|INTERVIEW: MASAAKI TEZUKA AND WATARU MIMURA
The two filmmakers discuss their work on GODZILLA VS MEGAGUIRUS and GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA
Translations: Oki Miyano
Additional Material: Oki Miyano and Keith Aiken
Source: Fushigi Megane website
Masaaki Tezuka was born in Tochigi, Japan on January 24, 1955. After graduating from the Nihon University of Art with a degree in cinema in 1977 he was hired as an assistant director on TV movies for the program SATURDAY WIDE [Doyo-Wide]. Tezuka quickly moved over to theatrical features and spent the next 22 years as an assistant director on such films as Kinji Fukasaku's disaster epic VIRUS (Fukkatsu-no Hi, 1980), Koji Hashimoto's big-budget space saga SAYONARA JUPITER (Sayonara Jyupita, 1983), and Yasuo Furuhata's BUDDIES (A-un, 1990). He also worked for renowned director Kon Ichikawa on no less than 14 films, including KOTO: THE ANCIENT CITY (Koto, 1980), THE BURMESE HARP (Biruma-no Tategoto, 1983), PRINCESS FROM THE MOON (Taketori Monogatari, 1987), and 47 RONIN (Shijushichinin-no Shikaku, 1994).
|GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA! © 2002 Toho Co., Ltd.
Tezuka became a Godzilla fan when he saw the film KING KONG VS GODZILLA (Kingukongu tai Gojira, 1962) at the age of seven. More than thirty years later he got his first chance to work on one of the monster's movies as an assistant to director Takao Okawara on GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA 2 (Gojira tai Mekagojira, 1993). After finishing 47 RONIN the following year, Tezuka became a full-time employee of Toho Studios and assisted on both REBIRTH OF MOTHRA 2 (Mosura 2: Kaitei-no Daikessen, 1997), and REBIRTH OF MOTHRA 3 (Mosura 3: Kingughidora Raishu, 1998). In 2000, Tezuka was chosen by executive producer Shogo Tomiyama to direct GODZILLA VS MEGAGUIRUS (Gojira X Megaguirus: G Shometsu Sakusen, aka "GXM"). While the movie was a box office disappointment, it showed that the new director had a great deal of talent and potential.
|Director Masaaki Tezuka © 2004 Toho Co., Ltd.
Showing a surprising lack of ego, Tezuka volunteered as a second unit effects director on the next Godzilla film, Shusuke Kaneko's GODZILLA, MOTHRA, AND KING GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK (Gojira-Mosura-Kingughidora: Daikaiju Sokogeki, aka "GMK", 2001). When offered the chance to direct GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA (Gojira X Mekagojira, aka "GXMG", 2002), Tezuka used what he had learned from working with GMK's award-winning director and crew and took a more proactive role in the production by making changes to the film's staff and reworking portions of the script. Still not completely satisfied with the finished film, he wrote his own proposal for he wrote his own proposal for GODZILLA: TOKYO SOS (Gojira X Mosura X Mekagojira: Tokyo SOS, 2003), the first direct sequel in the 'Millennium Series' of Godzilla movies. Toho approved Tezuka's idea, and the director wrote the film's screenplay with GMK co-author Masahiro Yokotani.
Wataru Mimura was born in May, 1954. Like Tezuka, he first saw the King of the Monsters in KING KONG VS GODZILLA, attended the Nihon University of Art, and graduated in 1977. After finishing school he apprenticed under Yoshitaro Nomura, a popular Shochicku director known for such films as VILLAGE OF THE EIGHT GRAVESTONES (Yatsu Haka-mura, 1977) and THE DEMON (Kichiku, 1978). Mimura co-wrote the screenplays to SINBAD (1987) and LOVE ALWAYS- ALMOND PINK (Koiwa Itsumo Almond Pink, 1988) before going solo with FREETER (1988), a movie about young people with college diplomas who choose to work at menial jobs.
|Writer Wataru Mimura © 2004 Toho Co., Ltd.
Following his scripting chores on GREEN BOY (Gurin Boi, 1989) and LITTLE SINBAD (1991), Mimura submitted treatments for both GODZILLA VS MOTHRA (1992) and a 1991 revival of the popular 1960s YOUNG GUY (Wakadaisho) series to Toho. While neither proposal was used, Shogo Tomiyama was impressed with Mimura's talent and asked the writer to contribute the screenplay for the period fantasy OROCHI: THE EIGHT-HEADED DRAGON (Yamato Takeru, 1994). While working on OROCHI, he was also chosen to write GODZILLA VS MECHAGODZILLA 2. The film was a hit with fans and at the box office and Mimura was brought back for GODZILLA 2000 (Gojira Ni-sen Mireniamu, 1999), GODZILLA VS MEGAGUIRUS, and GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA. He recently worked with Tomiyama to craft the story for the monster's 50th Anniversary film, GODZILLA: FINAL WARS (Gojira: Fainaru Wars), which is scheduled to be released on December 11, 2004.
In 2002, Mimura made his directorial debut with the independent film SPOOKY EYEGLASSES (Fushigi Megane). The official website for the movie features interviews with several filmmakers Mimura has worked with over the years, including a lengthy discussion with Masaaki Tezuka. The interview was conducted at Toho Studios on December 12, 2002, just two days before GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA was released to theaters in Japan. The following article is taken from that talk, with translations and additional notes and information provided by Henshin! Online. The two men cover a variety of topics including how they first became interested in movies, their similar education and influences, mutual acquaintances, their early days in the film industry, and what kinds of movies they hope to make in the future. Of particular interest to Godzilla fans are the details Tezuka and Mimura provide about their collaborations on GODZILLA VS MEGAGUIRUS and GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA, both of which were recently released on DVD for the first time in the United States. To learn more about the filmmakers' thoughts and opinions on the scripts for the Godzilla movies, actors like Yumiko Shaku, budget problems and production schedules, Toho's unofficial policy of not bringing back their newer monsters in future films, and the beginnings of the 2-part war between Godzilla and Kiryu (which Tezuka completed without Mimura's involvement in GMMG), read on...
"I knew that both Masaaki Tezuka and I had graduated from Nihon University, but I thought he was one year behind me because he was born in 1955 and I was born in 1954. However Tezuka's birth month is January, and this means he and I were in the same grade. Though we didn't know each other as students nearly thirty years ago, both of us went to the same school and ate lunch at the same cafeteria. I cannot help feeling that it is a quirk of fate." --Wataru Mimura
MIMURA: Good evening.
TEZUKA: Good evening.
MIMURA: At last, GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA will be released. As the director, how do you feel about this? How has the feedback from the preview screenings been so far?
TEZUKA: I realized that children would raise their voices whenever they were really excited by the film.
MIMURA: Did they say things like "Hang in there Godzilla!"?
TEZUKA: They didn't say that, but they say "Oh!" or "Great!" They laughed at the scene in the laboratory where Tokumitsu Yuhara [the scientist played by Shin Takuma] said, "Nobody's listening." They also laughed at Sara's [young actress Kana Onodera] line about major league baseball. The children's reactions were very positive. During the scene where Yuhara talks about the death of Sara's mother, I employed a ringer in the audience. I had him sob and the other children followed suit.
MIMURA: You pulled them into a sad situation.
TEZUKA: Yes, I wanted to teach them how to react when they witness a scene that should make them cry.
MIMURA: It is important to give them the proper direction. [laughs]
TEZUKA: To my surprise, the children reacted strongly to the scene where all the lights in the Kanto area are shut off.
MIMURA: I see. That was because they live there.
TEZUKA: Well, that was an unexpected surprise for me.
MIMURA: I understand. By the way, what should we talk about?
TEZUKA: Anything is fine with me.
MIMURA: I guess you are tired of being interviewed because you have to answer the same questions over and over. So, I'd like to try to ask you something different. [laughs]
MIMURA: Tell me about Tezuka's path to becoming the director of a Godzilla film, starting from when you were born.
TEZUKA: Since I was born? Okay.
MIMURA: First, where are you from?
TEZUKA: I come from Ootawara in Tochigi prefecture. It is not too far from Nasu-Shiobara. The train station is Nishi-Nasuno, on the Tohoku line.
