Destroyer was mentioned?

TO: That was my idea.

DM: Was the mood on the set any different from the mood on the sets of the other Godzilla movies you directed?

TO: Yes. It was different.

DM: In what way?

TO: We felt that we had to do our very best.

DM: How much time did you spend in post-production?

TO: Two months.

DM: Were there any scenes shot for GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER that weren't used?

TO: No. All of the scenes were used. We just made a few cuts here and there.

DM: Why did you make them?

TO: Running time.

The Metropolitan Police vs. Destroyer sequence originally was longer. I cut it because I was afraid the members of the audience would get bored.

DM: I've heard that you shot several different endings in case the one you were planning to use prematurely got out. Is this true?

TO: That's just a rumor.

I was very concerned with the ending. I had to make sure that Godzilla died with dignity, and I was afraid that if I put too much emphasis on Godzilla Junior's resurrection, Godzilla's death would not be dignified enough.

DM: Did you consider using any other endings?

TO: Mr. Kawakita suggested that we show Godzilla die, have the ending credits roll, and then show Godzilla Junior. We tried that, but it left too much of a gap between Godzilla's death and Godzilla Junior's resurrection. One person said that most of the members of the audience would leave during the credits, so they would never even see Godzilla Junior.

DM: Who came up with the idea to show footage from GODZILLA - KING OF THE MONSTERS and all of the more recent Godzilla films while the ending credits were being shown?

TO: Mr. Tomiyama.

DM: What was working with Megumi Odaka like?

TO: She is a sensitive actress, but she needs advice once in a while.

Ms. Odaka told me that she was very impressed by GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER at its premiere on December 9th.

DM: What was working with Momoko Kochi like?

TO: I worked with her for only one day. Actors and actresses of her generation were very well trained, so I was very impressed by her.

I remember that Ms. Kochi was the one who suggested that the Oxygen Destroyer be referred to not as a "weapon," but instead as an "invention," in GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER.

DM: How closely did you work with Akira Ifukube? (Mr. Ifukube scored not only all three of the Godzilla movies that Mr. Okawara directed, but also GODZILLA - KING OF THE MONSTERS, TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA (1975), and many of the other films in the series.)

TO: The production schedule was very tight. It was even tighter than the production schedules for my other Godzilla movies. Mr. Ifukube, along with the other members of the staff, first saw the rough cut on November 13th, and the score was recorded on the 27th and 28th.

I remember Mr. Ifukube said that although music composers run out of ideas by their sixties, he had to pay tribute to Godzilla in some way because GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER was going to be the last Godzilla film made for some time. (Mr. Ifukube is eighty-two years old.)

During the first screening of the final cut, which was held about five days after the screening of the rough cut, Mr. Ifukube said that there was no need for music in the Metropolitan Police vs. Destroyer sequence. However, most of the members of the staff thought that the sequence did need music. So, Mr. Ifukube wrote music for it. What he wrote wasn't bad, but it sounded too much like the Super X III theme, so I decided not to use it. (The Super X III, an aircraft armed with freezing weapons, is used to counter Godzilla in GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER.)

DM: Did you offer Mr. Ifukube much advice about the scores for GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA and GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA?

TO: He felt that music was not needed in scenes that I felt did need music and vice versa. In both cases, I would ask Mr. Ifukube to write music, and later decide whether to use it or not.

DM: Are you pleased with the way GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER turned out?

TO: I gave it my all. Despite that, if I were to be picky, I would find a countless number of faults in it.

I remember that Mr. Omori came up to me after he saw the movie on November 13th and said, "Mr. Okawara, the climax should be more dramatic." I replied by saying, "I told you." That's when I decided to add the helicopter scene.

I am satisfied with GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER. Many people have told me that it is the most interesting of my Godzilla films, so I am satisfied with it.

DM: What was working with Koji Hashimoto like? (Mr. Hashimoto directed GODZILLA 1985. Mr. Okawara worked on the movie as an assistant director.)

TO: He was very honest and straightforward.

