News Column

'Godzilla' Knocks Down Cities, Kicks Back in Hawaii

June 4, 2013

YellowBrix

Godzilla, the most storied giant lizard in movie history, will be spending some time in Hawaii this summer.

Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures confirmed Monday what local actors, hopeful extras and industry insiders have been whispering about for months: The latest remake of the "Godzilla" franchise will be filming in July at several Oahu locations.

This comes a day after nearly 2,000 people answered a casting call for extras in Kakaako for a film that was never identified.

Hawaii will portray itself in the film and substitute for other locations, according to studio officials. The film has been shooting in Vancouver, British Columbia, since March 18 under British director Gareth Edwards.

And while productions don't usually identify themselves in a public way during filming, "Godzilla" shouldn't be too hard to spot, said Donne Dawson, Hawaii film commissioner.

"They'll be filming in some very public places," she said. "The public will have no problem observing filming activity. It is not going to be hidden away in the jungle."

But don't go looking for any monster-size props for the creature that has starred in 30 films dating back to 1954, including a 1998 version starring Matthew Broderick which shot on Kauai and Oahu. The new Godzilla will be a computer-generated leviathan.

"They will be doing a lot of shooting with a lot of people," Dawson said. "It's probably not going to be evident from the shooting what is actually going to take place on the screen."

The latest reboot of "Godzilla," due to reach theater screens in May, stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson ("Savages"), Ken Watanabe ("The Last Samurai"), Elizabeth Olsen ("Martha Marcy May Marlene"), Juliette Binoche ("The English Patient"), David Strathairn ("Good Night and Good Luck") and Bryan Cranston ("Breaking Bad").

Edwards, who impressed audiences with his 2010 film "Monsters," will direct the film from a screenplay by Max Borenstein, Frank Darabonte and Dave Callaham.

From the start, Godzilla has trashed cities with every footstep -- poor Japan -- but there's no hint yet about whether this new version will storm through Oahu, climb Diamond Head or step on Aloha Tower.

Walea Constantinau, Honolulu film commissioner, hasn't seen the script, so she doesn't know what kind of mark Godzilla will leave on the city, except that it will be good for the economy.

The high profile Hawaii has received from recent films -- notably "The Descendants" and "Battleship" -- has helped solidify the islands as a place still worth using for moviemaking, Constantinau said.

"This is an indelible franchise that lives through history," she said. "For us to be part of it, with Honolulu front and center in some of it, is an unbelievable marketing opportunity."

And that's true despite the decision last month by Universal Pictures to postpone shooting "Jurassic Park 4," which was going to use Hawaii for location work, she said. The project was in "heavy pre-production" and had offices here when Universal announced it needed more time to create the sequel, Constantinau said.

"We don't think that when they are ready to revisit this that we would be thought of any differently," she said. "You never know how they are going to change a story, but we are hopeful we will be part of it."

For local actor Joji Yoshida, a part on the new version of "Godzilla" would be especially sweet. He got his first role -- a stunt credit -- playing an Army corporal in the 1998 version.

Yoshida, who also had a role in "Battleship," drove a jeep through a Panamanian village that was created at Kualoa Ranch. He was one of several background actors recruited at the last minute to play roles originally given to soldiers from Schofield Barracks, he said. The soldiers couldn't make it, and once Yoshida proved he could drive a jeep with a stick shift on the left side, he was set.

"It was really tricky," he said. "I had to avoid these potholes and real goats walking through the village. It wasn't as easy as I thought it would be."

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