Aaron Taylor-Johnson Interview – Godzilla
Looking undeniably fit, Aaron Taylor Johnson, 23, stars as an all-American hero in the remake of the classic, Godzilla, opposite Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) and Elizabeth Olsen (sister of the famous twins). The English-born actor began performing at age 6 in such films as Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, and The Illusionist. He then starred in Nowhere Boy (where he would meet his future wife) and Kick-Ass and the sequel, Kick-Ass 2. He also starred in Savages, Anna Karenina and will soon be seen in Avengers: Age of Ultron, as Quicksilver. Taylor-Johnson first appeared as this character in a post-credits scene of the film Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Formerly Aaron Johnson, he changed his name after marrying director Sam Taylor-Wood, 47, in 2012. The couple has two daughters born prior to marriage, Wylda Rae, born July 2010, and Romy Hero, born January 2012. Sam has two daughters from a previous marriage. Clean shaven, he’s wearing faded jeans and a tight grey t-shirt and is ruggedly handsome.
Q: How is it being a father? It must be difficult given that you seem to work so much?
I don’t know if it’s a good thing that people think I’m that busy but I just do one film a year. This took five months to shoot which was the biggest film I’ve ever done. I’m now doing Avengers but other than that I’m at home, really. I actually think I get more time at home with my kids than most people who have a 9 to 5 job. My family is the love of my life and my priority to me. My family is the best thing in my life. I love being a father and the responsibilities and duties that come with it – it’s the most rewarding thing in life. The more you put in the more you get out. I learn so much more from my kids than from anybody else.
Q: Do you workout when you’re not on a movie? You obviously did for this movie.
For this one there was a lot of heavy lifting at the gym and eating a lot and I’d also have to drink a lot of shakes in between. It was crap on your body. But I prefer to keep in shape by doing Jujitsu and things like that because you’re learning a skill as well as keeping in shape. When I’m not working I stay out of the gym and I don’t eat anywhere near as much as I was doing for Godzilla.
Q: Which of the actors would survive Godzilla in real life?
Bryan Cranston (laughs). My daughter has a little shirt that says ‘Breaking Bad.’ He’s a phenomenal actor. He’s genuine, modest and humble.
Q: You’re the hero in this movie and I was really surprised because I thought that Bryan Cranston would be ‘the man.’
Yeah, I think there are many heroes in it and I think Ken Watanabe is a hero as well. I think ultimately I think Godzilla is a hero, an anti-hero. But it’s a nice little twist.
Q: How did you prepare for the role?
It was very physically challenging at times, but yeah, it was good fun to kind of get into that mindset. I spent a couple of months with a Marine, and he was there every day with me and so I know how to kind of be in situations and also with the other fellows in the military how to give orders or how to carry a weapon, or how to use my equipment. It was just constant. To keep on top of that in a way was kind of my ultimate challenge, to be believable in that kind of setting.
Q: And be North American.
And be American. (laughter)
Q: You said you do Jujitsu – was that for The Avengers? Or just yourself?
It started around Kick Ass actually, because there was a lot of fight scenes and stuff, so you get a whole bunch of stunt guys that are like trained in it and some of them are gymnasts or other forms of martial arts so it was natural for me to want to keep it up. So I just started it because it was just for passion, it was something outside of the work and it’s really interesting. And it’s great how ego doesn’t come into it. You can get some scrawny little guy who can chock you out, it’s amazing.
Q: Did you see the original Godzilla movie?
Yeah, the 1954 version was the only version. I haven’t seen any other version. It was just that and that was the only one and this director wanted to embrace and relate to as an origin story within our film. And also, they used that Godzilla because I guess there have been different versions of Godzilla and some of them turned out like T-Rex. Anyhow, they based it all on that one and they had the original Toho guys, who had the rights to it. They just kept on for two and a half years, they kept on just creating it and seeing it from that angle and they just really perfected it and had a good time with it.
Q: Besides the popcorn aspect of this movie, does that movie carry a message for you?
Yeah I think ultimately I think it’s great because there are many journeys within the big picture and relationships that are going on. I think with Godzilla, the ultimate message is that Godzilla just represents nature and the Mutos represent power and abuse of nature; the radioactive and the nuclear element of it, how we are fucking destroying our planet and how Godzilla is there to put everything back to balance, rebalance nature.
