Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ryuhei Kitamura - The Godzilla Final Wars Interview

Written By: Ken Hulsey

A lot of fans over at the "Godzilla 2012 - Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros (Fan Group)" on Facebook were commenting on how much they enjoyed "Godzilla: Final Wars", so I thought it may be fun to dust off my exclusive interview with that film's director, Ryuhei Kitamura, from 2004.

At that time, my website, (gone now...sadly) was the only English language website to be granted an interview with the Japanese director.

Actually there is an interesting story that goes along with this interview that I never shared on any of my sites. You see, when I found out that the world premiere of "Final Wars" was slated to take place in Hollywood, I contacted Grauman's Chinese Theatre to find out about getting tickets for the event.

They, in turn, put me in contact with a publicist from Toho here in Los Angeles. When she learned that I published a website that featured "Godzilla" related articles, she became very excited, and told me that she may have something interesting for me.

My curiosity was raised.....

A day or so later, the publicist contacted me and said that Toho knew of my site, and liked it. I was, to put it mildly, surprised by this. She continued to inform me that they wanted me to interview Kitamura for the site.

I was thrilled!

So, I sat down and hammered out a dozen questions or so for the director, and passed them on to the publicist.

This is where it gets interesting.

The publicist then translated my questions into Japanese and sent them on to Toho, were Kitamura then took time to answer them. They were then sent back to the publicist, again, here in LA, where she translated them back into English, and then sent them to me.

Somewhere along the way, I think that the intent of a few of my questions got misinterpreted, because in one answer, the film maker got a little angry in his reply.

So here we go, this is my interview with "Godzilla: Final Wars" director Ryuhei Kitamura from 2004:

Ryuhei Kitamura is considered by many to be the Japan's Quentin Tarantino, a young director with a flare for action and fast paced films. His prior films Versus, Azumi and Sky High featured the high speed action and sword play that has now become his signature style. For his latest film, however, the action movie king is taking on something much larger. The King of the Monsters. A challenge Kitamura was honored to take on.

I was honored to have been granted a short online interview with Ryuhei Kitamura in conjunction with the world premiere of Godzilla: Final Wars here in Hollywood. The reader truly gets the feeling of how passionate the young director is about this project. His desire to make this the greatest Godzilla film of all time comes through in his responses. It was an honor for him to be able to make a Godzilla film and he took the project very seriously. His desire was to make the best film possible without exceptions to return Godzilla to the throne not only as Monster King, but the King of Entertainment as well. A very bold idea from a very bold director. From this Godzilla fans world wide can only hold their breath in anticipation of what will surely be a Godzilla film like no other.

KH: You are best known for your action films featuring great sword fighting such as Azumi and Sky High. How hard was it to incorporate your style of film making into a monster (kaiju) film?

RK: It wasn't too difficult to apply my style to this film - I don't consider myself an action director. I felt it was my mission to make this film the coolest and most powerful super-entertainment film more than the past Godzilla films.

KH : Many fans know that you were scheduled to make your American film directing debut this year. What motivated you to make a Godzilla film instead of a Hollywood epic?

RK: No Japanese director would ever dare to say "no" to Godzilla films. I can make any Hollywood-style film but only a few can make Godzilla films, plus this is the 50th anniversary of Godzilla. I think this is the greatest challenge of my life to make this Godzilla film.

KH: What do you feel that you have done in this film that has been missing in the prior Godzilla films?

RK: Power and speed, I guess. In the recent films, Godzilla was too week. I wanted to make this film through action and wanted to convey to the world that this is the return of the monster king, so the screen is dark and hard,and monsters are speedy and powerful.

KH: Are you surprised at the amount of world-wide interest in this film?

RK: No, I wasn't surprised. It's Godzilla and so many fans are out there.

KH : Do you feel that the publicity of this film will help generate more interest in your prior films?

RK: I hope it will help generate more films for me. I'm sure a lot of people will see this film. I want Godzilla and my fans or anyone to watch and have a fun.

KH: Why were the monsters featured in Final Wars chosen over others from the series?

