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Aaron Taylor-Johnson wants to be more than an action star in 'Godzilla'

Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros. Pictures

The 2014 “Godzilla” 3-D movie reboot goes back to the original concept of the Japanese “Godzillamovies as a classic horror story that does not fall into the pitfalls of campy humor but instead has a serious tone with an underlying social commentary about the dangers of human messing with nature. The 2014 reboot also differs from previous “Godzilla” movies because the Godzilla monster doesn’t appear until at least halfway through the film and the full-frontal reveal of the monster comes even later. The trailers to this “Godzilla” also went to great lengths not to fully reveal what Godzilla looks like.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson at the "Godzilla" press junket in New York City
Carla Hay

In the 2014 “Godzilla movie” (directed by Gareth Edwards), Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays Naval officer Ford Brody, who specialty is disarming bombs. Ford’s wife, Elle Brody (played by Elizabeth Olsen), is a nurse. When Brody is goes to Japan to help his estranged scientist father, Joe Brody (played by Bryan Cranston), Elle is left behind in San Francisco as Godzilla and new predatory alien monsters cause destruction and mayhem. Sneak-preview footage of “Godzilla” was shown at 2013 Comic-Con International in San Diego. Here is what Taylor-Johnson said when he sat down with me and other journalists for a roundtable interview at the "Godzilla" press junket in New York City.

What did you have to go through in the action scenes that had visual effects? And what scenes impressed you the most when you saw the movie?

The special effects, the way it works is that you have to give it a variation of different looks. And that look [I give to Godzilla], I didn’t realize he was going to be that close. And there’s another look when I’m on the train track … But essentially, Gareth [Edwards] would get a lot of variation of looks. I think they went with more subtle looks, because I think with Gareth, it’s always about trying to make it as natural as possible.

And I think sometimes when you’re in a moment where you think you’d probably react hugely, maybe you do the opposite. You do something that is so still. I like the way Gareth thinks about details like that.

When you’re in it, you think, “How big is [Godzilla] again? How far away”? And then you play with it.

You mess around with loud roars and noises and different animals mixed up together. There’s a roar that’s like a lion meets and elephant. Gareth just f*cked with it a little bit.

When did they offer you the role in “Godzilla”?

I got a call, and they said that they were going to do “Godzilla,” and my initial reaction was “Why?” Even Gareth says that when he got approached, he said he wanted to see the script. I learned a lot as well.

The majority of things you get … everything changes, depending on the filmmakers and the cast. A monster movie is not what I was thinking of doing next. But then, they said the director is this young guy Gareth Edwards. He did this thing called “Monsters.”

I said, “I saw that. I remember that. It was really interesting. It was a lovely story. It was the opposite of a [typical] monster movie. It was really great.” And then Legendary, I like [Legendary Pictures chairman/CEO Thomas Tull] too. I’ll sit down with him.

And that’s how it started. We chatted for about six hours about what films we loved, the characters, what he wanted to do with Godzilla. He’s an amazing filmmaker. He’s good at directing, he understands actors, and he had a really strong vision for it. By the time I walked out, I was like, “I will probably do this movie. I want to do this movie.”

How did you get cast in “Avengers: Age of Ultron”?

Just before I started “Godzilla,” I met Joss Whedon [writer/director of “The Avengers: Age of Ultron”]. And there was no mention of any sort of superheroes. I meet Joss at this hotel, and it was sort of secret …

And it was the same thing. At first I was like, “Why add any more superheroes?” And he was like, “There are these two characters I want to bring in who I think will really f*ck with the Avengers.”

He told me about a little bit of the writing. And I said, “The only reason I’d want to do that is that there’s a character that can still sort of stand out.” You’ve got five or 10 of the most awesome superheroes, and they’re all movie stars as well.

And I was like, “What the hell am I going to do? What difference is it if I come on the scene?” And that was the [Quicksilver] character.

That took over a year, going back and forth and talking about it. The process takes a while, but I’m super-happy in that one too. “Godzilla” is the same. I felt that way with Gareth and [“Godzilla” co-stars] Bryan [Cranston] and Juliette Binoche.

What was it like working with Bryan Cranston, who plays Ford Brody’s father in “Godzilla”?

It was hard because obviously he’s not an a**hole. He’s a lovable guy. And my whole thing was [with my Ford Brody character], “I f*cking hate you, dad.” With Cranston, you think [in real life], “God, I wish he were my dad.”

You’ve been in the several movies that appeal to the “fanboy”/Comic-Con audience: the “Kick-Ass” movies, “Godzilla” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” What has it been like to deal with fans of these movies?

At Comic-Con, you always get nervous. You think, “They’re the guys who are going to boo you or something.” I think it’s a huge place for people who love films and love characters and are the real fan base, in a way. So it’s kind of amazing. I’d never really seen that many people who are fans and lovers of comic books and movies. Usually, they’re really happy and appreciative.

Elizabeth Olsen plays Scarlet Witch (Quicksilver’s twin sister) in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” What has it been like to work with Elizabeth Olsen in two movies in two years?

I think she’s great. She’s really cool and a down-to-earth girl. There are some actresses I’ve worked with … never again! Lizzie, on the other hand, is just cool, super down-to-earth. She’s a really great actress as well.

And I think we’re quite similar, in the sense that we always do it really differently in every take. She’ll chop and change, and it gives me something to react to that’s new every time. She’s cool.

We’re going to be brother and sister now. We’re trying to make these characters different. And we’re playing Eastern-European as well.

So you have an Eastern-European accent in “Avengers: Age of Ultron”?

Yeah. They might f*cking ADR it out!

For more info: "Godzilla" website

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