MIMURA: So you were in Tochigi until you graduated from high school?
TEZUKA: Yes, till the end of high school. I saw Godzilla for the first time when I was in second grade and saw one of his movies in a theater.
MIMURA: What film was this?
TEZUKA: KING KONG VS GODZILLA. That was the first one.
MIMURA: That's almost the same as my experience.
TEZUKA: You too? Naomasa Musaka, who played the doctor [Goro Kanno] who invented the Absolute Zero cannon in GXMG, had the same story too. His childhood experiences are so similar to mine. He also began loving monster movies because of KING KONG VS GODZILLA.
|An early inspiration: KING KONG VS GODZILLA © 1962 Toho Co., Ltd.
MIMURA: It was such a big event because the movie was promoted like 'Japan vs the US'.
TEZUKA: Yes, indeed. In school we seriously debated which monster would win the fight.
MIMURA: Yes, it was like a pro wrestling match between Rikidosan and Destroyer.
TEZUKA: I didn't expect Destroyer would become famous as a comedian. [Note: Live telecasts of professional wrestling matches were among the most popular television programs in Japan during the 1950s-60s. Rikidosan (aka Rikidozan) was perhaps the greatest wrestler at that time, and many Japanese loved to watch his fights with foreign rivals like Destroyer or the Sharp Brothers. In the 1970s, the hasbeen villain Destroyer became popular again when he appeared as Akiko Wada's sidekick on the television show UWASA-NO-CHANNEL. [For more info on the legendary wrestlers, go to Njpw.com and BigEmpire.com's Sake Drenched Postcards.]
MIMURA: KING KONG VS GODZILLA was my first Godzilla film, too.
TEZUKA: The first one was made in 1954 and GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN [Gojira no Gyakushu, aka "Gigantis the Fire Monster"] was the following year, then no more Godzilla films were made for the next seven years. KING KONG VS GODZILLA was really interesting. It was my first opportunity to see Godzilla in action.
MIMURA: So your first monster movie was KING KONG VS GODZILLA... but when did you become interested in movies?
TEZUKA: Well, I wanted to make movies after I saw KING KONG VS GODZILLA.
MIMURA: Really? At that time?
TEZUKA: But at that time, there were many other things too. So when I watched ASTROBOY [Tetsuwan Atom, 1963] I dreamed of becoming a robot scientist; when ULTRAMAN [Urutoraman, 1966] started I wanted to join the Science Patrol team. Even so, I still wanted to make movies, though I didn't know anything about being a cameraman, a director, or a writer. Both of my parents loved films, but they would go see them behind my back.
MIMURA: Behind your back? [laughs]
TEZUKA: Sometimes, I wouldn't see my mother in the morning. Even I if asked where she was my father wouldn't tell me. She would come home in the evening, and when I asked her she said she went to see a movie.
MIMURA: Did your father work on anything to do with the film industry?
TEZUKA: Not at all. He did only serious stuff, but he loved movies. He watched SUNDAY FOREIGN FILM THEATER [Nichiyo-Youga-Gekijyo] every week.
MIMURA: Yes, Nagaharu Yodogawa. [Note: Yodogawa was a famous film critic and host of SUNDAY FOREIGN FILM THEATER. He passed away at the age of 89 on November 12, 1998.]
TEZUKA: I saw a lot of movies through that television program. As a kid, there was not a huge difference between seeing a film on television or in a theater. Besides, as an elementary school kid I couldn't go to the movies by myself.
MIMURA: Yes, indeed. I had to wait until high school to go to a theater alone.
TEZUKA: Yes, even when I was a junior high school student, the schools wouldn't allow kids to go to the movies.
MIMURA: There was no video rental shop in the 1970s, so we could only watch movies on television. Did you mainly watch western films?
TEZUKA: Yes, I watched a lot of western films. This means I watched SUNDAY FOREIGN FILM THEATER. [laughs]
MIMURA: And sometimes NHK aired foreign films. By the way, were you a film geek in high school?
TEZUKA: Yes, because I was planning to attend the Nihon University of Art.
MIMURA: From the beginning of high school?
|Tezuka and Mimura's alma matter, the Nihon University of Art. © 2004 Nihon
TEZUKA: Yes, I wanted to major in cinema. At that time, there were only two film schools that offered bachelor's degree.
MIMURA: These two schools were Nihon University and Osaka-something.
TEZUKA: Yes, Osaka University of Art and Nihon University. There were only two places to study film. And I thought Osaka was too far from Tochigi.
MIMURA: Amazing! You had such a clear vision even as a high school student.
TEZUKA: How were your high school days, Mr. Mimura?
MIMURA: I didn't have any plans when I entered high school. [laughs] I only started to look at film seriously afterwards. Before that, I had never been to a theater and had seen most films on television. I was a student at an industrial school. I came from Yokkaichi in Mie prefecture [an industrial town; it was attacked by Godzilla while he is heading for Nagoya in MOTHRA AGAINST GODZILLA in 1964], and the school arranged many job openings from major companies such as Mitsubishi, Sumitomo, Honda and Toyota. Many of my classmates are working at those prestigious companies without having a degree. I tried to get a job too, but my attempt ended in failure. It was with a computer company in Tokyo. In the interview, I talked too much about Federico Fellini.
TEZUKA: Why did you talk about Fellini? [laughs]
MIMURA: [big laugh] Well, that why I had a problem-- and then I prepared for the entrance examination for Nihon University.
TEZUKA: So you didn't pass the exam after graduating from high school?
MIMURA: Yes I did, I passed it.
TEZUKA: How did you do that when you were busy job hunting?
MIMURA: Nihon University had only two subjects on the exam. I think they were Japanese, English and an essay question; so even I could make it.
TEZUKA: During the test, I tried to take the exam for the broadcasting department and I failed.
MIMURA: Was it more difficult than the film department exam?
TEZUKA: Yes it was. It was more popular major than film. Many people wondered why I wanted to major in film.
MIMURA: So in high school, you saw a lot of movies in theaters?
TEZUKA: Yes, but most of them were not so impressive.
MIMURA: Were many of them foreign films?
TEZUKA: Yes. I saw, for instance, [the French film] RIDER ON THE RAIN and so on. But I was really amazed by film when I first saw STAR WARS and JAWS as a college student. I was so stunned by STAR WARS; I felt like "It's come at last!" I think today that the STAR WARS movies are not what I saw at that time. I feel they are different films now.
MIMURA: So you mainly enjoyed western films as a high school student. Did you see any Japanese films?
TEZUKA: To tell you the truth, I was a fan of Yoko Naito. [Note: Yoko Naito was an actress known for her performances in films like RED BEARD and PORTRAIT OF HELL]
MIMURA: You were? [laughs]
TEZUKA: So I ordered her calendar thorough Toho, and I also ordered a Godzilla calendar.
MIMURA: And then you entered Nihon University. Did you want to enter the broadcasting department?
TEZUKA: No, I preferred the film department. However, because my father's work was related to radio, he wanted me to enter the broadcasting department. But I didn't pass the exam, and eventually I joined the film department.
MIMURA: What course did you take?
TEZUKA: The director's course, but I didn't get the notice from the university on the day it was supposed to come, and I thought I had failed the exam. I went to my high school teacher's home. He was very young, maybe 27 or 28 at that time. I told him that I failed the exam and he said, "Well, you don't look like an artist." There was another student in my class who really looked the part... he wanted to be a painter. My teacher compared me with him. I though this classmate was truly an artistic-type student. Even to my eye, he looked cool.
MIMURA: Was he a kind of naive-looking boy?
TEZUKA: I think I looked more naive than him. I looked too fragile to be touched.
MIMURA: What are you talking about? [laughs]
TEZUKA: I felt all the more depressed when the teacher said "It's impossible for you to work in the film industry because you don't look like an artist." I was so naive. But the next day, I received the notice from the university. I was so happy when I joined the film department. Even now I still don't like that teacher-- I want to say something like "You shouldn't make such a decisive comment on my life when you were only an inexperienced 27-year-old!"
MIMURA: I see.