RK: I decided with producer Mr. Tomiyama, special effects director Mr. Asada and writer lined up historical action figures on the table and we decided democratically which ones should be in this film Final Wars. It was difficult because everyone had a different attraction to different monsters, but at the end we were happy with these selections for the film.

KH: A lot of the film's action takes place in Australia a place you used to call home. When you were planning the action did you stop and think, it would be great to destroy that landmark....that place would look great crushed by a monster...etc?

RK: I am furious with people who can't make the separation between reality and fantasy. In the fantasy world of Godzilla it is honorable that the landmarks are destroyed, I guess. For this film the world is a stage, and I chose my second home country -

Australia - and chose to destroy Sydney first, and I enjoyed it very much.

KH: Why choose Hollywood for a premiere over the Tokyo International Film Festival which has been host for the premiere of Godzilla films for over a decade?

RK: 50 years ago, the first Godzilla film inspired the world , and it was the King of entertainment films. But after 50 years Hollywood is the leading place for entertainment films, and Japan follows Hollywood's lead. After 50 years, I believe the greatest Godzilla film is completed, so Godzilla should be King again.

As a Godzilla fan I was truly inspired by Kitamura's passion for making Final Wars a unique film that would stand alone as the greatest Godzilla film of all time. It is rare to find someone who has this sort of pride in their films in the industry today. In picking Kitamura Toho has matched the right director with the right film. If he follows the style seen in the classic Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla (1974) with his own flare for action this film should be a treat for monster movie fans the world over.

The premiere of the latest, and possibly last, Godzilla film "Final Wars" will take place in Hollywood on November 29th at the famed Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Toho plans to do an event in the style of old-time Hollywood with Godzilla himself walking the red carpet. Of course the director Ryuhei Kitamura and the cast of the film will be on hand as well. In conjunction with the premiere Godzilla will be receiving his own star on the famed Hollywood Walk of Fame and will be riding on a float sponsored by Toho in the Hollywood Christmas Parade.

I should note that this was my very first interview, so the questions were a bit raw, but overall I was pleased....and the folks over at Toho were pleased.

Overall the whole experience was a great thrill! I even walked the red carpet at the premiere of "Final Wars" just ahead of Godzilla himself. I was an once in a lifetime event that I will treasure all my days.

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Burbank, CA – March 29, 2010 – Legendary Pictures announced today that they will develop and produce a new film based on Toho Company’s famed GODZILLA character. Through the terms of the agreement, Legendary Pictures has acquired the rights to produce a movie inspired by Toho’s Godzilla, a franchise the Japanese company created and has nurtured for over fifty years.

Toho’s GODZILLA franchise boasts one of the most widely recognized film creatures worldwide, resulting in a series of books, television programs, video games and more than 25 films worldwide. Legendary intends to approach the film and its characters in the most authentic manner possible. The company will, in the near future, announce a filmmaker to helm the film for an intended 2012 release. The film will fall under the company’s co-production and co-financing deal with Warner Bros. Toho will distribute the film in Japan."

"Godzilla" is coming back -- this time, with Legendary Pictures taking the lead, co-producing and co-financing with Warner Bros. for release in 2012.

Legendary announced Monday it had obtained rights to the iconic monster character from Japan's Toho Co., which has overseen more than 25 "Godzilla" films. Toho will release the pic in Japan.

Legendary said it's planning to announce a director shortly.

In addition to Legendary, producers on the new film will be Dan Lin, Roy Lee and Brian Rogers. Yoshimitsu Banno, Kenji Okuhira and Doug Davison will exec produce.

"Godzilla is one of the world's most powerful pop culture icons, and we at Legendary are thrilled to be able to create a modern epic based on this long-loved Toho franchise," said Thomas Tull, Chairman and CEO of Legendary. "Our plans are to produce the Godzilla that we, as fans, would want to see. We intend to do justice to those essential elements that have allowed this character to remain as pop-culturally relevant for as long as it has."

Legendary noted the film will fall under its co-production and co-financing deal with Warner Bros. Legendary's productions with Warners have included "The Dark Knight," "300" and "The Hangover."

Speculation about a new "Godzilla" has been active since last summer. The Bloody Disgusting web site reported in August that the project was in development.