Mr. Hashimoto primarily used conventional techniques. I thought that he should take a few more risks.

DM: What was working with Akira Takarada like? (Mr. Takarada, who plays Environmental Planning Board Head Joji Minamino in GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA, is best known as Ogata and Fuji, the Japanese astronaut in GODZILLA VS. MONSTER ZERO (1965).)

TO: He was very helpful to me. He helped set the right mood on the set.

I hope that Mr. Takarada will be in the first of the twenty-first century Godzilla films. He said that he would be in it at the recent unveiling of the statue of Godzilla. (The meter-tall statue is located in Hibiya Park in Tokyo.)

DM: What was working with Kenji Sahara like? (Mr. Sahara, who plays United Nations Godzilla Countermeasures Center Head Takayuki Segawa in GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA and GODZILLA VS. SPACE GODZILLA, is best known as Kazuo Fujita, the inventor in KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (1962), and Jiro Torahata, the entrepreneur in GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA (1964).)

TO: He is different from Mr. Takarada. He concentrates more on his own role.

DM: Which of your Godzilla movies is your favorite?

TO: GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA.

DM: What do you think of GODZILLA VS. SPACE GODZILLA?

TO: Many people like that film, but I think that it has very few impressive scenes. So, I don't understand why so many people like it.

DM: How did you like GAMERA - THE GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE (1995)?

TO: Shusuke Kaneko made the entire movie very suspenseful. In addition, the special effects were very good. (Mr. Kaneko directed GAMERA - THE GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE.)

I know that the film was shot outdoors with natural light, and I think that helped make it so impressive.

DM: I've heard a rumor that there was some consideration given to producing a movie called LITTLE GODZILLA'S UNDERGROUND ADVENTURE. Is this true?

TO: No.

DM: Why did Toho stop making Godzilla films?

TO: I know that Mr. Tomiyama was the one who decided to put the series on hiatus, but I don't know why he made that decision.

DM: Do you think that the decision was a good one?

TO: It's impossible for us to tell now. We'll know in a few years.

We received a number of petitions urging us not to kill Godzilla. Some of them arrived even after GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER opened. So, I think that it was a good idea for us to show the resurrection of Godzilla Junior.

DM: Will the next Godzilla movie be released at the beginning of the twenty-first century?

TO: Probably.

DM: Did you enjoy working on the three Godzilla films that you directed?

TO: Of course. They were worth making.

DM: Would you like to work on any other Godzilla movies?

TO: It would depend on the script. I always have had to polish partially completed scripts, and that is a painstaking job.

DM: Is Toho going to produce YAMATO TAKERU II?

TO: Mr. Tomiyama still is thinking of producing it.

DM: I know that Wataru Mimura has completed the first draft of the screenplay for the film. Have you seen it? (Mr. Mimura wrote both YAMATO TAKERU and GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA.)

TO: Yes. I think that it's much too fantastic.

DM: Why did Toho decide to make MOTHRA? (Mothra is going to do battle with Death Ghidrah in the movie.)

TO: GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA was the most successful of the recent Godzilla films.

DM: I've heard a rumor that Toho is planning to produce a movie featuring Ghidrah in 1999. Is this true?

TO: I don't know.

DM: What are your plans for the future?

TO: I don't have any specific plans at the moment.

DM: When we first met, you told Mr. Shibata and I that you had submitted two proposals to the people in Toho's planning department. Have they approved either one?

TO: One is a story about a zookeeper. The script already has been completed. However, I think that it might be a little too long.

The other is a comedy entitled THE EXORCIST ONCE AGAIN. I've finished the script for it as well.

It's very difficult to get films produced these days. The major studios are not willing to take risks.

DM: Is it possible for you to work with an independent studio?

TO: It's possible.

DM: Are there any disadvantages to doing so?

TO: There is more risk involved.

DM: Would the production budget have to be limited?

TO: That's right.

If YAMATO TAKERU had done well, there would be more possibilities. (About one and one-half million people went to see the movie. Just under four million went to see each of the recent Godzilla films.)

Takao Okawara Interview III © 1998 David Milner