TEZUKA: But maybe because this teacher said that, I never want to be a sore loser. Now, I don't know if I hate or appreciate him.
MIMURA: Then at Nihon University, who was your teacher?
TEZUKA: Professor Hiroshi Ikeda [special effects director on the 1967 Shochiku film THE X FROM OUTER SPACE].
MIMURA: Well, I don't know him.
TEZUKA: Are you a year older than me?
MIMURA: I was born in 1954.
TEZUKA: I was born in January of 1955. What is your birth month?
MIMURA: I was born in May.
TEZUKA: Well, people in my grade were born between from April, 1954 to March, 1955. [Note: In Japan, the new school year starts in April, not September]
MIMURA: Wow, we were from the class. [laughs].
TEZUKA: Were you there? [laughs]
MIMURA: Both of us hung around the same campus at the same time. [laughs]
TEZUKA: We were definitely at the same place.
MIMURA: I didn't know many people in the directing course.
TEZUKA: Did you know Kazuhiko Ban?
MIMURA: Yes, I knew him. He was in the writing course.
TEZUKA: He was in my year.
MIMURA: Yes, mine too.
TEZUKA: Ban-sensei was great. I was invited to one of his parties and saw actors, actresses, television people, and publishers there.
MIMURA: I see.
TEZUKA: But I felt miserable because I was only an assistant director in the midst of all those prestigious people. Then I thought I would never again come to such a place even if I was invited. I think everyone has his or her proper place.
MIMURA: What are you talking about? [laughs] So in this world [the film industry], there are only three people from our year.
TEZUKA: Oh, there is another guy. He is Gen Suzuki from the directing course. Including him, there are maybe four or five of us.
MIMURA: What a coincidence!
TEZUKA: We are all still hanging in there and working for small money. [laughs]
MIMURA: Yes indeed; and we must have been walking around the same places back then.
TEZUKA: I think so too.
MIMURA: I guess you must have taken Professor Rinpei Kito's Literature 1 or Professor Riichiro Manabe's Film Music [Manabe was the composer for GODZILLA VS THE SMOG MONSTER and GODZILLA VS MEGALON]. You must have been in the same classes that I was.
TEZUKA: I think I did. But you were in the critique course, weren't you? Did you take Film Appreciation?
MIMURA: Yes, Professor Togawa's course.
TEZUKA: Yes, yes.
MIMURA: I attended Professor Togawa's seminar.
TEZUKA: Huh, so you did. My high school was a boys' school, so it was a landmark experience for me to see a girl in a classroom at Nihon University.
MIMURA: For me, too. My school was an industrial high school.
TEZUKA: You should never attend a boys' school.
MIMURA: Were there any girls in the directing course?
TEZUKA: No, there weren't.
MIMURA: So those girls were from either the writing or the critique course.
TEZUKA: Or, maybe they were from the acting course.
MIMURA: At that time, there were some famous people in our school as students, like Yuki Okazaki.
TEZUKA: They were older than us. Taro Shigaki? Oh, he had already graduated.
MIMURA: Anyway, we were in the same place. I must have seen your face.
TEZUKA: Of course you did. Thinking about it, many of the directing course students were overconfident. Many were thinking that a great future in the Japanese film industry was upon them.
MIMURA: I didn't have many friends in the directing course. My friends were either in the moving image or filming/recording courses.
TEZUKA: Speaking of the moving image course, there was a guy named Watanabe, and he is working at Toei Animation now.
MIMURA: I know another guy from the same course. Hant-Keishi!
TEZUKA: I stayed at the same inn as Hant-san when we took the entrance exam. We didn't study at all and just watched 11 PM together. Other students predicted we would fail the exam, but we didn't and they all said it was unfair. [Note: 11PM was an adult television program which was popular in the 1970s and 80s. Many boys learned about sex through this show, which was hosted by Kikko Matsuoka (BLACK LIZARD, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE), Kinya Aikawa (TRUCK YARO), and Kyosen Ohashi. 11 PM reported on the adult entertainment industry, including strip clubs, porn films, and sex clubs]
MIMURA: What was your school life like? Did you see and make a lot of movies? You had to make a film to graduate, didn't you?
TEZUKA: Well... more than film, I wanted to get a girlfriend.
MIMURA: Oh, that was your priority.
TEZUKA: Yes of course.
MIMURA: Well, I saw a lot of films. [laughs]
TEZUKA: I doubt that.
MIMURA: I started to seriously watch Japanese films only after I entered the university. At that time, Nikkatsu's Roman Porno was in its heyday, so I frequently went to Bungeiza Theater and saw many of those movies. [Note: Nikkatsu, one of the oldest and most famous Japanese studios, was known for its 1950-60s action films featuring Yujiro Ishihara, Jyo Shishido, or Hideaki Nitani. In the early 1970s, financial difficulties forced Nikkatsu to shift its production focus to more profitable "adult" films. Its Roman Porno films (short for Romantic Pornography) allowed young directors the freedom to work in a more imaginative style than conventional movies did. Eventually the studio brought up such innovative and talented directors as Shusuke Kaneko (the Gamera trilogy, GMK), Yoshimitsu Morita (BLACK HOUSE), Tatsumi Kamishiro, and Shinji Somai (WAIT AND SEE). The Bungeiza Theater is one of the oldest movie theaters in Ikebukuro, Tokyo. The Bungeiza is famous for occasionally showing old films from a specialized genre such as Toei-Yakuza, or Toho-Monsters. It is particularly popular for Nihon University students because Ikebukuro is close to the campus which is located in Ekoda, the third train station from Ikebukuro.]
TEZUKA: I did see a lot of Toho's action films.
TEZUKA: I saw films such as SUN ABOVE, DEATH BELOW [Sogeki, 1968] or THE ROSE TARGET [Bara no Hyoteki].
MIMURA: I see. So you are a die-hard Toho fan. [laughs]
TEZUKA: Toho was-- it was a dream place for me because Yoko Naito was there.
MIMURA: I understand what you mean. You had your vision from the beginning-- I mean, you wanted to be a director. In my course, the critique course, the students all wanted to be professional film critics. At that time, Nagaharu Yodogawa and other critics looked really cool. We wanted to be like them so we entered the school.
TEZUKA: Did they think they could be a critic only if they went to school?
MIMURA: Yes, indeed. Do you remember Masuda-something, a young guy? He disappeared after he caused some problems at the university.
TEZUKA: Oh, I remember him.
MIMURA: I wanted to be like him. But after a couple of years I got tired of thinking like that. I decided I'd rather make a film that review one.
TEZUKA: I see.
MIMURA: So, one time, I asked Professor Kito's permission to audit his lecture. It was the first time I ever studied writing.
TEZUKA: I still remember his class, Scenario Creation.
MIMURA: We had a lot of freedom at that time. My course had nothing to do with his class but he still allowed me to sit in.
TEZUKA: I think that universities should allow its students to audit lectures like you did. The students should take advantage of that. At that time, Professor Kiyohiko Ushihara was still alive. [Note: Born in 1897, Ushihara was a pioneer of Japanese film. He studied in the United States and introduced modern film techniques to Japan. He contributed tremendously to the modernization of Japanese films; for instance, it was common to use Kabuki actors as actresses before Ushihara's modernization campaign. He worked mainly for Shochiku Studios, and is also known as a mentor of the renowned filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu. Kiyohiko Ushihara died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1985.]
MIMURA: Yes, Professor Ushihara assisted Charlie Chaplin while he was in the US. The professor often mentioned the great comedian during the lecture I was very impressed by this because Chaplin was a legend to me. Other professors were... do you remember Professor Shiro Ishimori? [Note: Known as a prolific writer, Ishimori has written for many genre films and television series. The range of his work is very extensive and includes Yujiro Ishihara's classic THANKS AGAIN, NIGHT FOG, FOR THIS EVENING (Yogiri Yo, Konya Mo Arigato, Nikkatsu 1967), HORROR OF THE WOLF (Okami no Monshu, Toho 1973), GALAXY EXPRESS 999 (Ginga Tetsudo, Toei 1979), and SHADOW STAR (Kage Star, Toei 1976). He also wrote episodes of the Masked Rider television series, Toei's Gonen-Sankumi Maho-Gumi and SURE-KILL.]
