Sometimes when you’re making movies, dealing with the “big personalities” of your actors is just par for the course–but when you’re making a movie populated by giant monsters, it can become a very literal task, very fast. Not only did Michael Doughtery, director of Godzilla: King Of The Monsters, have to juggle four different massive kaiju as they rampaged around the world, he had to figure out how to make them each come across with their own individuality and character.
Thankfully, Doughtery had plenty of source material to build from. “Their personalities all came from the classic movies,” he explained to GameSpot in during the Godzilla: King Of The Monsters press junket in Los Angeles. “They all really came through to me as a kid–specifically in Ghidorah, The Three Headed Monster. That was the first time I remember feeling like I got a glimpse of their inner worlds.”
The movie, released in 1964, introduced King Ghidorah to the Toho Kaiju pantheon as a major threat. “There’s this really amazing scene where Larval Mothra goes to Rodan and Godzilla and says, “Hey. This King Ghidorah guy just showed up. We need to team up to fight against him,” Doughtery continued. “The creatures are literally having a conversation with each other while off to the side, Mothra’s priestesses, the twins, are translating for the humans. There’s so much going on in this scene and I’ll never forget the subtitles basically explaining that Mothra wanted to do the right thing because she believes in protecting the planet at all costs. And Rodan and Godzilla were like, “Why should we care? Why should we care about humans? All they do is bully us.” And that blew my mind as a kid because suddenly you had a glimpse into the point of view of these monsters. [It made me realize] the way that they saw us as monsters while they’re just trying to live their lives. And that’s what they’re fully entitled to do. So I just wanted to make sure that the personality traits that existed in all the past films came through in this one.”
So what, exactly, are those personalities? Doughtery laughed. “Ghidorah is an absolute monstrous bully who seeks the throne, seeks the crown. He wants to be the alpha predator. And Mothra is a much more maternal and divine presence. Very protective and nurturing but she can still throw down with the big boys. And that Rodan is kind of this rogue in that he’s unpredictable. You don’t know who he’s going to follow or fight. But he’s willing to fight at the drop of a hat.”
Ghidorah, specifically, was a challenge given his status as the film’s main villain. The giant, alien, three-headed dragon has the unique ability to regenerate heads that have been severed–but that doesn’t mean his personalities get to change every time a new limb is regrown. “I’m fascinated with how cephalopods, octopi especially, all of their neurons and brain cells aren’t concentrated in the brain. Theoretically, if you chopped off Ghidorah’s head the new head would regenerate using the DNA and brain cells that exist elsewhere in the body. […] So new Ghidorah heads have the same personality as the old ones.”
Every part of Ghidorah’s modern design process was built around the idea of making him look and feel like the “playground bully” he is. “His sound is so unique,” Doughtery explained, “His very particular trill, his cackle, I wanted to make sure we got that right. Because even the old movies, it’s simple but very unnerving–it’s got a dash of nails-on-a-chalkboard, it’s so atypical of what you’d think a dragon would sound like. It’s almost mocking. It’s kind of like mocking laughter.”
Godzilla: King Of The Monsters hits theaters on May 31.