KAIJU CONVERSATIONS:
An Interview with Koichi Kawakita
Conducted by David Milner
Translation by Yohihiko Shibata

(Originally published in CULT MOVIES)


Koichi Kawakita directed the special effects for GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE (1989), GODZILLA VS. GHIDRAH (1991), GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA (1992), GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA (1993), GODZILLA VS. SPACE GODZILLA (1994), and a number of other science fiction films. He also directed the special effects for SAMURAI OF THE BIG SKY (1976) and ZERO (1984), both of which are war movies.

Conducted in December 1994 

David Milner: Why wasn't GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE produced sooner than it was?

Koichi Kawakita: Shortly after TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA (1975) was released, a large number of Godzilla fans began urging Toho to produce another Godzilla film. (The Toho Company Ltd. produced all twenty-one of the Godzilla films. It also produced RODAN (1956), MOTHRA (1961) and many other science fiction movies.) That is what eventually prompted the release of GODZILLA 1985 (1984). It was not as successful as Toho had anticipated it would be, so the studio decided to pit Godzilla against another monster in the next Godzilla movie. (Godzilla is the only monster in GODZILLA 1985.)

A story contest was held to obtain ideas for what was being called GODZILLA II. About three thousand entries were received. The members of the selection committee read over all of the entries, and after a year chose twenty for further consideration. After a second year had passed, two stories were chosen from among the twenty for final consideration. One pitted Godzilla against Biollante, a monster that had been created by bio-technology, and the other pitted him against a massive computer. Finally, after a third year had gone by, Toho decided to produce the story featuring Biollante.

DM: Why wasn't Deuterios included in GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE? (Deuterios, a monster created by the combination of rat and fish cells, is in the original story contest entry.)

KK: I don't remember.

DM: Footage showing Biollante's tendrils attacking Godzilla was created with claymation techniques, but it wasn't used. Why wasn't the footage used? (Biollante is created when cells from Godzilla, a woman, and a rose are combined.)

KK: No water could be seen in the footage. It didn't match the other footage of Godzilla and Biollante doing battle in Lake Ashino that we'd shot.

DM: The rays emitted from Ghidrah's three mouths in GODZILLA VS. GHIDRAH originally were all going to be different colors. Why did you decide instead to make them all yellow?

KK: I considered many different colors for the rays, but I ultimately decided that the original color was the most suitable one. (GHIDRAH - THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER (1964) is the first of several movies in which Ghidrah appears.)

DM: The unfolding of Mothra's wings that takes place immediately after Mothra emerges from his cocoon in GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA originally was going to be depicted with computer graphics. Why was it instead depicted with models of the wings?

KK: The look of analog film is very different from that of digital video. Matching the two is very difficult. I didn't think the computer graphics fit into the footage that we'd shot on the set very well.

DM: Why did you change the color of Godzilla's breath from blue to red at the end of GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA? (The change occurs after Godzilla absorbs energy from Fire Rodan.)

KK: The idea was not in the script or the storyboards. As James Cameron said to me, films are living things. They change as they go through the various stages of production.

I decided to change the color of Godzilla's breath for two different reasons. One was the fact that Rodan changes color after Godzilla attacks him with his radioactive breath, and the other was my desire to show the power of nature. (Rodan transforms into Fire Rodan after doing battle with Godzilla. Rodan is brown in color, but Fire Rodan is red. The main theme of GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA is "real life against artificial life.")

DM: The design of Space Godzilla is very different from that of the other monsters Toho has created. On what was it based?

KK: It was based on the design of Super Godzilla in the SUPER GODZILLA game for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Space Godzilla from the chest up is very similar in appearance to Super Godzilla.

I thought Space Godzilla should have crystals on his shoulders. I also thought that he should have some special power, so I put an antenna-like object on his head. (The "space horn" provides Space Godzilla with a radar capability.) I first designed Space Godzilla, and then came up with the explanation of his creation. (A Godzilla cell is sucked into a black hole in outer space.)

DM: Little Godzilla is very different in appearance from Baby Godzilla. Why is this? (Baby Godzilla is introduced in GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA. In GODZILLA VS. SPACE GODZILLA, he grows into Little Godzilla. Little Godzilla is not only much larger, but also much cuter, than Baby Godzilla.)