TEZUKA: I heard Ban worked part-time at Ishimori's snack bar or something.
MIMURA: Come to think of it, that was a great school.
TEZUKA: Yes it was. Though there were not many people in the directing course, many instructors in the other courses were professionals still in active practice.
MIMURA: Yes they were. But you said your main purpose in school was to find a girlfriend.
TEZUKA: Why not? [laughs]
MIMURA: So, where did you hang around? In Ikebukuro? Where was your apartment?
TEZUKA: It was in Ooizumi. My parents' benefactor lived in Ooizumi Gakuen so I was there. But to me, Ooizumi was the home of Toei Studios.
MIMURA: I lived in Ooizumi when I was a freshman.
TEZUKA: My mailing address was Higashi-Ooizumi though.
MIMURA: It was? Mine was too, but it took me about 30 minutes to walk to the station. How about you?
TEZUKA: My place was about 10 minutes from the station. The room was Yojyohan [Four-and-a-half tatami room. One tatami mattress is about 3 ft by 6 ft.]
MIMURA: We really lived close to each other!! We both lived in Ooizumi!
MIMURA: But I moved to Shiina-Machi when I was sophomore. Did you stay in Ooizumi for a long time? [Note: This train station is the first stop from Ikebukuro on Seibu-Ikebukuro line. Ikebukuro is one of the major train stations in downtown Tokyo. Shiina-Machi is also known as a place where a famous apartment called Tokiwa-so was located. Because the legendary artist/animator Osamu Tezuka lived in there for a long time, many young cartoonists moved to the apartment to act as Tezuka's apprentices. Tezuka financially supported many of them by paying their deposit. Some famous cartoonists from Tokiwa-so include Shotaro Ishinomori, Fujiko Fujio, and Fujio Akatsuka. In 1996, the story of the apartment was made into the film TOKIWA: THE MANGA APARTMENT (Tokiwa-so no Seishun) by Sadao Abe.]
TEZUKA: No. Some of my friends did something wrong there, and I had to move out. Then I moved to Ekoda. That apartment was close to the girls dormitory for the Musashino Music School.
MIMURA: Wow, you found a good place.
TEZUKA: I thought so too, but nothing happened. I lived there for a long time, even after I became an assistant director.
MIMURA: I think Nikkatsu regularly recruited assistant directors at that time.
TEZUKA: Toho did too.
MIMURA: Toho looked for assistant directors?
TEZUKA: Toho hired assistants to become regular full-time employees [Some of Toho's full-time employees were relocated to the studio as assistants]. At Nikkatsu, they formed exclusive groups of graduates from specific universities, and they didn't like people from Nihon University.
MIMURA: I went to Nikkatsu for a job interview and, of course, I failed.
TEZUKA: I understand. Nikkatsu preferred Tokyo University or something like that.
MIMURA: What did you after you graduated from Nihon University?
TEZUKA: The production of my grad film ran a month longer than planned, so I didn't have time for job hunting. I didn't have any ideas what to do, but the school found a job for me. They told me Katsumi Nishimura was going to direct for SATURDAY WIDE THEATER [Doyo-Wide-Gekijyo] and he needed an assistant director. Then I asked them, "What is SATURDAY WIDE?" [Note: The show has been broadcast on Saturday nights from 9 to 11 pm on TV Asahi (Terebi Asahi) since 1977. It is similar to the films produced by HBO, with episodes made by many famous film directors such as Katsumi Nishimura, Toshio Masuda, Umeji Inoue, Takeichi Saito, Noboru Nakamura, Kihachi Okamoto, Toshiya Fujita, Kiyoshi Nishimura, Azuma Morizaki, Noriaki Yuasa, and Seiji Maruyama.]
MIMURA: At that time, SATURDAY WIDE was still a 90 minutes program.
TEZUKA: Yes it was. I answered them and said, "Of course I will assist." And even more, since the program would star Momoe Yamaguchi, whom I was delighted to see in person, I could not find any reasons to decline the offer.
MIMURA: [big laugh]
|Tezuka's film career began with several projects starring the popular actress and singer Momoe Yamaguchi © Hori Pro
TEZUKA: Then I was hired again as a sub-assistant for director Nishikawa. The production was SATURDAY WIDE's second film, "The Grave of the Wild Chrysanthemum" [Nogiku no Haka]. Well, I took a photo of Momoe Yamaguchi. [Note: Born January 17, 1959 in Ebisu, Shibuya-ku Tokyo, Momoe Yamaguchi was a major star in Japan during the 1970s. She first came to the public's attention when she sang on the TV talent search program A STAR IS BORN (Star Tanjo) in 1972, and her popularity grew as she produced one hit song after another. Yamaguchi was also a very popular actress in the television franchise RED (Akai) and films like SOUND OF THE WAVES (Shiosai, 1975), most of which co-starred heartthrob Tomokazu Miura. She held a farewell concert in October 1980, married Miura the following month, and retired from show business.]
MIMURA: That was your first official experience in the industry?
TEZUKA: Yes, then I started to work on Momoe Yamaguchi's films. There were a lot of her movies being made at that time-- twice a year for Golden Week and the New Year holiday-- so I could work constantly. Each movie usually took four or five months from preparation to completion. When one film finished, another one was waiting for me.
MIMURA: That was your annual schedule.
TEZUKA: Yes, and during that time I got acquainted with the people at Hori Productions, the production company for Momoe Yamaguchi's movies. Then they started asking me to help with the shooting of their commercial films and for some other their projects. And when they made the last Momoe film, KOTO: THE ANCIENT CITY, in 1980 the director was Kon Ichikawa and they asked me if I wanted to help him. Though I thought the director had his own assistant directors, they were actually all assistant directors from Nikkatsu Studios. That was my first encounter with director Kon Ichikawa. He made his next film at Toho Studio, and I started working at the studio.
MIMURA: You finally came to your dream place. [laughs]
TEZUKA: Well, that didn't mean Toho had officially hired me though. I just went to work in the studio.
MIMURA: So, first, you worked for director Nishikawa then worked for director Ichikawa as his apprentice.
|Tezuka's mentor, the acclaimed film director Kon Ichikawa.
TEZUKA: Yes, I did. I worked for director Ichikawa longer than for any other director. I worked for Nishikawa for six or seven years.
MIMURA: You worked only with director Ichikawa after you met him?
TEZUKA: Mainly, yes.
MIMURA: So, did you have a chance to work for other directors?
TEZUKA: Yes, I did. I worked for Koji Hashimoto when he made SAYONARA JUPITER, and for director Tsugunobu Kotani I worked on WHITE LOVE and THE SOUND OF THE WAVES [Shiosai, 1985].
MIMURA: But you mainly worked for director Kon Ichikawa?
TEZUKA: Yes, I was working for him constantly.
MIMURA: Maybe he didn't want you to leave.
TEZUKA: In a way, that's how it was. [laughs]. We've known each other for more than 20 years. I know him well; his bad and good tendencies, his great talents, his sad moments, and so on.
MIMURA: After you finished work on KOTO: THE ANCIENT CITY, what did you do next?
TEZUKA: I think I worked on MAKIOKA SISTERS [Sasameyuki, 1983] next.
MIMURA: Wow, you moved on such a big budget Toho film so quickly.
TEZUKA: Yes, then LONELY HEART [Kofuku, 1981], THE BURMESE HARP, and PRINCESS FROM THE MOON.
MIMURA: You only worked on big budget films. That's great.
TEZUKA: Yes, we usually had six months just for preparation. The designers tailored fabric before they made the costumes by selecting specific material and creating the designs. I thought it was so luxurious.
MIMURA: You were very lucky as a crew member because you could work in the best environment.
TEZUKA: But it took me a long time to learn what I needed to know on the set because I could work for only one or two films a year. Assistant directors working on television series learn quite quickly because they always have something new to work on. You would not learn as much if you worked for only one and a half films in a year.
MIMURA: I think those television assistants were envious of you.
TEZUKA: I think those guys are great. They are flexible and attentive-- in other words, they are desperate. [laughs] I cannot be like them. I'm always thinking too much.
