Interview: Elizabeth Olsen on being in her first giant movie, 'Godzilla'

"Godzilla" star Elizabeth Olsen talks about not knowing the franchise, working with the technical aspects and actually crying watching a movie she was in.

Acclaimed indie film actress Elizabeth Olsen makes her monster budgeted movie debut in "Godzilla." Credit: Getty Images Acclaimed indie film actress Elizabeth Olsen makes her monster budgeted movie debut in "Godzilla."
Credit: Getty Images

 

“I wasn’t a big Godzilla person,” Elizabeth Olsen confesses. She had seen, like many her age, Roland Emmerich’s campy one from 1998, with Matthew Broderick, and had some familiarity with the old Japanese imports. “I think how learned from [them] how funny dubbing could be,” she recalls. “I didn’t actually understand what Godzilla actually represented in the Japanese version.”

 

And yet the actress’ first giant movie, after a string of acclaimed turns in independent and smaller films, notably “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” is the new reboot of “Godzilla.” Admittedly, it’s not just junk; like the 1954 original, it’s a grave and serious film that depicts destruction with realism. “The young kids can see it and go, ‘Wow, that’s crazy!’” she says. “Everyone else can see hints of a larger point.”

 

She’s just glad she got what she signed up for. “It’s always been what they said it was gong to be, which is quite phenomenal,” she says. “It was far more collaborative than I assumed a big film like this should be. If there was dialogue Aaron [Taylor-Johnson, who plays her husband] and I couldn’t work through, we’d workshop it.”

 

It was also Olsen’s first experience with “pre-vids,” animated videos made before scenes are shot to give the actors a general sense of the effects they will be acting with. “They’re these basic, funny cartoons of people making terrible reactions to things,” she says. “That’s what was so exciting to me about a project like this: that imagination aspect of it.” Still, it wasn’t a walk in the park. “You think it’s going to be make-believe, then it’s pouring rain, and you have to get a verbal cue to look down to whatever’s going to be there. It’s very technical. It’s a little scary when you’re a fish in new waters.”

Elizabeth Olsen tries not to get stomped on the reboot of "Godzilla." Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures Elizabeth Olsen tries not to get stomped on the reboot of "Godzilla."
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Her director, Gareth Edwards helped. He started as an effects guy, but he combined his gifts for that with actors in the indie creature feature “Monsters.” He was the best of both worlds, she found. “I think what happens with these big films is studios are trying to get these really great storytellers, these small film directors into these bigger movies. But sometimes they don’t have the language to speak with special effects. And he understood that right off the bat. His focus is on story-driven films, so working with him is incredibly collaborative.”

And for her, her first giant movie worked out well. “I was actually shocked that I wanted to cry twice in this film,” she reveals. “Usually I’m quite removed. I’m very critical if I’m in them.”

Olsen has already reunited with her “Godzilla” husband, Taylor-Johnson, on another film, “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” out next summer. The twist? They play twins. “I feel like that’s the way it’s supposed to be,” she jokes. “You’re supposed to know your twin super-well, so I’m glad we had one film on us before we started with ‘Avengers.’ It actually worked out pretty amazingly.”

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

 
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