KK: GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA was very successful because an unusually large number of women went to see it. So, we wanted to include something in GODZILLA VS. SPACE GODZILLA that would appeal to them. In addition, I wanted to show Little Godzilla growing from a dinosaur into a monster. (GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA was more successful in Japan than any of the other Godzilla movies that have been produced since 1966.)

DM: Why was MOGERA included in GODZILLA VS. SPACE GODZILLA? (Aliens from outer space use two identical robots, both of which are called Mogera, in their attempt to take over Earth in THE MYSTERIANS (1957). In GODZILLA VS. SPACE GODZILLA, the UNGCC (United Nations Godzilla Countermeasures Center) uses MOGERA (Mobile Operation Godzilla Expert Robot Aero-Type) to fend off Space Godzilla.)

KK: When Space Godzilla arrives in Fukuoka, large crystals instantly appear in the city. They are the source of his power. Since the crystals have underground roots, a machine that can tunnel underground is needed to destroy them. (Mogera tunnels underground in THE MYSTERIANS).

DM: Was there much special effects footage shot for GODZILLA VS. SPACE GODZILLA that was not included in the film?

KK: Yes. The majority of it is from the battle between Godzilla, Space Godzilla, and MOGERA in Fukuoka.

DM: Some people prefer the version of SAYONARA JUPITER (1984) that was broadcast on Japanese television to the one that was released in Japanese theaters. Which version do you prefer? (The movie was edited before it was broadcast.)

KK: I prefer the edited version. I share Sakyo Komatsu's concerns about the environment, but I feel that the scenes which take place at the Jupiter Foundation are not necessary. (Mr. Komatsu wrote the original novel on which SAYONARA JUPITER was based. He also wrote the screenplay for the film. The Jupiter Foundation is an organization of people who reject technology and prefer to live in harmony with nature.)

DM: Was GUNHED (1989) based on the GODZILLA II story contest entry in which Godzilla does battle with a massive computer?

KK: It was based on that story.

DM: Was the full-scale model of Gunhed very difficult with which to work?

KK: The full-scale model was constructed not only for filming, but also for use in promotion. It was much more difficult to work with than the smaller models. Gunhed was designed by an artist who primarily works on animated movies, and it was very difficult to make a three-dimensional object from his original design drawings.

DM: The hands of the Kumaso god transform into a bow and arrows in YAMATO TAKERU (1994). How was that footage created?

KK: The original footage was input into a computer and processed. The processed footage then was inserted into the film. That is my image of the future of movies.

DM: The monsters that you create all transform. Why is this? (The Godzillasaurus seen in GODZILLA VS. GHIDRAH becomes Godzilla, Rodan turns into Fire Rodan in GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA, and so on.)

KK: I prefer to have them transform. It provides more entertainment for the members of the audience, and it serves as an identifying characteristic of the current Godzilla films.

DM: The monsters you create do not wrestle with each other very much. They instead just use their rays. Why is this?

KK: There are two reasons. One is the fact that it would almost be impossible for the monsters to wrestle with each other because of their tremendous size and weight. The other is my feeling that the monsters seem too human when they wrestle with each other.

DM: Why wasn't MOTHRA VS. BAGAN (1990) produced? (It was proposed by Kazuki Omori, who wrote and directed GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE and GODZILLA VS. GHIDRAH, and wrote but did not direct GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA.)
KK: It wasn't produced because Godzilla wasn't in it. Toho didn't think that Mothra was popular enough to attract a large audience.

DM: Why wasn't COUNTERATTACK OF GHIDRAH (1991) produced?

KK: Toho conducted a survey which showed that Mothra was women's favorite monster. The studio couldn't ignore that. Besides, it would have been too easy to bring Ghidrah back. (The survey showed that Ghidrah and MechaGodzilla were men's favorite monsters.)

DM: Toho recently gave some consideration to producing a movie in which Godzilla was going to face MechaniKong, but the studio could not obtain permission to use the robot. What was the film going to be like? (MechaniKong appears in KING KONG ESCAPES (1967).)