MIMURA: What was your position when you worked on KOTO: THE ANCIENT CITY? Were you the third assistant director?
TEZUKA: No, I was much lower-- fourth or fifth.
MIMURA: When did you become a chief assistant director?
TEZUKA: In a practical sense, I became a chief assistant director when I worked on MONJIRO KOGARASHI, but I was first credited as such for the first time on 47 RONIN in 1994. After that film, I finally became an official employee of Toho.
MIMURA: So you became a Toho employee after you worked on 47 RONIN. I'm curious; how did they hire you? Is there a specific way to become employed by Toho?
TEZUKA: I was hired by Toho-Eiga [the film production arm of Toho].
MIMURA: So it was Toho-Eiga who employed you?
TEZUKA: Yes it was. There was a time when Toho-Eiga had only two assistant directors, Mr. Miyoshi and Mr. Yoneda.
MIMURA: When did Toho-Eiga hire Mr. Miyoshi and Mr. Yoneda?
TEZUKA: Well, Mr. Miyoshi was hired by Toho Corporation and then he was transferred to Toho-Eiga to be an assistant director. And Mr. Yoneda entered Toho-Eiga right after he graduated from college, so there was a subtle difference between their positions. I was hired by Toho-Eiga like Mr. Yoneda was.
MIMURA: I understand. So technically, you had been a freelancer until that point. You became an official employee after 47 RONIN was made.
TEZUKA: First they proposed a six-month contract to me and I agreed on it. Later, before my contract ran out, they asked me if I wanted to be their full-time employee. I hesitated for a while and talked it over with my wife. She thought it was a good offer, so I became a Toho-Eiga employee.
MIMURA: Are there still assistant directors in Toho?
TEZUKA: Yes there are. There are four in-house assistant directors.
MIMURA: Wow, they have that many?
TEZUKA: They are all from Toho Corporation.
MIMURA: Are they young?
TEZUKA: Yes they are. The oldest one is 32.
MIMURA: So Toho is still trying to create filmmakers.
TEZUKA: There was an age gap between Mr. Miyoshi, Mr. Yoneda, and that 32-year-old assistant director. They wanted someone close to my age so I was hired.
MIMURA: I'm envious of you being hired by Toho.
TEZUKA: But I've already quit.
MIMURA: You left already?
TEZUKA: Yes. Before I started on GXMG at the end of May, I quit Toho-Eiga.
MIMURA: That might have been a good idea because I heard a rumor that an in-house director has to quit after he directs three films.
TEZUKA: There might have been a time they did so. Before me, Mr. Yoneda directed two, but I heard that after an in-house director made three films they had to-- yes, I heard that rumor too. Actually it's good when the studio made a lot of films because a director became a freelancer after he directed three films [payment for a freelance director can be higher than the salary of a Toho employee], but they don't make many movies these days.
MIMURA: I think freelance is better. I really think so.
TEZUKA: My life can be unstable. [laughs]
MIMURA: Just work constantly and make lots of money. [laughs]
TEZUKA: I wonder how I will survive. [laughs] But GXMG is really popular. Both Godzilla fans and non-fans like it.
MIMURA: That's good for us.
TEZUKA: A female reporter from a magazine came to see me and I saw a tear in her eye. I don't agree to an interview unless the interviewer sees my film first, so she watched GXMG. I believe that reporter must have felt something from my movie.
MIMURA: That is a happy moment for us as filmmakers. I think we would give our hearts to the audience if we could.
|One of Tezuka's last assistant- director jobs was on REBIRTH OF MOTHRA 3. © 1998 Toho Co., Ltd.
TEZUKA: Yes, indeed.
MIMURA: We got off track. [laughs] What were we talking about? Was it about when you became an in-house assistant director? Because you became one when you finished 47 RONIN, was that 4 or 5 years ago?
TEZUKA: I had been an in-house assistant director for about 8 years leading up to GODZILLA 2000. During that time, both Mr. Miyoshi and Mr. Yoneda became directors on the REBIRTH OF MOTHRA series, and I worked as a chief assistant director for all these big budget films. I didn't have time to take a break. I didn't have any days off for six years because, in addition to the special effects films, I had to work for director Ichikawa too. With a new special effects film every year plus having to work on other films too, I thought my record of not having a break for 6 years could go even longer, but I was finally given some time off.
MIMURA: It happened in 1999 when they were making GODZILLA 2000.
TEZUKA: During the shooting of GODZILLA 2000, I didn't work for them except when they were really busy. Well, at that time, Toho had decided to have me direct the next Godzilla film.
MIMURA: They had a plan to make three films in succession from the beginning.
TEZUKA: They told me that unofficially. I took a month to make up my mind, and then Mr. Shogo Tomiyama came to see me.
MIMURA: But Mr. Tomiyama had said-- well before this-- that you would be the director.
TEZUKA: I don't know why, but a Toho producer is put in charge of an assistant director, and Mr. Tomiyama was in charge of me.
|Godzilla series executive producer Shogo Tomiyama. © 2004 Toho Co., Ltd.
MIMURA: I did not know that. So, did Mr. Tomiyama tell you about the next Godzilla movie after GODZILLA 2000's shooting was over?
TEZUKA: Yes. Mr. Tomiyama asked me what kind of Godzilla film I wanted to make so I wrote a brief synopsis in a notebook.
MIMURA: Then Mr. Hiroshi Kashiwabara [screenwriter of GODZILLA VS SPACE GODZILLA] and I got the notebook from Mr. Tomiyama.
TEZUKA: Yes, I wrote something about a heroine and a super weapon. Those two elements were the core of that story. [laughs]
MIMURA: Mr. Tomiyama told me you wanted to make something like ALIENS, so we started to develop the idea from that story.
TEZUKA: Yes it was, and then the story developed into GODZILLA VS MEGAGUIRUS.
MIMURA: What was going on in the process of making the film? Was the first draft completed by the end of the year?
TEZUKA: I think at that time the writers were struggling to finalize a story. They were still working frantically after the Tokyo International Film Festival and finally completed a plot at the very end of December.
MIMURA: Oh yes, I was too busy to write. I think I was still organizing my ideas while the film festival was going on. So, did the first draft come after the New Year?
TEZUKA: I think so, because the production department told me that they could not hire the crew unless the second draft was turned in soon. I pushed you to hurry and finish it, and you wrote up the first, second, and final drafts all in one stretch.
MIMURA: Oh yes. [laughs]
TEZUKA: And I got the final script in March, but I could not start shooting until pre-production was done. I was pressed for time because the film festival was in November.
MIMURA: I'd like to ask you, as a writer, what did you think of my script when you got it? For instance, were there any difficult scenes? What did you think of that?
TEZUKA: [laughs] There were some scenes that I didn't like, for instance, the submersion of Shibuya or Kiriko Tsujimori [the lead character, played by Misato Tanaka] riding on Godzilla's back, but finally I surrendered and agreed to make them. [laughs] Though I didn't want to create any exaggerated images, I wanted to make those scenes look good.
MIMURA: I am sorry about that. [big laugh]
|Kiriko goes for a ride in GODZILLA VS MEGAGUIRUS. © 2000 Toho Co., Ltd.
TEZUKA: But later, I thought the idea of riding on Godzilla's back was interesting. Then I struggled how to create an image that would not look cheesy. I think I have more ideas when I seriously try to create scenes that I don't like. I try to make good scenes that I think look natural. If I felt it was strange, then the audience would have thought so too.
MIMURA: I think they cut the budget. It was 1 billion yen [about US $10 million] for GODZILLA 2000, but it became 700 or 800 million yen [about $7 or 8 million] for GXM.
TEZUKA: I think it was only 50 million yen [approximately a half million US dollars] lower than GODZILLA 2000.
MIMURA: I thought the budget was much smaller for MEGAGUIRUS. Was the budget for GMK smaller than it was for GXM?
TEZUKA: No, the budget was the as same as MEGAGUIRUS. GXM was the first time the budget was cut! The subtracted amount was enough money to produce a regular film.
MIMURA: [laughs] I think the budget was bigger when they made the "VS" series [aka the Heisei series, 1984-95]. Because the scale of MEGAGUIRUS is as big as a "VS" movie, I think filming must have been tough with the smaller budget.
