“Godzilla” Begins Shooting; Ken Watanabe Joins Cast

Mark Deming
Movie TalkMarch 19, 2013

It's official - Godzilla has invaded Vancouver!

It was announced Monday that shooting has begin on the upcoming reboot of the "Godzilla" franchise from Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures. Principle photography is taking place in the Western Canadian city of Vancouver, with Gareth Edwards behind the camera as director.

The announcement came with word of another major addition to the cast: Ken Watanabe is joining "Godzilla."

The Japanese actor, who rose to fame in his homeland in the 1980s playing fearless samurai and tough guys, first broke though in America playing opposite Tom Cruise in 2003's "The Last Samurai." Since then, Watanabe has been busy working in Japan and the United States, and has appeared in "Batman Begins," "Memoirs of a Geisha," "Letters From Iwo Jima," and "Inception." It's worth noting that while "Godzilla" is as iconic a figure as exists in Japanese genre cinema (at least to American audiences), Watanabe is the first major Japanese star to attached to the project, suggesting that the Mister G may be making trouble in North America this time out.

While director Edwards keeping the story under tight wraps, the cast is intriguing to say the least. Along with Watanabe, the players include Juliette Binoche (who won an Oscar for "The English Patient"), Bryan Cranston (soon to be wrapping up his impressive run in "Breaking Bad"), David Strathairn (recently seen in "Lincoln" and "The Bourne Legacy"), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (who broke through playing a young John Lennon in "Nowhere Boy" before appearing in "Kick-Ass" and "Savages"), and Elizabeth Olsen (the sister of Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen who earned rave reviews for the indie sensation "Martha Marcy May Marlene").

While it's known that Olsen will be playing the love interest to Taylor-Johnson's character, otherwise the story is still a mystery, though it was announced in January that Frank Darabont ("The Shawshank Redemption" and season one of "The Walking Dead") had been brought in to re-write the script. In a recent interview, Darabont said, "What I found very interesting about Godzilla is that he started off definitely as a metaphor for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And some of the atom bomb testing we were doing in the South Pacific in the subsequent years. The giant terrifying force of nature that comes and stomps the s--- out of your city, that was Godzilla ... What we're trying to do with the new movie is not have it camp, not have it be campy. We're kind of taking a cool new look at it. But with a lot of tradition in the first film. We want this to be a terrifying force of nature."

So "Godzilla" is going to be in a bad mood, and he'll be arriving in theaters May 16, 2014 if all goes according to plan.