Q: How would you
characterize the main differences in making a film
for Toho compared with making a film for Daiei or
some other studio?
SK: Between making Gamera at Daiei and Godzilla at
Toho, the biggest difference is the amount of time
we have to prepare. At Toho, we can only afford a
short time for getting ready and for post
production. Toho has their own theaters, so they
want to release movies around New Years every year.
Also, the Tokyo International Film Festival takes
place early in November and they want a film ready
to exhibit there, so as a result, filming time gets
to be really short. That deadline is immovable. On
the other hand, Daiei doesnít have their own
theaters, so they themselves canít decide when they
can release their films. They have to ask Toho to
let them use their theaters. So they are in a weak
position. As a matter of fact, when the director
says that they canít make a movie in a short time
and they have a good reason, they understand. At
Toho, their schedule is more important than what the
director says. Toho has bigger budgets, they have
more money, but Daiei can afford more time instead.
Q: So the director has more creative freedom at
SK: I canít say clearly which is which, but about
the schedule, yes, that is the weak point about
working for Toho. They know itís not the right way
to do things, but still the schedule must stand. The
director has more freedom at Daiei in that respect.
Toho has their own theaters, so they can think their
schedule is secure. But at Daiei when they released
Gamera 3 in March of 1999, they had to ask Toho two
years in advance! Thatís how the schedule
automatically gets to be more flexible... because of
Daiei being in such a weak position, not because
their way of production is so much better.
So, Toho allows you more budget and resources, but
at Daiei your resource is time. Which do you prefer?
SK: For me, Daiei is better because time is more
important. For Toho, they decided to make this film
in January, so in total I had only 10 months for the
whole job, while at Daiei I could get more than 1.5
years... almost 2 years to work on Gamera 3.
Actually, I made another two films during the
production time. Mr. Itoh was writing the script for
part of the time, so I had nothing much to do. Of
course I was checking with him and we were changing
things. With Gamera 3, Mr. Itoh was struggling with
the story...he just couldnít make it work. Why?
Because it was the third one, he wanted to create
something new. It was the most difficult one.
Q: In order to work on Godzilla, you first worked
on CrossFire for Toho. Was this a valuable
experience for you? Did it help you in making GMK?
SK: Working at Toho on CrossFire, I kind of got a
good feeling for the atmosphere there and I got
accustomed to meeting and working with their staff.
Most important was to be able to work with their
office staff rather than the filming staff. The old
man Morichi, the casting director... those kind of
people. Basically I was able to use the same office
staff for Godzilla. Working on CrossFire, I could
come to understand Morichi, the big guy, his ideas
and what he was thinking about, so when it came to
GMK, I got the idea that if I say something, I could
anticipate his reaction. I learned how to ask for
things. That really helped. As a matter of fact,
film crews are basically the same everywhere, I know
those kind of people. Even if the people change,
they all think in the same way, so understanding the
desk types, the top people, is a lot more important.
Toho is a very conservative company. The most
conservative film company in Japan.
Q: You have said several times in the past that
your goal was to be able to direct Godzilla. As a
director, what is it about Godzilla that is so
special for you to want to direct this particular
SK: I have sort of a dream-like feeling, a special
enthusiasm or admiration for a huge object, a giant
monster. This is the first thing... it has a lot to
do with what makes it special. As for Godzilla
himself, he is ugly yet beautiful. Godzilla is
unthinking and acts without regard for anything
else, he just goes on his own way and does as he
pleases... his violence is ruthless, he has
incredible power. He is overwhelming. Other giant
things like Gamera and Majin are not like that. They
have some kind of motivation to go with their power.
Not Godzilla. That is the biggest thing that makes
Godzilla so special for me. Godzilla has been
imprinted in my blood since childhood, not Gamera.
As a boy, did you see the Gamera movies?
SK: As a young boy, I did not like Gamera because it
seemed to me so childish. I only saw those films on
tv; I never went to see them in a theater.
Q: When you were young, were the Toho movies top
quality to you?
SK: People usually think kids donít care about
quality and those kinds of things. But as I
remember, I did care a lot. I could sense it.
Quality mattered, at least to me. So when I started
to make Gamera, subconsciously I wanted to evoke
those same kind of memories of 1960ís Toho quality.
Q: In general, when you make a movie, what is the
main thing that you are trying to accomplish?
