Looking a bit like a ’90s version of Cecil B. DeMille, with biker boots and an enormous stogie substituting for jodhpurs and a megaphone, Godzilla director Roland Emmerich restlessly paces up and down Wall Street, watching 500 umbrella-clutching extras line up to become human hors d’oeuvres in a reptilian smorgasbord. As the cameras begin to roll, the high-strung Emmerich puffs on his cigar faster and faster like something out of Reefer Madness and yells, ”Cue Godzilla!”
Taxicabs jury-rigged with hydraulic pumps to make them bunny-hop in time with Godzilla’s approaching footsteps start bouncing like Mexican jumping beans, giving a hint of the fire-breathing lizard’s colossally harrowing size. THUD!!!…one mississippi, two mississippi, three mississippi…THUD!!!
As the extras jog down Wall Street, a tad too lackadaisically for a bunch of New Yorkers about to be squashed like overripe Crenshaw melons, Emmerich removes his cigar and screams: ”Run, you f—ers! It’s a giant f—ing lizard!!!”
Now, in fairness, it should be said that most days on the set of Sony’s $120 million riff on the undisputed King of the Monsters, the 41-year-old German expat and Event Movie auteur behind Independence Day runs a shiny, happy Up With People kind of ship. But when you’re lording over the most anticipated, preordained, overhyped blockbuster hopeful in a season of anticipated, preordained, overhyped hopefuls, it doesn’t matter if you’re the Dalai Lama — sometimes a gasket’s gonna blow.
Emmerich and his writer-producer partner Dean Devlin, 35, are only halfway through their film’s 13-day on-location joyride of destruction through Gotham’s top-tier tourist attractions — and so far there have already been a few too many moments of bad mojo. The first week in New Jersey saw a mini-tornado touch down; then an electrical storm put a kibosh on their visit to Central Park; and now on this May afternoon on Wall Street, in addition to those sluggish day players, two manholes have inexplicably blown seven feet into the air, stopping production for over an hour. Then there’s the pressure of living up to their own self-generated hype, which was kick-started long before the cameras started rolling.
For the past year, Emmerich and Devlin have bludgeoned every man, woman, and child with their annoyingly cryptic yet effective ”Size Does Matter” marketing blitz (costing a reported $50 million in the U.S. alone). Like toadstools popping up after a spring shower, new hints about the behemoth’s size, girth, turn-ons, and turnoffs are plastered somewhere new every day:
”He’s Taller Than the Statue of Liberty!”
”He’s Twice as Long as a 747 Jumbo Jet!”
”His Spleen Is the Size of Mickey Rooney!”
Heck, they’ve set it up so that if you don’t cough up the price of a ticket to see Godzilla on Memorial Day weekend, you’re some sort of Communist. And with Godzilla already booked on over 6,000 screens, it’s pretty much a no-brainer that the film’s first weekend grosses will be monstrous, possibly beating The Lost World‘s record $90.2 million opening. But will the movie’s legs be long enough to outrun the rest of the summer pack? This kind of question makes Devlin and Emmerich twitchy.