Q: How appreciative of nature? Are you an outdoorsy person? Do you like hiking or surfing?
I love hiking. At the moment I have been pretty much hiking every morning. When I have been in LA there’s some great hikes and stuff, and I am a pretty outdoors person, yeah. Because of the kids I love being outside and we’ve been in LA quite a lot so a lot of time in the park and swimming and everything so it’s really lovely and I enjoy that. And I am from London really so not all the seasons you’re able to do that.
Q: So your kids must be thrilled that you are in this heroic role.
Yeah. I guess so, yeah. They don’t really know much about what I do. (laughter) Luckily.
Q: How old are they?
Two, almost four, seven, and the oldest is seventeen. Four girls.
Q: These military roles you seem to have an affinity for.
Q: Are you drawn to them or are they drawn to you?
I was going to say, this is the only military thing I have done, but yeah, I don’t know. I think someone was saying that with Kick Ass and Avengers and this, am I just going to do comic book stuff now? (laughs) And I think it’s like, you never really know which way the wind is going to take you and I couldn’t possibly predict or say but I always try and go by my gut and my instinct with a project, and a character that I really care about. Ultimately a filmmaker that I trust and believe you hope is going to do the vision that they said in the meeting and Gareth, the director for Godzilla, was exactly that. Everything he said and portrayed is there in the movie. Some directors say that and then you look at it finished, it’s nothing like what you fucking pitched me, (laughter) it’s like what happened there.
Q: Which movie was that? (laughter)
We won’t go there. (laughter)
Q: Are you a comic book fan or were you?
Not really. I mean, I read comic books because most of the characters now I play, I need them, (laughter) but no, I wasn’t. I didn’t have a whole collection or anything like that.
Q: But are your daughters comic book fans? Do you have to read them as a bedtime story?
My seven year old is really into comic books. She started to get into comic books. My brother-in-law, her uncle is a huge comic book fan so he kind of got her involved. I tend not to blur work and it’s just not in my nature to kind of force upon them my stuff.
Q: So what have you got coming up?
Avengers 2. (laughter) With Lizzy (Elizabeth Olsen) as well, she plays my sister.
Q: Do you like to change to your roles physically? Because you change a lot, like a chameleon. It’s not like you are the same guy from Kick Ass.
Well hopefully I can just keep changing. I mean, it’s harder to do that when you get the studio things. Like Kick Ass as well, I always wanted to make them as much like the character from the comic book as possible, and he had blonde hair and I dropped weight for Kick Ass. But it’s not only the accent, it’s the way you walk, the way you lose weight or put weight on. I think dropping weight is a lot easier for me but I am sure it won’t be when I am a lot older. But yeah, everything: the way you look, the way you walk, sound, everything, it’s just more interesting to me. The same with Avengers; it’s important to me, and you have to be an interesting character because there are already so many pretty unique looking superheroes in it already and they are all played by movie stars. So it had to be intriguing for me to do it, as the same with this. I never played a military guy, and that was a huge challenge and so yeah.
Q: Are you doing other accents for The Avengers? Maybe eastern European?
Yeah. Whether it makes it all the way, we may have to ADR it, they’ll be, ‘Nah, make him American, no one understands him.’ (laughter) You never really know, and that’s kind of where we are headed with it, yeah. So me and Lizzy are just talking gibberish really, Eastern European kind of, but hopefully it will be all right.
Q: Can you still recall why you wanted to become an actor and has it changed along the way?
Well, I know why I am an actor. I never had a moment of like, ‘I want to be an actor,’ or anything like that. I started when I was six, and it was through an activity at school kind of thing, like a drama and darts activity place.
Q: But you stuck to it; that’s rare.
Yeah, because I loved it and I enjoyed it and that’s why I do it. And never have I lost that kind of creativity or passion for it or love for it, and it keeps evolving and changing. I guess in retrospect, the reason why I like it is because I find it therapeutic, I find it expressive…
Q: Therapeutic in which way?
Just a release.
Q: Is this role and the next role kind of a dream come true?
Yeah. I think it’s just constantly evolving, and I am flattered to be asked to do these projects and they have been great fun and yes, having a good time.
Q: Thank you.