SK: The priority is that I am thinking of the
audience...I want to make them satisfied. I have to
understand the audienceís emotions and work with
what they know, then thinking of what I have in
mind, I try to lead the audience in that direction.
Thatís what I am always trying to convince myself to
do. But it could just be an excuse that I am making
up for myself. I might actually be just trying to
satisfy myself, in which case itís like making a
Q: When you make a monster film, does what you
try to do change in any way? Are there special
demands on you?
SK: In a monster movie, I have unlimited ideas. So
many visual ideas. All of these ideas pop out
everywhere all the time. I really enjoy that. It
gives so much for me to think about. But I canít use
all of my ideas... itís impossible. The hard work is
deciding which I will use and which I will dump.
Thatís really hard. On the other hand, in a regular
film, there is nothing like unlimited ideas. I only
have a set number. Thereís not much cutting down of
the visual ideas. So I have to depend on my
technique to make this kind of film interesting.
That part is fun. I canít say which kind of film is
Q: In your original concept, there were three
monsters to oppose GodzillaóVaran, Baragon, and
Angilas. Why did you pick these three? They are all
so similar in that they are crawling monsters and do
not possess any special powers.
SK: When I think of domestic monsters for this
story, monsters which could be indigenous to Japan,
I think of these three. I thought enemies with a
similar appearance would work well within this story
concept, so that is why I picked them. I didnít want
to show the other monsters to have any special
powers to instead emphasize Godzillaís powers, so I
went for monsters more on the quiet side. I wanted
Godzilla to be King of the Monsters. Then, Tohoís
chairman, Mr. Matsuoka, who is a more powerful guy
than the president of Toho, ordered me to use Mothra
and King Ghidorah. He is the top guy in all of Toho.
If I used Varan, Baragon, and Angilas, which are
simpler creatures, I think that the monsters would
have seemed weaker next to Godzilla. That would have
been more obvious.
Now that the movie is done, do you think the
decision to change the monsters helped?
SK: Yes, it was the right decision economically....
for selling tickets. That is an important thing for
me. As a director, that is my job to think about.
But still, in the bottom of my heart, in a very
small corner, I still have the feeling that Varan,
Baragon, and Angilas..... could have been better.
Q: What is your strongest memory from production?
SK: The day that we shot Yuri falling from the
window, the special effects shot we did in Stage 1
(the Yokohama Sky Bridge window). That was such a
great set. First we shot it, Chiharu spun around and
fell, but there was a problem. So we had to reshoot
that scene. But I really liked the shot where she
turned around. Toho builds wonderful sets like this
one... they were fantastic. Earlier I said that
working for Daiei was easier, but Daiei does not
make sets because of the budget. They just say, ďGo
to location.Ē But here they built this great set,
just for one day of shooting. In the case of the
Satsuma submarine, we went searching for a set for
the shipís bridge. Before shooting, we went to a
ship museum. If it was Daiei, they would say to
shoot there. If it is Toho and the director says,
ďHmm, I want a set, itís a problem at location...I
kind of want it,Ē theyíll make it.
Q: Other than in 1954, in Godzilla films they
usually do not show personal violence or scenes of
death and injury or the aftermath of the monsterís
attack. You know it happens, but you just donít see
it. In this film, you added those kinds of scenes.
Did you have a special purpose in mind for doing
SK: What I thought is that, if it is not realistic,
it would not be much fun. I did this in order to
give more expression to the power and fearsomeness
of Godzilla. If you donít see anything, then you
canít tell. But at least I took care not to show
blood. I didnít want to make it like a splatter
movie or anything like that, but I needed these
scenes for showing Godzillaís power and creating
fear. I thought that the audience could relate to
this kind of scene, like someone sobbing, more than
just Godzilla fighting and beating the other
monsters or buildings falling. You canít show just
sobbing and so on either, because itís boring. All
sfx or all people wonít get a response from the
audience, but the combination of the two really
illustrates the terror that is a monster. For
example, during the Yokohama battle when Chiharu
Niiyama or the military were injured or in danger,
in doing that kind of scene, I am trying to create
the feeling that these people are actually in a
battle. If it was real, she would be dead, but in a
film itís more important to be interesting or
exciting. Itís a movie, so thatís life.
Q: Tell me about your cast. What special
qualities do they have and why did you pick them?
SK: About Chiharu, Iíve had my eye on her for
several years. She used to be the typical idol star.
