The current incarnation of Godzilla is still doing big numbers at the box office, but there was a time when there was going to a sequel to the American release of Godzilla 2000 called Godzilla: Reborn. Author of Japan’s Favourite Mon-Star, Steve Ryfle sat down with Michael Schlesinger (who wrote and produced the American release of Godzilla 2000) via Sci-Fi Japan to discuss the sequel, that never happened.
“Believe it or not, it started as a joke. I’m friends with Joe Dante and Jon Davison, and one day late in 2000, I bumped into Jon on the lot — he was producing The Sixth Day at the time. I mentioned that Toho had liked our version [of Godzilla 2000] so much that they were using it in some other countries where it hadn’t yet opened, such as India, and were even playing it in Tokyo for a week before Godzilla Vs. Megaguirus opened. Jon said, “Yep, you’re really Mr. Godzilla now.” I replied, “Yeah, and if this company [Sony] is smart, they’ll get you, me and Joe to do the next American one.” He laughed and said, “Hey, we’re there,” and then we moved on.”
“Now, I’d been kidding, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. The situation was analogous to Star Trek: a lot of people had problems with the first film, so Paramount said, “Okay, fine, let’s give ‘em what they want — a cheap movie that looks like the TV show.” And thus was born The Wrath of Khan and the franchise was saved. I felt we could do the same thing with Godzilla. So I called Jon and Joe and asked if they’d be interested in my pursuing this, and they both said absolutely.”
“I then went in to see the head of production at Columbia, and pitched him the idea of us doing a modestly budgeted man-in-suit film, using Toho’s effects people. Their Godzilla films were running about $10-12 million at the time, so figuring a bigger budget to allow for American actors and other factors, I felt we could do it for around $20 million — about a sixth of what the Emmerich film cost. He liked the idea, but was not in a position to set this kind of project in motion. However, if I were willing to write a script on spec, that would make it a lot easier. That was fine with me, and I promptly set to typing.”
Schlesinger also talked about the style of writing he had for Godzilla: Reborn, comparing it to an Aaron Sorkin script, “I structured it as a sort-of sequel to Godzilla 2000, retaining the Miyasaki character. Except for the opening tease, it was set entirely in Hawaii. This allowed for a plausible mix of Asian and American actors, it didn’t require a tortured explanation of how Godzilla got there, and it has an active volcano, which became a plot point. Plus Hawaii has generous tax breaks for shooting there — and what actor would turn down a chance to make a movie there?”
“I took many of the Godzilla archetypes and turned them inside out. The lead character was a woman — a novelty right there — an L.A. TV reporter on vacation; she’s tired of doing fluff and wants to do more serious journalism. The male lead is a skirt-chasing smartass who owns the Honolulu hotel where most of the principals stay. The two of them squabble constantly — a sure sign they’re interested in each other. There’s a convention of international pipe-smoking scientists — but most of them drink, wisecrack and flirt with women. (One of them is Japanese; Miyasaka is his sidekick.) The inevitable belligerent Army general is, as noted, a Bronx Jew who peppers his dialogue with Yiddish. And the Honolulu chief of police drinks on duty because there’s never any crime. There were other characters, of course, but those were the main ones.”
Read the full interview here.