KK: Toho wanted to pit Godzilla against King Kong because KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (1962) was very successful. However, the studio thought that obtaining permission to use King Kong would be difficult. So, it instead decided to use MechaniKong. Soon afterward, it was discovered that obtaining permission even to use the likeness of King Kong would be difficult. So, the project was canceled. (KING KONG VS. GODZILLA was more successful in Japan than any of the other Godzilla movies.)

MechaniKong was going to have injectors. A number of people were going to be injected into Godzilla while the robot was wrestling with him. They then were going to do battle with Godzilla from within while MechaniKong continued to do battle with him from without.

There were going to be many different strange worlds inside Godzilla. The concept was very much like the one on which FANTASTIC VOYAGE (1966) was based.

DM: Have there been any other science fiction films proposed by Toho since the release of GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE that were not produced?

KK: Many were planned. Toho did produce SAYONARA JUPITER, GUNHED, and YAMATO TAKERU, but they didn't do as well as the Godzilla movies. I would like to work on something other than Godzilla films during the summer, but Toho keeps insisting that we make a new one every year. (All of the Godzilla movies for which Mr. Kawakita directed the special effects were shot during the summer.)

DM: You began working for Toho in 1962. In what capacity did you work back then?

KK: I worked in the matte photography department. (It creates composite footage.)

DM: When did you begin working in the optical department? (It creates radioactive breath, electrical rays, and so on.)

KK: Three or four years later.

DM: You worked as an assistant director on GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER (1971). Did you work with the standard staff or the special effects staff?

KK: I generally worked with the special effects staff after being promoted to assistant director, but I occasionally worked with the standard staff. I worked with both on GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER. (Mr. Kawakita also worked on THE LAST DAYS OF PLANET EARTH (1974), THE WAR IN SPACE (1977), and several other movies as an assistant director.)

DM: Were the production budgets for the Godzilla films made during the 1970s much smaller than those for the Godzilla movies that are now being made? (A large amount of stock footage was inserted into both GODZILLA VS. GIGAN (1972) and GODZILLA VS. MEGALON (1973).)

KK: They were half as large.

DM: How is your professional relationship with Takao Okawara different from the one you have with Kazuki Omori? (Mr. Okawara directed GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA, GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA, and YAMATO TAKERU.)

KK: Mr. Omori is very creative. He revises scripts even during shooting. I very much admire Mr. Omori because of his creativity. Mr. Okawara, on the other hand, is more of a craftsman. He knows how to make films.

DM: Was the manner in which you worked with Kensho Yamashita on GODZILLA VS. SPACE GODZILLA any different from the one in which you worked with him on NINETEEN (1987)? (Mr. Yamashita directed both movies.)

KK: The two films are very different from each other. NINETEEN is a teen idol movie. However, the manner in which we worked with each other did not change very much. Our intentions both times were to attract young people and take a new approach.

DM: Do you edit the footage you direct or do the directors with whom you work do that?

KK: The directors have the right to make the final decisions, but I generally edit the footage. The directors usually will take part in editing it only if the running time of the entire film is too short or too long.

DM: You directed the special effects for a number of episodes of several different science fiction television series. How was that different from working on movies? (Among the series Mr. Kawakita worked on are ULTRAMAN ACE (1972-1973), METEOR MAN ZONE (1973), ULTRAMAN TARO (1973), MEGARO MAN (1979), and ULTRAMAN 80 (1980).)

KK: The schedule was very tight. We had only five days to shoot the special effects footage for each episode. We would spend three days shooting the set and the monsters by themselves, one day shooting the monsters wrestling with each other, and one day shooting everything else.

DM: Exactly how much footage would you shoot for each episode?

KK: One episode of ULTRAMAN ACE consists of about six hundred cuts. The special effects footage consists of about two hundred cuts. (Episodes of ULTRAMAN ACE are half an hour long.)

DM: You worked with Ishiro Honda on METEOR MAN ZONE. What was that like? (Mr. Honda directed a number of the episodes in the series. He also directed GODZILLA - KING OF THE MONSTERS (1954), DESTROY ALL MONSTERS (1968), TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA, and many of Toho's other science fiction films.)

KK: I was very excited about working with Mr. Honda. I felt honored. He allowed me to do my own work. Even now I enjoy watching the episodes Mr. Honda and I worked on together.

