As you may have noticed, there have been one or two — or three — dragons flying around pop culture in recent times. That number will increase next week with the arrival in cinemas of Godzilla: King of the Monsters (out May 31), which in addition to the titular G-man, features those other kaiju legends Mothra, Rodin, and the three-headed, and, at the least, dragon-like King Ghidorah. So, how did the film’s director Michael Dougherty and production designer Scott Chambliss go about making their version of the latter a memorable monster?
“Ghidorah is from another planet and he’s basically the heavy in the film,” says Chambliss. “One of the challenges was, we’re inundated with dragons in our culture right now. So, Ghidorah risks being the most ho-hum of [the monsters in the film]. What Michael did was, he played on the very human characteristics. He played on characteristics that we associate with human beings but he applied them to the monsters. Ghidorah, with his three heads, was an opportunity to have three different aspects of a generally similar creature.”
Indeed, director Dougherty had different actors — Alan Maxson, Richard Dorton, and Jason Liles — portray each of Ghidorah’s heads, via the magic of motion capture.
“It was important to me that each of Ghidorah’s heads have a slightly different personality than the other,” says the filmmaker. “Just imagine if you had three dogs, all of the same species. I mean, it’s subtle. I used to have three dogs, and you sort of learn that they have very different ways of expressing themselves, even if they look alike. I loved the idea that each head did sort of have its own personality and quirks, with the center head being the alpha of the three. He’s the one who’s sort of the big brother and the most serious. And then, the other two are just a little bit different. One head is slightly more aggressive and tenacious. The other one displays signs of curiosity. So, in a lot of ways, they’re just like three triplets. You know, they have a lot of traits in common, but they all have their own unique way of reacting to a situation. Ghidorah, he’s a singular character with three distinct personalities and doing the mocap, the facial capture, that way just seemed to make the most sense. And it was a ton of fun too.”
The 2019 film’s human characters include Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), a scientist working for the beastie-hunting organization Monarch, and her daughter Madison, who is portrayed by Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown. The pair are kidnapped by what Dougherty describes as “a mysterious organization, with their own plans for the creatures.”
Watch the trailer for Godzilla: King of the Monsters above.