Now she is growing into a real actress. I wanted to
get her at that Ďbalance momentí, the transition
between idol and actress. I went to one of her idol
events last February. Do you know that kind of
handshake event? You all stand in a line and get to
do a handshake with the idol. I went to see her
there, observed her at the time, and I thought...
well... she could work. She will be interesting.
Thatís why I picked her. She did very well, better
than expected in fact. She was especially good at
riding a bicycle. She was great in that crane shot
where she was riding and shooting with the video
camera. She was great. Before that, assistant
director Shimizu couldnít do it at all. As to Uzaki,
well, I thought it best that this character did not
look like a typical soldier or military type. In the
last sequence especially, this is the spot where he
does a kind of kamikaze attack... if it was someone
who looked like a real military guy, then the theme
might change. That could make it take on a kind of
Q: Since he wasnít a professional actor, was
there any trouble in directing him?
SK: It was very difficult. Sometimes he would lose
his line or he would not be able to speak well. He
could make up for the qualities he was missing with
his personality. Basically he is really a very
honest, hard working, and nice guy. He is a very
positive person. He tried really hard. Of course it
was hard, but it is a directorís joy to labor on
something difficult and make it work. Concerning
Kobayashi, when we were shooting, I got a little
frustrated with him sometimes. I picked him because
I thought he was just a straight handsome guy. A
cool, good-looking guy. Thatís what I wanted him to
be. By using the effects of wardrobe and directing
and all, thatís what I wanted to get from him, but I
couldnít quite succeed. I cast him by seeing a
videotape which the Toho casting director showed to
me. ďHow is he?Ē he asked. ďMmmm... OK,Ē was my
answer. His performance was OK, he looked good. That
is his talent.
Q: Remember the Yokohama location and everyone
was laughing when Kobayashi was coming out of the
car to meet Chiharu?
SK: Yeah, he was. Did he mean to do that? In that
scene, I wanted him to act like a cool guy, straight
and calm under all the chaos around him. And thatís
how I directed him to act too. But Chiharu started
to laugh, then everyone started laughing, and so it
never worked. Every take was like that. That was a
mistake; it just didnít turn out the way that I
How about Amamoto?
SK: Ahhhh... Amamoto. Since the time that I was
working on the script, he was exactly the person
that I had in my mind all along. I thought, this
line I want him to say. Did you know that he lives
upstairs from a family restaurant now? I asked a
Toho guy to bring the script to him. No one knew
where he lived. He is always sitting in a family
restaurant named Jonathanís, not too far from here.
Mishuku Jonathanís. His performance was perfect. He
is just like a monster.... Godzilla, Baragon, King
Ghidorah, Mothra, and Amamoto.
Q: Thatís what I feel is the best acting in the
movie, the performance at that moment.
EG: Yes, we were there on that day to see
Amamotoís scene in the jail cell. It was really
great to watch him acting, so intense, and he seems
to need no direction. Even after a long setup, you
just said ďGoĒ and he did it perfectly.
SK: That was my birthday. I ate cake with Amamoto.
No Chiharu... He likes to eat cake.
Q: What was the most difficult moment in
SK: The hardest time was at Hakone when Chiharu and
Kobayashi are watching Baragon. First of all, it was
misting. The sfx shot was taken on a Ďpikaní day (a
fine day with no clouds). The problem was the
weather. It was like Los Angeles.
Q: That sounds like my experience... whenever I
go to Hakone, I canít see anything. Just clouds and
SK: Yes, I remember that I was asked that day by
foreigners about which direction was Mt. Fuji. ďCan
we see Mt. Fuji?Ē No, it was mist everywhere.
Nothing visible. The second time we went, it was the
same thing. I finally said ok after watching the
dailies from that day. After that, I changed my mind
and asked for a retake. The producer said, ďYou said
it was ok.Ē
Q: Thatís why they did an extra two days shooting
at the end of production...
