A ‘Godzilla’ flick with heart
Los Angeles – It could be the story of a football coach, the tale of a game night gone horribly wrong or a battle with a giant creature who can crush buildings with a single step. But there often is a family element when it comes to the roles Kyle Chandler plays. His character in “Friday Night Lights” had his own family and a gridiron one. In “Game Night,” it was his relationship with his brother at the core.
In “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” he plays scientist and father Mark Russell, who is not only dealing with a family tragedy that occurred years ago because of Godzilla but is trying to stop his ex-wife, Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), who has a plan with a lot more creatures than Godzilla. Caught in the middle is their daughter, Madison (Millie Bobby Brown).
Chandler jokes there’s no doubt who is the star of the movie because of Godzilla’s name in the title. But before he would sign on to the project, Chandler had to be certain there would be more than creature fights and city destruction.
“There has to be a heart to the story. If there is no heart to the story, then the monsters don’t mean anything,” Chandler says. “As far as playing family, I understand family. I have a family. Those dynamics are really fun to play. It all just worked.”
The dynamics in “King of the Monsters” start with Chandler’s character full of rage and anger. The actor understood why that would be the case because of a deep loss and the way his work associates have turned on him. Chandler’s choice to play Mark was as a person who’s angry at his wife, co-workers and the world. It is how he’s able to channel that anger into a way to help cope with the threat that could end civilization that carried Chandler.
Chandler’s “King of the Monsters” costar Bradley Whitford saw such a huge family element mixed in with all the creature scenes that he thought the movie should have been called “Kramer vs. Kramer vs. Godzilla.”
Chandler was excited “Godzilla” would give him father and husband moments to play, but there was also a part of him that loved the idea of being part of another big action creature feature. He knew what to expect because he’s done similar roles, including appearing in the 2005 Peter Jackson feature film “King Kong.”
“It’s Godzilla. The 10-year-old in me said ‘Yes, Kyle, it’s Godzilla,’” Chandler says. “Every decade or so when these ‘Godzilla’ films come out, we look at whatever is going on in the culture around the world. That’s sort of integrated into the story of Godzilla because Godzilla is the wake-up call.
“He comes to life because something is wrong and we need to wake up and look at what we are doing. It’s a thump-in-the-head moment whenever Godzilla shows up.”
The Buffalo, N.Y., native has appeared in a variety of TV and film roles over the last three decades including “China Beach,” “Tour of Duty,” “Homefront,” “Early Edition,” “What About Joan,” “Gray’s Anatomy” and ‘Manchester by the Sea.” It was his work on “Friday Night Lights” from 2006 to 2011 that earned him the most attention, including a Primetime Emmy Award as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.
Production on “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” was completed before Chandler was cast as Colonel Cathcart in the Hulu series “Catch-22” that’s based on the novel by Joseph Heller. He went from an action-heavy production to a role that had long passages of dialogue. The long speeches terrified him as much as any giant lizard.
“It was not too difficult memorizing the material, because if you read these really long speeches, it’s written so well there’s a rhythm to it. And as far as the tone in trying to figure out what to do with this, you’re trusting what these are going to do with you when you get there. So, I enjoyed it. I really did,” Chandler says. “I was terrified the first few days, and I think I showed it, and some of the other guys were, like, oh, I’m glad you’re scared, too, because we are too.
“I was shaking in my boots because I’ve got this big piece of material. But it was an enjoyable shoot. The whole thing was enjoyable, and the material made it very, very easy. The writing was very enjoyable to play with.”