TEZUKA: Suppose your budget is a billion yen; the special effects need about 70% of the budget. This ratio will be the same even when the budget is smaller.
MIMURA: It is tough, especially for making non-effects sequences.
TEZUKA: That is true, but we need to make do with the budget by being creative. Use your money on what you need to and save it on what you don't. The same is true of the special effects sequence.
MIMURA: In hindsight, do you think there were things you could have done better when you made MEGAGUIRUS, including the scenes of Shibuya or Kiriko riding on Godzilla's back?
TEZUKA: I spent enough time and energy on making those scenes. [laughs]
MIMURA: Oh, I'm sorry. [laughs] But including my script, what do you think of the film?
TEZUKA: Reflecting on MEGAGUIRUS, what I wanted to do was to provide a scientific background to the story. I needed clear scientific reasons. It is impossible to create a Black Hole Gun, Godzilla himself is totally unrealistic, but I needed them for the story, therefore I thought providing scientific rationales were all the more important.
MIMURA: I see.
TEZUKA: So this I time [for GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA], my staff researched both robot computer technology and DNA engineering for Mechagodzilla. I paid so much attention to this part of the story.
MIMURA: So you think, even for a fantasy film, some amount of reality is necessary and the story should be based on the scientific fact. You cannot accept a totally unrealistic subject.
TEZUKA: No I can't. I think a scientific background contributes to maintain a steady storyline. Speaking of a steady storyline, if the capital had not been Osaka [in GXM] MECHAGODZILLA could have been a sequel to MEGAGUIRUS, as you said to me before. [laughs] Kiriko would have been in the new film. When you told me that I should have used Megaguirus again, I thought it was a good idea.
|Could Megaguirus have returned in GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA? © 2000 Toho Co., Ltd.
MIMURA: I always wonder why they use a new monster only one time. I think the value of a monster would be higher if they used it repeatedly.
TEZUKA: Though some don't want to see the same monsters again, other people do. I think we should use the same monsters again. But we only have a chance once in a year, not every week like in a MASKED RIDER [Kamen Raida] series.
MIMURA: But if we used the same monster repeatedly it would develop its own fanbase. Then we would see a brighter and more interesting future for Toho's Tokusatsu [special effects] series.
TEZUKA: I agree with you. I'd like to see a new monster become as popular as Mothra or King Ghidorah. I think Godzilla fans would be more satisfied with the films if they saw such a monster onscreen with Godzilla.
MIMURA: By the way, I think GODZILLA VS MEGAGUIRUS is really interesting. That's why I told you it was better than any of the other Toho special effects films. I meant it. [laughs]
TEZUKA: Really? [laughs] I'm so glad.
|Mimura's directorial debut, SPOOKY EYEGLASSES. © 2002 Red Queen
MIMURA: The film is really good.
TEZUKA: But I don't think it's as good as I used to because I've seen the movie fifty times. [laughs] I prefer GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA these days.
MIMURA: So maybe you'll be tired of GXMG after you watch it fifty times. [laughs]
TEZUKA: I may think it is the greatest film ever until I see it forty nine times.
MIMURA: Did you watch MEGAGUIRUS everyday?
TEZUKA: Not everyday, but I saw it at least 50 times either on DVD or VHS. The last time I saw it was when I completed GXMG, but at that time MEGAGUIRUS looked different to me.
MIMURA: Did it? I guess you would watch your movie secretly by yourself on video.
TEZUKA: Yes I do. [laughs] How about you Mr. Mimura?
MIMURA: No doubt! Just after I completed SPOOKY EYEGLASSES I watched it with a smile on my face almost every day. [laughs]
TEZUKA: You are just like me. While the film was playing in theaters I would go see it, and it was good too.
MIMURA: Yes, indeed. I like to watch the audience reaction from the back of the theater.
TEZUKA: But when I went to a theater on a weekday, there were only five people there. I wanted to commit suicide. [laughs]
MIMURA: [laughs] That is sad.
TEZUKA: But when I attended a screening of GODZILLA, MOTHRA, AND KING GHIDORAH, I saw a child with his parents. The parents stood up to leave when the end credits started, but the boy stayed in his seat and said, "Last time there was a scene after the end titles". When I heard this, I wanted to buy him candy. [laughs] He was a nice boy because he understood my film! [laughs]
MIMURA: You did that again on GXMG! I didn't think you liked repeating the same ideas, but you did that because you wanted your audience to be excited until the last moment of your film, didn't you?
TEZUKA: I always watch movies until the very end because I'm a film nut. But, to be honest, I get bored sometimes, particularly on foreign films because their end credits run 5 or 6 minutes. Even so, I watch the end credits as a matter of courtesy. But they're boring unless it is like those in Jackie Chan movies where they show a collection of NG [No Good or blooper] cuts.
MIMURA: Using NG cuts is a good idea. You should try that next time.
TEZUKA: For GXMG, I had an idea for a scene after the end credits from the start. But it is not easy to include an extra 3-and-a-half minute scene because it will take another week of shooting. When I made MEGAGUIRUS, I wanted to shoot a scene where Atsushi [the young boy played by Hiroyuki Suzuki] saw Kiriko again.
MIMURA: Like in the forest? Is that what you originally wanted?
TEZUKA: No, but I was thinking of something like that. Kiriko is walking down a hallway and Mr. Niikura is coming towards her from the other direction. When Kiriko stops to talk to Niikura, Atsushi pops up from behind Niikura's back. But I couldn't film it because of the tight schedule. In the last scene, when Kiriko was meeting with Kudo, she let down her hair, so if we had shot the scene on that day we would have had needed an hour just to make up her hair. So I didn't shoot it.
MIMURA: I see.
TEZUKA: Atsushi's schedule was very flexible, but Kiriko was busy.
MIMURA: So the film ended as it did in the script. [laughs]
TEZUKA: Yes, but the last scene was difficult. I struggled with it until the last moment.
MIMURA: You mean Godzilla roaring?
TEZUKA: Some of the crew liked the idea and some did not.
MIMURA: Mr. Kashiwabara and I totally agree with you because we wrote it. [big laugh]
TEZUKA: [laughs] I had already shot that scene, and I didn't want to end with the scene of Atsushi in the hallway, so we decided to go with it.
MIMURA: I think that children would be disappointed if Godzilla died. They would be sad until the next movie, so I think we should not kill Godzilla. [laughs]
TEZUKA: We had a preview of GxMG at the science museum and invited children and their parents. A boy yelled out, "What happened to the big girl in Kiryu?" As the director, I love that kind of reaction. Then Godzilla broke out [of the ice] and the same child said "Godzilla is alive!", and when Mechagodzilla surfaced he said, "The big girl is alive too!" But some Tokusatsu fans were angry and asked, "How could both of them survive?" [laughs]
TEZUKA: Well, I wanted the audience to see Godzilla's back and watch him swim off because that was the first time he had left like that in eight years.
MIMURA: Yes, that scene, especially when Shaku stands on Kiryu's shoulder; her posture reminds me of robot anime. It looks as if an anime figure is standing there. Did she consciously stand like that?
|“Anime heroine” Yumiko Shaku. © 2002 Toho Co., Ltd.
TEZUKA: Apparently, she watched several episodes of GUNDAM and EVANGELION, but she didn't tell me that until last month. She asked me, "Akane doesn't look like Amuro [Ray, a computer geek character from MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM] does she?", and I answered, "She is Char, [Aznable, the heroic pilot from GUNDAM], not Amuro". She said, "I'm trying to be like Char; I don't want to be wishy-washy like Amuro."[laughs]
MIMURA: I think Shaku is a real hard worker.
TEZUKA: As I originally envisioned the scene, I wanted to show that Godzilla was bleeding from his back, and that the ocean behind him had turned red.
MIMURA: You were talking about this idea even when I was writing the script. I guess you had the image of a wounded Godzilla in your head, but we cannot show blood.
TEZUKA: We could have done it if we had really tried.
MIMURA: But we can't show the red blood. [laughs]
TEZUKA: But it was red when the G-crusher stuck into Godzilla [in GODZILLA VS MECHAGODZILLA 2].