SK: Yes. We changed the location because Hakone is
always cloudy. But still, on the first extra day it
was all day cloud cover. Also on the second day, it
was cloudy. But there was sunshine for about five
minutes. So I took five shots in five minutes. Ok...
ok... ok... It was so tiring. But more difficult
than this was before shooting, getting permission
from Toho to give the ok. Actually, the difficulty
was that, since I once had said it was ok, I had to
come up with some reason or excuse to negotiate with
the producer for reshooting that scene. The business
side knows what I mean, and I understand their side
as well. Once I said ok, I am in a weak position. I
canít just pack it up. So thereís a debate...with
Mr. Honma and Mr. Tomiyama. My point is that I may
have said ok, but I really didnít mean it. I was
forced to say that because of the time I was
allowed...I couldnít afford more time. So thatís
actually Tohoís fault. It isnít like I hate Tomiyama
or anything like that and it doesnít mean he does
not like me. That effort itself took a lot of
energy. That was the hardest part. Anyway, this made
the shot better. If I used the shot the way it was
done at first, the background would have been just
Q: Some have objected to having fantasy be a main
theme of a Godzilla film, rather than just science
fiction. How would you respond to such criticism?
What I think is that the meanings of fantasy and
science fiction have been changing over time. I have
to say that monster movies are actually fantasy
themselves. Nowadays, I think monsters cannot exist
in science fiction. Thatís because now science has
advanced and the audience knows so much more about
science. Back in the 1960ís, a 50-meter monster
could have been in science fiction...we really did
not know if it was impossible. But now everyone
knows a 50-meter monster canít exist if you think in
Q: Do you mean that monsters created by the
atomic bomb in the 50s were within the realm of
science fiction, but today this is regarded more as
SK: Right. So now what we do is, because everyone
still wants to see a 50-meter monster, we actually
create a fantasy movie which has the atmosphere or
mood of a science fiction movie with 50-meter
monsters. If it were a 15-meter monster, you might
be able to get away with it as science fiction. But
at 50 meters, it becomes impossible, things start to
make no sense, you canít explain it. Look at what
happens in Megaguirus, which tries to be science
fiction, it doesnít work, it canít be explained by
science. So the only way to explain things is more
in a fantasy realm. The audience canít believe it
with science, and it is important to make the
audience believe. I canít explain 50-meter monsters
with science because it isnít true. The only way to
use science then is to use fake or unbelievable
Q: When you accepted the job to make Godzilla,
did you intend to make just one movie, or was there
any idea from either side that you would make a
series or more than one?
SK: Just one. Tomiyamaís original plan also was that
GMK would be the last Godzilla film for now. But now
the situation has changed. I donít know what his
plan is at this time. So yes, we both thought that I
would do only one movie originally. Their plan
always winds up being changed. Tomiyama planned to
make three Godzilla movies for the new millennium.
At the time of Megaguirus, they were stuck and they
did not know if they could really make another. But
then they okíd GMK, and he really thought that would
be the end. But GMK became a hit, so he said, ďOk,
letís make another one!Ē Itís always this way.
Q: Would you like to make another Godzilla movie?
SK: Oh, yes! I would like to make another Godzilla.
Q: Would you do it under identical conditions, or
would you want more time?
SK: If I am not doing something, then Iíd do it even
under the same conditions.
Q: Do you think youíd have more freedom next time
since this one was a hit?
SK: Mmmm... Toho is always Toho...
Q: On the original presssheet, the chart for both
director and special effects shows ĎKanekoí. You
were going to assume the dual role of sfx director
as well as director of GMK. It had not been done
before. Could you comment on how that worked out?
SK: I didnít like that. Because of time, I couldnít
do as much as I originally thought. So I changed my
mind along the way, and I thought Kamiya should get
his due, so I made sure he got credit as special
As a director, the hardest part of making a movie is
developing all my ideas. When I leave the special
effects to the sfx director, I still feel that I
want to control him in the direction that I am
thinking. That takes a lot of effort. So I think
that it could be much better if one person could
handle everything for both sides.
A movie is something
created from a lot of peopleís ideas and time, not
just one personís. Itís good to get ideas from
others, but the director should be the guy in
charge. A director has to have the capacity for
understanding and patience in order to deal with the
other people involved. The director should be just
like a slime... they have to change form case by
case. So a situation changes and the director must
change accordingly. Of course there are some
directors who cannot change... they just get more
and more stubborn. I think I am more flexible... I
can be like a shape-shifter. I feel like I want to
do more of the special effects part, but I know I
canít do everything.
Q: Would you like to try this kind of arrangement
SK: Yes, I would.
conducted 2002 in Tokyo by Ed Godziszewski and
Interview first appeared in Japanese Giants #9.
Reprinted by permission.
Translation by Mariko Godziszewski.