DM: How long did it take to shoot the footage for MONSTER PLANET - GODZILLA? (It is an amusement park ride that features Godzilla, Mothra, and Rodan.)

KK: Just over one month. (The ride lasts for five minutes.)

DM: Which of Toho's older science fiction films are your favorites?

KK: I like all of them, but I especially like THE MYSTERIANS and RODAN.

DM: Which of the movies you worked on as a special effects director is your favorite?

KK: SAMURAI OF THE BIG SKY.

DM: Why is that?

KK: It's the first film on which I worked as a special effects director. In addition, I was given complete artistic control.

I'm especially proud of SAMURAI OF THE BIG SKY because there is no stock footage in it. There have been many war movies produced by Toho, but most of them feature stock footage. There is very little stock footage of Zero fighters in widescreen format, so although the producers wanted me to use stock footage, I insisted that I be allowed to use only new footage.

DM: Do you enjoy working on science fiction films any more or less than you enjoy working on the war movies?

KK: I prefer working on war films because the characters in them can be very expressive, even when they are only relating with weapons.

DM: What do you think of the Gamera movies?

KK: I haven't seen the older ones, but I did see a rush edit of the new one and I think it's fine. (Gamera is recreated in GAMERA - THE GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE (1995).)

DM: What do you think of the Ultraman television series?

KK: Ultraman, like Godzilla, is too perfect. It's impossible to move away from him. A different approach should be taken, but I know that it's very difficult to do so.

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

KK: I enjoyed the film, but it was too realistic. It would have been much more enjoyable if some fantasy elements had been incorporated into it.

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

KK: The Godzilla series has lasted for forty years. Whenever we produce a new Godzilla film, we keep that in mind. We also produce each new Godzilla movie with the expectation that the series will continue on for another forty years.

DM: Is there anything you are allowed to say about the next Godzilla film Toho is going to produce? (Godzilla is going to be killed in GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER.)

KK: The drama will center around the destruction of Tokyo.

DM: Will Little Godzilla continue to grow?

KK: Yes. He will grow into Junior Godzilla.

DM: Is another amusement park ride featuring Godzilla going to be created in the near future?

KK: There is going to be another one created, but it will not be a sequel to MONSTER PLANET - GODZILLA.

DM: How do you feel about TriStar Pictures producing a Godzilla film in the United States?

KK: I have great expectations for the movie. I'm looking forward to seeing it not only because I direct special effects for Godzilla films, but also because I am a movie fan.

Conducted in  December 1995.

David Milner: Was the special effects production budget for GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER any larger or smaller than the special effects production budgets for the other recent Godzilla films?

Koichi Kawakita: It was smaller.

DM: Why?

KK: Toho has not had much success in exporting the latest Godzilla movies. (The Toho Company Ltd. produced all twenty-two of the Godzilla films. Only GODZILLA 1985 (1984) and GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE have been released in the United States.)

DM: Would the budget have been larger if Toho had had more success with them overseas?

KK: I wonder.

DM: Do you know why the movies haven't been released in the United States?

KK: One of the reasons is TriStar's upcoming GODZILLA. Another reason might be that Henry Saperstein's rights have not yet expired. (GODZILLA is going to be directed by Roland Emmerich. Among his credits are STARGATE (1994) and INDEPENDENCE DAY (1996). Mr. Saperstein is the head of UPA, Inc., the company that distributed GODZILLA VS. MONSTER ZERO (1965), WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS (1966), and several of Toho's other science fiction films in the United States.)

DM: I am surprised that making all of the different forms of Destroyer did not cost a lot of money. (Destroyer is similar to Hedorah, the monster Godzilla faces in GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER (1971), in that he transmutes.)

KK: Costumes for robots like MechaGodzilla and MOGERA are much more expensive to make than monster costumes. (Two identical giant robots, both of which are called Mogera, appear in THE MYSTERIANS (1957). Mobile Operation Godzilla Expert Robot Aero-Type (MOGERA) appears in GODZILLA VS. SPACE GODZILLA.)

DM: I've heard that Minoru Yoshida designed all of the forms of Destroyer. Is that true?