MIMURA: Yes, it was.
TEZUKA: The inside of Godzilla's mouth is red so his blood must be that color. But we cannot show a bloody scene in an auspicious New Year's film. I didn't get to show blood in MEGAGUIRUS either.
MIMURA: A Toho movie is supposed to be bright and cheerful.
TEZUKA: I think a New Year's film should have a lighter atmosphere.
MIMURA: So I didn't want to kill anyone. [laughs] The film wouldn't have any of these problems if it were not a New Year's release. I want the audience to be happy at the beginning of the year.
TEZUKA: The first GODZILLA was released in November; I think that was why Dr. Serizawa died. [laughs] By the way, Shaku was really serious about GxMG. I was so glad because there are not very many actresses who work as hard as Shaku. Actors and actresses tend to look down on special effects movies, and they just leave everything to the director and producer. But Shaku was very serious and fully concentrated on her role.
MIMURA: Shaku's professionalism is in synch with the film's story. Her screen presence is strong enough to keep the audience's attention to the end. Though we omitted many parts of the story, her strength helps makes sense of the story for the audience.
TEZUKA: We cut a lot of material. Though some people say it is a mistake on my part, you'll understand the film if you just watch it a couple of times. [laughs]
TEZUKA: I often become emotional when I watch television, but they can create touching scenes because they have enough time to express the characters' feelings just by using dialogue. I think that is easier than film; television is different from film, though.
|The ever-serious Yumiko Shaku. © 2004 Shaku
MIMURA: A housewife will watch television while she is cooking, so it is natural that shows use more dialogue than action. Do you like to watch TV?
TEZUKA: Yes, I like it. Whether I see a film or a television drama, I watch it because I want to laugh or cry.
MIMURA: Do you want to be emotionally charged?
TEZUKA: Yes, I want to be shaken up emotionally. So when I talked with Mr. Tomiyama I said to him, "I want to make an impressive film that is strong enough to make the audience cry". But he didn't want me to make a movie like that for the New Year.
MIMURA: Did he really say that? [laughs]
TEZUKA: Damn! Well, it is a New Year's film! [laughs]
MIMURA: But it might be okay for the audience to cry with joy instead of sadness.
TEZUKA: At a preview, someone told me that he was happy because both Akane and Hayama survived. I said to him, "Actually, I wanted to kill Akane", and he emotionally replied, "Don't do that!" We talked more and I told him about my original idea-- Godzilla's blood. He liked it, so I thought the movie could have ended with a bloody sea.
TEZUKA: But, I think it's all right that we ended the film as we did.
MIMURA: Maybe I should always write a story that couldn't really be ended.
TEZUKA: Didn't you say the story should always remain unfinished? I like that. By the way, my daughter watched a documentary called JAPAN'S INDEPENDENCE DAY on television. Mr. Tomiyama was on the program and, in short, it was a promotion for Godzilla. At the end of the show they mentioned the connection between Godzilla and the H-Bomb. After watching the program my daughter said, "That is why Mechagodzilla is sad". She said that because she thought Godzilla symbolized the tragedy that happened to Japan, and Mechagodzilla was made from Godzilla's bones.
MIMURA: I didn't see the program but your daughter is great, and her theory comes right to the point.
|"Why is Godzilla's skeleton there?” © 2002 Toho Co., Ltd.
TEZUKA: She also said, "People should see the show or they won't understand GXMG". Her comments made sense to me.
MIMURA: Well, everyone enters the world of Godzilla through learning about such historical events. I think it is good for someone to start from that point, then he or she can become a full-fledged Godzilla fan.
TEZUKA: Speaking of a fan, I got a letter from a fourth-grade child. He saw the first GODZILLA after he had seen GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA so he wrote, "Why is Godzilla's skeleton there because it melted away in the first film?" I cannot find any good answer, so I'll just send him a Christmas card. [laughs]
TEZUKA: By the way, that documentary program is a good one.
MIMURA: Did you tape it?
TEZUKA: Yes, I did. Shall I send you a copy?
MIMURA: I'd appreciate it. By the way, this is the fourth Mechagodzilla film. Except for GXMG, which Mechagodzilla movie is your favorite?
TEZUKA: Except mine? It is GODZILLA VS MECHAGODZILLA 2.
MIMURA: Woo, thank you sir. [laughs]
TEZUKA: I say that not because of you, but because I think the first two films were-- Godzilla was a hero in those two movies. I don't like that. I think Godzilla should be a destroyer. Akira Ikufube's music is another reason why I like GODZILLA VS MECHAGODZILLA 2.
|"I think Godzilla should be a destroyer.” © 2002 Toho Co., Ltd.
MIMURA: I agree with you. I also think Mechagodzilla's design was cool in that film. Mechagodzilla looked heavy and solid. Compare to that Mechagodzilla, the one in GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA appears quite speedy.
TEZUKA: Actually, this Mechagodzilla is little bit different from what I expected it to be. I originally wanted it to move quickly only when its additional armaments were removed.
MIMURA: So you wanted to show a clear difference?
TEZUKA: I wanted Mechagodzilla to move as heavily and slowly as usual when it first appeared but to move faster after Godzilla ripped off its weapons. I think Mechagodzilla would have looked more interesting if I had showed the difference more clearly.
MIMURA: Indeed, Mechagodzilla's movement is kind of slow when it comes to Hakkei-jima. By the way, what do you think of Mechagodzilla's separation from the aircarriers? [laughs] Don't you think you gave the audience the impression that Mechagodzilla can fly by itself and therefore doesn't need the carriers? [laughs]
TEZUKA: I didn't like it in GODZILLA VS MECHAGODZILLA 2 when it flew all the way from Tsukuba to Kyoto. I thought there had to be concern about the amount of energy used. So this time, Mechagodzilla used its energy in the most effective way.
MIMURA: I see. But I think in the sequel, if it ever gets made, it will be cool if Mechagodzilla flies. I mean, it will not fly like in GODZILLA VS MECHAGODZILLA 2.
|GODZILLA VS MECHAGODZILLA 2, Tezuka and Mimura's first work in the series. © 1993 Toho Co., Ltd.
TEZUKA: If that is a case, I want four carriers. [laughs] There were supposed to be four, but we ended up with two carriers.
MIMURA: I think it's because of the poor national budget. [laughs]
TEZUKA: Because they spent too much for Kiryu? I didn't know the film was realistic in that way! [big laugh]
MIMURA: Well, let's change topics here. My next question is; what kind of movies do you want to make, besides Godzilla?
TEZUKA: I like to make a detective film.
MIMURA: A detective?
TEZUKA: Yes, I like the KINDAICHI series. I was very impressed by them, so I'd like to make a film like that.
MIMURA: A whodunit.
TEZUKA: Though I'm not sure if I use Kindaichi, I want to make my whodunit film one of pure entertainment. Also, I really love James Bond movies, so I want to make an action film too.
MIMURA: So you want to make a spy action movie.
TEZUKA: I don't know into what genre a spy action movie could be categorized. I think it can be a fantasy film, and Godzilla is fantasy too. I really love a pure entertainment film that is simply packed with exciting events from beginning to end. But to tell you the truth, I'm gloomy in nature.
TEZUKA: Oh yes. I'm gloomy in nature. So I want to make a very dark film, one filled with somber feelings.
MIMURA: You mean you want to make a low budget movie, like the kind that is released in only one theater?
TEZUKA: Yeah, I like that kind of film. Only the people who come all the way to the theater get to enjoy it. I wouldn't have to think about profit and could screen the film only late at night, maybe for about two months. Then, after a long time, the movie is finally released on video. Yes, I'd like to make a film like that.
MIMURA: For that kind of low budget movie, what type do you want to make? What is the story? Do you have any specific examples?
TEZUKA: I like Kon Ichikawa's films.
MIMURA: Kon Ichikawa's low budget films? Like the old ATG ones?
TEZUKA: I love the ATG films. These days, they rely too much on techniques [like CGI, sound effects, or unusual editing]. It is interesting though. I'm trying to make the Godzilla films interesting without using such techniques. I'm trying to avoid excessively using those techniques.
