‘Godzilla Minus One’ Director Says His Pets Inspired the Big Monster: ‘I Love My Cats So Much’

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All throughout film history, pets have influenced the people who make movies.

“Lady and the Tramp” was inspired by Disney animator Joe Grant’s own English Springer Spaniel. George Lucas incorporated qualities of his Alaskan Malamute dog, who used to sit in the passenger seat of his car, while writing Chewbacca in “Star Wars.” While playing Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings,” Andy Serkis based his voice and gestures on his cat Dizz.

The latest and perhaps cutest in that trend is “Godzilla Minus One” director and Oscar-nominated visual effects supervisor Takashi Yamazaki. In the acclaimed Japanese production, the King of the Monsters has been restored to what he was in the original 1954 film: a beast of pure destructive id and aggression.

In this version, the ferocious lizard was rendered completely by visual effects. Especially in the second half of the film, take note of Godzilla’s cat attributes: His stoic, indifferent posture while swinging his tail into city buildings, his proud triangular silhouette and his determined fixation at the plane circling over his head. His instinctual curiosity towards that tiny plane, in fact, is how Godzilla is lured into the ocean for the movie’s climax.

You know what they say about curiosity and what it did to the cat. So we asked Yamazaki about Godzilla’s feline vibes and whether they were intentional.

The director smiled when the question came up.

“Right before we went into production, (my wife and I) actually got a couple of cats,” he said. “And I love my cats so much, so perhaps there was a subconscious tendency for me to sign off on (visual effects) shots that looked like them or just looked more cat-like.”

'Godzilla Minus One' director director Takashi Yamazaki (Toho Studios)
‘Godzilla Minus One’ director director Takashi Yamazaki (Toho Studios)

Yamazaki’s gleeful penchant for approving kitty-like shots of Godzilla was also noted by his wife.

“It’s a funny thing,” he said. “When my wife sees the film, she doesn’t see Godzilla in certain scenes. She looks at him and she says, ‘Oh, that’s our cat!’ That’s our cat!’ She can tell from the movement of Godzilla.”

“Godzilla Minus One” notched a number of historical milestones when it received the Oscar nomination. It’s the first Japanese production nominated for Best Visual Effects and the first Godzilla film ever nominated for any Oscar. Toho Studios produced 33 of the franchise, next to several Hollywood productions.

And Yamazaki is the first director nominated for visual effects since Stanley Kubrick won his only Oscar for the effects of “2001: A Space Odyssey” in 1969.

“To have my name next to Stanley Kubrick, no matter how niche or specific the list is, it means so much,” Yamazaki said. “If there is any category to be nominated in, this is the one it was meant to be. I’m very flattered and honored by it.”

A version of this story first appeared in the Down to the Wire issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine. Read more from the issue here.

Down to the Wire, TheWrap Magazine - February 20, 2024
Down to the Wire, TheWrap Magazine - February 20, 2024

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