Roland Emmerich was approached along with Dean Devlin early on by TriStar Pictures after the original script for GODZILLA by Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot was completed. Though Devlin reportedly supported the project, Emmerich immediately refused, and wondered why Sony would even think he would be interested in directing it. Emmerich stated that he was never a big Godzilla fan, and didn't see a way to make the film serious like TriStar wanted.
After Jan De Bont left the film after he and TriStar Pictures couldn't come to a budget agreement, TriStar approached Emmerich and Devlin once again to direct the film. Emmerich continued to refuse, but eventually accepted the project on the condition that he could re-write Rossio and Elliot's script and handle the movie in his own style.
TriStar agreed and Emmerich was recruited as the film's director with Devlin as the producer. However, with the film being long anticipated, there was much pressure on the release date and Emmerich made it a priority to release the film around Memorial Day in 1998.
As they made the film, Emmerich and Devlin, staying true to their word of doing the movie their own way, had their special effect supervisor and creature designer, Patrick Tatapoulos, redesign Godzilla as a smaller and faster monster with a brand-new look that bore little resemblance to the original monster. They made their version of the famous kaiju reproduce asexually, while also being vulnerable to man-made weapons (F-18 Hornet missiles) and retreating from the military.
The film was finally released on May 20th, 1998 and grossed about $136,314,294 domestically and $379,014,294 worldwide. However, critics and a majority of Godzilla fans weren't pleased about Godzilla's new look or his vulnerability to man-made weapons nor his cowardice from the army.
This reaction caused the planned sequel to go unmade despite the fact that the film was profitable, and an animated series was produced instead, with Emmerich acting as an executive producer. Emmerich later admitted that he was never a fan of the earlier Godzilla films, stating “I was never a big Godzilla fan, they were just the weekend matinees you saw as a kid, like Hercules films and the really bad Italian westerns. You’d go with all your friends and just laugh.” Emmerich also stated that he regretted rushing the film to meet the Memorial Day deadline, and also admitted that he should not have been chosen to direct the film. After TriStar's rights to the Godzilla series reverted to Toho in 2003, Toho re-trademarked the version of Godzilla from Emmerich's film for their own use as "Zilla," and introduced it in their film Godzilla Final Wars in 2004. Zilla has subsequently appeared in other media licensed by Toho.
While Emmerich's film didn't get a motion picture sequel, it did spawn an animated series known as Godzilla: The Series with Devlin and himself serving as executive producers on the show. The series received acclaim for making Godzilla true to his namesake by giving him invulnerability to modern weapons and giving him back his fearless nature.
In May of 2014, Emmerich said on Twitter that he planned to see the new American Godzilla film, as he had faith in the director of that film, Gareth Edwards, and had no intention of comparing it to his own film.
- GODZILLA (1998) - Director / screenwriter / storywriter / executive producer[a]
- Godzilla: The Series (TV 1998-2000) - Executive producer[b]
Roland Emmerich with Matthew Broderick on the set of GODZILLA (1998)
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