KK: Yes. That's right. (Mr. Yoshida also designed many of the other monsters against which Toho has pitted Godzilla in the past several years.)

DM: Were his original designs very different from his final ones?

KK: Mr. Yoshida was asked to make Destroyer a crustacean. His drawings were given to Noriyoshi Orai, who painted the poster for GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER, and then a three dimensional model based on Mr. Orai's work was constructed. It was used as the basis for the final design. (Mr. Orai painted the advance posters for the last seven Godzilla movies.)

DM: I've heard that Shinji Nishikawa designed both the MB 96 Laser Tank and the Super X III. Is that true? (The Super X, a "flying tank," is used to counter Godzilla in GODZILLA 1985. The Super X II is used against him in GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE.)

KK: Yes.

DM: Who designed Godzilla Junior? (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.)

KK: Mr. Nishikawa. However, some minor changes were made by the people who constructed the costume.

DM: The design of Godzilla Junior is reminiscent of some of the pre-production sketches of Baby Godzilla. Was it based on any of them?

KK: Baby Godzilla, Little Godzilla, and Godzilla Junior were all designed by Mr. Nishikawa. (So, too, was the form of Biollante seen at the end of GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE.)

DM: How much time was spent building miniature sets for GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER?

KK: About a month and a half.

DM: How much time was spent building miniature sets for each of the other recent Godzilla films?

KK: A month and a half to two months.

DM: Who came up with the idea to have patches of Godzilla's skin glow? (The patches show that the level of radioactivity within Godzilla's body has increased.)

KK: The original idea was to have Godzilla be luminescent. He was going to be white and red. We tried using both luminescent paint and light reflecting tape, but they didn't look sufficiently natural. So, we ended up using the most orthodox method. We took the Godzilla costume that had been made for GODZILLA VS. SPACE GODZILLA, and put about two hundred tiny orange light bulbs in it. We then put semi-transparent vinyl plates over the lights. There was a very thick power cable coming out of the end of the tail.

DM: Did you come up with the idea to use the lights?

KK: Yes. The steam also was my idea. (Steam is seen rising from Godzilla's body throughout GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER.)

DM: What material was put on the Godzilla costume to make it seem that ice forms on Godzilla after he is attacked with the Super X III? (Both the Super X III and the MB 96 Laser Tank are armed with a "super low temperature" laser.)

KK
: Paraffin and liquid nitrogen. (Paraffin is the waxy substance used to make candles.)

DM: Were you concerned that they might damage the costume?

KK: They did damage the costume. We knew that they would, so we shot the Super X III vs. Godzilla sequence last.

DM: Which Godzilla costume did you use for the scenes in which Godzilla is seen in water?

KK: We used three different Godzilla costumes. One was an entire costume, another was a partial that we used for the water scenes, and the third was a mechanical partial that we used for closeups.

DM: Was the mood on the set of GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER any different from the mood on the sets of GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE, GODZILLA VS. GHIDRAH, and so on?

KK: I didn't sense any significant difference. All of the members of the staff knew that Toho was planning to resume production on the Godzilla series at the beginning of the next century, so the mood was not especially serious or somber.

DM: I've heard that Ryo Hariya played Destroyer. Is that true?

KK: Yes. (Mr. Hariya also played Space Godzilla.)

DM: Did Hurricane Ryu play Godzilla Junior?

KK: Yes. (He also played Ghidrah, Baby Godzilla, and Battra, the "battle Mothra" seen in GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA.)

DM: I've heard that Bandai Destroyer action figures were used in the production of GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER. Is that true? (Bandai, Inc. is Japan's largest toy manufacturer.)

KK: That's true.

DM: For which scenes were they used?

KK: The Metropolitan Police vs. Destroyer sequence. They are seen in only a few very brief long shots.

DM: How much time did you spend shooting special effects footage for GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER?

KK: Three months. That includes the location shooting we did in Hong Kong. (Godzilla appears in Hong Kong at the beginning of GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER.)

DM: How long were you in Hong Kong?

KK: A week. We shot during the day, but used a filter to make it seem that the footage was shot at night.

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

KK: One and a half months. We were very rushed.

DM: How long did it take to create the computer graphics?

