‘Godzilla’ films scenes in Waikiki
BY MIKE GORDON / firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’ve ever wondered what Waikiki Beach would look like after a major disaster, you can thank Godzilla for a glimpse of the destruction.
Although the movie monster was nowhere to be seen Wednesday, July 10, the cast and crew of “Godzilla,” the Warner Brothers/Legendary Pictures remake in the giant lizard franchise, turned the beach fronting the Hilton Hawaiian Village into a visitors bureau nightmare.
It may be the most spectacular sight — and site — in the film’s Hawaii shooting schedule, which began June 30 and ends next week. From a distance, Duke Kahanamoku Beach and the old helipad looked as if something had turned a hotel into rubble.
Ten-foot-tall pieces of foam cut to resemble busted concrete walls, complete with peeling wallpaper and rubber rebar, formed a giant pile. Furniture, suitcases and a mattress were scattered across the sand. A bathroom sink and mirror stood alone, as if plucked from a suite. The “Godzilla” filmmakers even dropped a large fishing boat into the room remnants and for good measure, a broken helicopter, too. (If there really was a KHWA, “Hawaii’s News Source,” it would be looking for a replacement — soon.)
But there was more. The set, created Monday, July 8, and Tuesday, July 9, for a two-day shoot that began Wednesday, included an emergency medical triage center — tents, cots, saline bags, shiny, sharp surgical tools, kit bags (filled with bubble wrap), bandages and a staff of medical personnel in blue scrubs.
And don’t forget the injured. Lots and lots of injured. The production hired 225 bedraggled-looking extras, many of them wearing bloody bandages, splints and neck braces, to press home the point: Monsters do bad things. But the extras came by their dazed look honestly. Shooting for the scene started about 9:30 a.m. and went well into a very hot afternoon. When a director called for action, they moved like zombies, but in between takes, all they could do was stand and wait in the heat.
“OK, bandaged, no smiles,” assistant director Alex Gayner told them (many times). “Look devastated.”
The latest reboot of “Godzilla” stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson (“Savages”), Ken Watanabe (“The Last Samurai”), Elizabeth Olsen (“Martha Marcy May Marlene”), Juliette Binoche (“The English Patient,”) David Strathairn (“Good Night and Good Luck”) and Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad.”) Taylor-Johnson was the only star on Wednesday’s set of devastation, frequently taking advice from British film director Gareth Edwards, who impressed audiences with his 2010 film “Monsters.”
Among the extras were 30 battle-dressed personnel from the Hawaii National Guard who brought trucks and a Humvee equipped with a fake 50-caliber machine gun and a cooler stocked with coco puffs.
James Dever, a retired Marine sergeant major who serves as the film’s military consultant, praised the look created by the set dressers.
“It’s real,” he said. “We have real firemen. We have real paramedics. We have real military personnel. It’s a disaster area and we want to make it as real as possible.”
The firefighters, 17 of them, were off-duty members of the Honolulu Fire Department who were hired as extras. They brought two trucks not currently in use by HFD.
“We’re roleplaying the thing we do every day but maybe not on this scale,” said Capt. Terry Seelig. “This looks very realistic in terms of what they have depicted here, of concrete debris and wreckage.”
Tourists on the beach were curious about the production but were never told its title. Some even thought it was a real disaster scene.
“First when we saw it, we thought maybe there was an accident happening,” said 29-year-old Roger Luscher of Switzerland. Amidst the normal summer bustle of Waikiki Beach, the hot day attracted more beachgoers to the sand than the film set. In fact, the set seemed to blend into the beach, which was not lost on some bystanders. “I feel like we could be in the movie,” said 18-year-old Kylie Smith of San Diego, referring to the absence of barricades between the beach and the set.
But imagining what tore through Waikiki will require as much imagination as patience. “Godzilla” won’t be released until May 2014.
Star-Advertiser reporter Amy Busek contributed to this report.