MIMURA: I think Godzilla should be like that.
TEZUKA: I think if I continue to make my films in a conventional way, the audience will see the value of traditional methods. But I also want to make a movie someday that uses such techniques blatantly.
MIMURA: What do you think of a difficult story for your movie? Do you not like it because you want your film to be entertainment?
TEZUKA: I think I need a film that the audience can understand. We don't have to make our message difficult for the viewer. I think a film should be easy to follow.
MIMURA: How do you like youth movies?
TEZUKA: I'd like to make one, but I'm too old to make such a film. I think I could have made a film with that backdrop when I was young, but I cannot describe today's young people in Shibuya. Such material should be handled by a director who is in his twenties. I don't have to try to be younger.
|Akira Nakao as Prime Minister Hayato Igarashi. © 2002 Toho Co., Ltd.
MIMURA: So you'd like to make either a detective film or an action one.
TEZUKA: I like war films too. That will be very expensive though. [laughs]
MIMURA: [laughs] I don't think you can make a war film for the late show, but Toho can make one. I think Toho should make a war film or the special effects techniques that the studio possessed at the time of THE GRAND FLEET [Rengo Kantai, 1981] will die out. [Note: THE GRAND FLEET was a 2 hr, 25 min WWII film starring Keiju Kobayashi, Eitaro Ozawa, and Tetsuro Tamba.]
TEZUKA: That would be more dynamic than Godzilla.
MIMURA: They should make a war film to save their special effects technology.
TEZUKA: And also, a war film has to have an all-star cast.
MIMURA: Of course. [laughs]
TEZUKA: The cast for a Godzilla movie cannot be as gorgeous as those for a war film. They used only top-class actors like Toshiro Mifune and Tetsuto Tamba. A Godzilla film does not have a big budget like that, but that doesn't mean everyone can perform for Godzilla. I think casting is always a difficult process. But this time, I tried to bring the atmosphere of a war film to GxMG. Mr. Nakao [who played Prime Minister Hayato Igarashi] looked pretty cool. He looks like a commander.
MIMURA: Speaking of Nakao, the prime minister seems mysterious to me. [laughs]. Though what he says is logically correct, it also seems to contain another, hidden meaning. [big laugh]
TEZUKA: I think he is a good prime minister. [big laugh]
MIMURA: Oh, the reason why his prime minister is interesting is because he has something hidden. [laughs] I don't think a clean prime minister is interesting. I think Nakao's mysterious vibe makes his prime minister deeper and richer.
TEZUKA: Mr Nakao was very happy during the shooting. He said, "I've never seen a Godzilla film like this". He also said, "The director is giving me detailed acting instructions. He even has concerns with my eyes blinking". He said that with a big laugh.
|First SPOOKY EYEGASSES screening at Sapporo film festival. © 2002 Red Queen
MIMURA: Is your direction that detailed?
TEZUKA: Yes, because I like to give thorough directions. I try to do so, at least at the beginning. Mrs. Kumi Mizuno [Prime Minister Machiko Tsuge] said, "Mr. Tezuka's direction was more precise than Mr. Honda's. Mr. Tezuka was very meticulous and even instructed me on how to touch a curtain." [laughs] After I heard that, I thought I should have been less meticulous. [laughs]
MIMURA: Experienced performers are rarely given detailed instructions, so your direction might have seemed to be very unusual for her.
TEZUKA: It is taboo to overdirect Mrs. Mizuno. [laughs]
MIMURA: And Mr. Nakano too. Are there any other young directors who give them such detailed direction?
TEZUKA: It looks as if Mr. Nakao would be angry if you gave him any direction at all. [laughs] But that is not true. Actors and actresses like to be given instruction by the director. I'm glad because everyone, including the crew, looked happy during the shooting and seemed to enjoy it.
MIMURA: That was because of you.
TEZUKA: I hope so.
|Mimura's mysterious eyeglasses. © 2002 Red Queen
MIMURA: It was because of you, of course. [laughs] By the way, in GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA my favorite part is the scene in a shelter where I played an extra.
TEZUKA: Oh, that scene.
MIMURA: There is a child behind me, and he gives candy to a soldier. I remember you directed the child. Because I had only described something like, "Children are running around" in the script, your direction was very interesting to me. I didn't plan that a child would give thanks to a soldier when I wrote the scene.
TEZUKA: But on the set, based on your description in the script, I also gave detailed directions for running children too.
MIMURA: Did the idea come to your mind on the set?
TEZUKA: No, it was in the storyboards. The description read, "Runny-nosed kid gives candy to a soldier".
MIMURA: That scene works because the child is standing away from the camera. I think it would have been hokey if it had taken place right in front of the camera.
TEZUKA: There is a close up of the candy though. I was concerned that the candy shot worked effectively. [laughs]
MIMURA: This is a good example of learning how a director works.
TEZUKA: By the way, your movie SPOOKY EYEGLASSES; in which film festival did you show it?
MIMURA: In Sapporo. The film doesn't have a distributor yet, so I need a place to show it. I want to screen the movie at as many film festivals as possible.
TEZUKA: Have you finished showing the film in Sapporo?
MIMURA: Yes I have. I'll send you a tape so please watch it. [laughs]. Maybe during your New Year's vacation.
TEZUKA: Okay, please send it to me.
|"Mechagodzilla doesn't need to hide." © 2002 Toho Co., Ltd.
MIMURA: How successful do you think GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA will be?
TEZUKA: So far, it looks like it will be profitable. I think Mechagodzilla attracts many male fans.
MIMURA: I agree with you.
TEZUKA: Someone asked me on the internet, "Why is Mechagodzilla's color silver? Why it is not painted in camouflage colors?" I prepared a very good and clear answer for this.
MIMURA: Mechagodzilla doesn't need to hide. [laughs]
TEZUKA: Yes, this is a weapon that is only used against Godzilla. Therefore, it needs to be painted a bright silvery color so that Godzilla can find it easily.
MIMURA: Yes, I like silver...the metallic color.
TEZUKA: Mechagodzilla was very popular at a recent promotional event. Not only with children but also with junior high school girls. They said it was cute.
MIMURA: Is he cute? [laughs] Anyway, so are there several Mechagodzilla suits for events?
TEZUKA: No, there is only one.
MIMURA: So they have only one and use it for all events?
TEZUKA: Oh, they generally use only Godzilla suits for events.
MIMURA: Well, I wondered if you secretly got a monster suit and wear it yourself for fun. [laughs]
TEZUKA: You can't put on the suit yourself. Someone else needs to zip it up and put on the dorsal fins.
|© 2002 Toho Co., Ltd.
MIMURA: By the way, this toy looks cool.
TEZUKA: Do you think so too? [Mimura points to a toy of Mechagodzilla on a table. With a big smile on his face, Tezuka picks it up and turns on the switch.]
TEZUKA: This is the sound when it starts.
TEZUKA: This is the sound for Absolute Zero.
MIMURA: Oh! It has different sounds for the Rocket Missiles and the rail gun.
TEZUKA: It works well, huh?
MIMURA: I like it.
MECHAGODZILLA: Gyoinnnn! Bsyuuu! Zubabababa!!
TEZUKA: They have a good deal at Big Camera. You can save another 10% with your point card!
TEZUKA: If we'd had it during the shooting, it would have been very easy to take a lighting check.
MIMURA: I see.
TEZUKA: They also are also selling Maser Ray Cannons and the Chogokin Mechagodzilla.
|The King of the Monsters strikes! © 2002 Toho Co., Ltd.
TEZUKA: It's true. There are really a lot of items this year.
MIMURA: I think fans will buy everything. Do you have a lot of toys, too?
MIMURA: Did you take advantage of your clout as a director? [laughs]
TEZUKA: Not at all. [laughs] They send me samples. There are boxes all over in my house!
MIMURA: I'm envious of you. They don't send me any samples. [laughs] Well, I think I asked you everything I wanted to. How should we finish this discussion?
TEZUKA: You should make up a good way to end it yourself. [laughs]
MIMURA: I think I should. [laughs] But I wonder how to do that.
MIMURA: Oh! Mechagodzilla found a way.