KK: About a month. The main title and destruction of Tokyo sequences were especially difficult to create.

We included more computer graphics this time than we ever had before. We were in a rush, so we had to hire an outside firm to create the graphics.

We also included more digital composite shots than we ever had before. They took about two and a half months to create. (Digital composites shots are created when computers are used to combine two or more separate shots into one.)

DM: Was the Silicon Graphics Indigo used? (It is a highly sophisticated computer used by many movie studios.)

KK: That's right.

DM: Were IBM-compatible and Macintosh computers also used?

KK: Yes.

DM: Were the computer graphics very expensive to produce?

KK: They weren't too expensive because I chose which shots should be created with computer graphics during planning.

DM: Did you shoot much footage for GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER that wasn't included in the film?

KK: Much.

DM: For example?

KK: Godzilla and Destroyer originally were both going to die when Godzilla melted down. We shot that version of the ending, but weren't very happy with it.

DM: What other footage did you shoot but not use?

KK: Footage that was going to be included at the very beginning of GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER.

DM: Hong Kong footage?

KK: That's right.

DM: Why was Godzilla Junior's appearance kept a secret until GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER was released? (Toho generally does not try to keep secrets about its movies before they're released.)

KK: Toho's executives decided to keep it a secret because of the death of Godzilla.

DM: I've heard that a few props were stolen. Is that true?

KK: That's true.

DM: What was stolen?

KK: The mechanized crustacean form of Destroyer and the one meter tall Godzilla Junior model. They were never recovered.

DM: Did the thefts interfere with production?

KK: Yes. They interfered with production for several days.

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

KK: I'm satisfied with it.

DM: Which of the Godzilla films for which you directed the special effects is your favorite?

KK: GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER.

DM: Why?

KK: I was given the opportunity to show the death of Godzilla. That will never again happen during my lifetime.

DM: Takao Okawara wanted to have Godzilla be killed in GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA, but he could not obtain permission for it. Why was permission granted this time? (Mr. Okawara directed GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA, GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA, and GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER. Mr. Kawakita is the one who suggested that Godzilla be killed in GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER.)

KK: Toho's executives didn't feel that the time had come for Godzilla to die when GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA was produced, but they did this time.

DM: Had they already decided to put the series on hiatus?

KK: The decision to kill Godzilla was made before the decision to put the series on hiatus was.

DM: Was Godzilla's death prompted by TriStar's GODZILLA?

KK: Yes.

DM: Which of the Godzilla movies for which you directed the special effects was most challenging to produce?

KK: GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER. It was the most challenging.

DM: Why?

KK: Well, the real title is GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER, but to me, the title is GODZILLA IS DEAD. Godzilla's death had a big effect on me.

DM: I remember seeing an interview with you on CNN during which you said that shooting the scene in which Space Godzilla levitates Godzilla was very difficult. What made that so difficult?

KK: Space Godzilla came from one of Godzilla's cells. So, having Godzilla do battle with him was just like having Godzilla do battle with himself. For that reason, I tried to make the battle very unusual. That's why it was so difficult to shoot.

DM: Do you ever feel constrained by the production budgets with which you work?

KK: I always feel constrained by the budget and by time. We always are very rushed during both production and post- production.

It's the nature of movie directors. We always want more time and more money.

Most people who work in the American film industry are very surprised when they find out what the Japanese film industry is like. (Production budgets for Japanese movies generally are about one-tenth as large as those for American movies.)

By the way, we had less time to shoot the special effects footage for GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER than we did to shoot the special effects footage for any of the other Godzilla films produced since GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE.

DM: GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER has received a lot of attention from the American media because of the death of Godzilla. Has the movie also received a lot of attention in Japan?

KK: Here, too.

DM: What is working with Kenpachiro Satsuma like? (Mr. Satsuma plays Godzilla in the last seven Godzilla films.)

KK: I haven't heard what Mr. Satsuma thinks of GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER yet, but I would imagine that being the person who played Godzilla when he died would make Mr. Satsuma very proud.

Mr. Satsuma always wanted to avoid portraying Godzilla anthropomorphically. We completely agreed on how Godzilla should be portrayed in GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER, so things went very well.

DM: What do you think of Mr. Satsuma's portrayal of Godzilla in general?

KK: I have been very impressed with Mr. Satsuma's abilities ever since we worked on GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE together.

I spent seven years working with Mr. Satsuma. They passed very quickly.

DM: What is your professional relationship with Kenichi Eguchi like? (Mr. Eguchi is Toho's chief special effects cinematographer.)

KK: Mr. Eguchi loves his work because the footage he gets to shoot is very evocative. He always is very enthusiastic.

Mr. Eguchi has a very good eye.

DM: Do the two of you work closely with each other?

KK: We are very different, but despite our differences, we always manage to work well together toward the same goal. I enjoy that very much.

DM: What do you think of GAMERA - THE GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE (1995)?

KK: It's enjoyable.

DM: What do you think of Shinji Higuchi's work on the movie? (Mr. Higuchi directed the special effects for both GAMERA - THE GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE and GAMERA 2 - LEGION ATTACK (1996).)

KK: Immediately after we finished shooting GODZILLA VS. SPACE GODZILLA, I happened to meet Shusuke Kaneko. I sensed that he was giving a great deal of thought to his work. That made me think that GAMERA - THE GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE just might be very successful. (Mr. Kaneko directed both GAMERA - THE GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE and GAMERAA 2 - LEGION ATTACK.)

DM: Do you think that Toho's decision to stop making Godzilla films was a good one?

KK: It was a good decision.

DM: Why do you feel that way?

KK: We produced six Godzilla movies in seven years. It was wonderful to provide entertainment that people seemed to enjoy very much, but if we had continued producing the same kind of film over and over again, people eventually would have lost interest.

I think it's good that we stopped while people were still interested. That way, there will be enthusiasm for the series when it is resumed.

Godzilla will be created within a completely different culture, and then, after TriStar's GODZILLA is released, an entirely new Godzilla will be created by Toho.

DM: Why was the Big Pool reduced in size? (It is located on Toho's lot in Tokyo.)

KK: Efficiency. The less area the pool occupies, the more efficiently we can shoot in it. Now that we have digital compositing available to us, all we need to be able to shoot is the subject and the water immediately surrounding it.

DM: I've heard a rumor that you're planning to retire soon. Is that true?

KK: It's not yet time.

DM: Are you going to direct the special effects for MOTHRA? (It is going to be released in Japan in December.)

KK: Yes.

DM: Is the movie going to be a remake of MOTHRA (1961)?

KK: It will be completely different. (Mothra is going to do battle with a new monster called Death Ghidrah.)

DM: I've heard that Toho is going to produce a film featuring Ghidrah in 1999. Is that true?

KK: That film probably will be made at some point.

DM: Is Toho going to produce a sequel to YAMATO TAKERU (1994)?

KK: I'm wondering about that myself. (A script has been commissioned from Wataru Mimura, the person who wrote both YAMATO TAKERU and GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA.)

DM: How did you like working on that movie?

KK: I enjoyed it very much. YAMATO TAKERU was a totally different world, so working on it was both very enjoyable and very challenging for me. (YAMATO TAKERU is a period film that features several different monsters.)

DM: When we last met, you said that there were plans to produce a sequel to MONSTER PLANET - GODZILLA. Is the sequel still going to be produced? (MONSTER PLANET - GODZILLA is an amusement park ride featuring Godzilla, Mothra, and Rodan.)

KK: It's up to the people who run Sanrio Puroland. There aren't going to be anymore Godzilla movies made by Toho for some time, but there may be another ride created soon. (MONSTER PLANET - GODZILLA runs at the Sanrio Puroland Amusement Park, which is located just outside of Tokyo.)

DM: What do you think the next few Godzilla films produced by Toho should be like?

KK: I think that they should be powerful enough to make people forget about all of the previous Godzilla films. I also think that the next few Godzilla movies should be more somber, and focus more on the human characters. If we don't focus more on the human characters, Godzilla films will never be very appealing to foreign audiences.



Koichi Kawakita Interview © 1998, 2004 David Milner. Reprinted with the permission of the author.
Photo © 1995 David Milner.

Format © 2004 Visagraph Films International.

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