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Asked to explain his astonishing career arc — going from an indie sci-fi feature for $500,000, 2010’s Monsters, to rebooting one of the great monster creations, Godzilla, and now doing a Star Wars spinoff — director Gareth Edwards said: “If I was in the audience at film school, looking at me now, I would hate me. I never could have predicted it this way.”
Edwards was speaking to a packed auditorium of film students at the Beijing Film Academy, where he was giving a talk with legendary Chinese director Zhang Yimou before attending the China premiere of Godzilla, where he pressed flesh with another iconic Chinese director, Hong Kong’s John Woo.
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“I am very, very lucky, living in a dream job at the moment. I’m not allowed to talk about it, it’s all very secretive, but it’s a dream come true. Star Wars is the reason I got into filmmaking, so to be given this opportunity is like a dream,” he said. “Now the pressure is on.”
Edwards has all the enthusiasm of the fanboy when he speaks about the spinoff. Due to the high level of secrecy surrounding the Star Wars development process, it is unclear which spinoff he will be handling for Disney and Lucasfilm.
Gary Whitta is writing the script for the movie, which is set for release on Dec. 16, 2016, and is reportedly shooting in Britain. Star Wars: Episode VII, with J.J. Abrams directing, is now shooting in Abu Dhabi and is set to hit theaters on Dec. 18, 2015.
Special effects were where Edwards started and made his name, having made Monsters look big on a small budget. But he said advances in technology meant that the focus with movies with VFX elements was again on story and great performances.
“People could be innovative with computer graphics in the early ’90s, but I think where we are right now is, we’ve reached that plateau where you can kind of do anything, and we have kind of done everything. So now, I hope, we are going to see people embracing strong stories, strong characters, as well as the spectacle. The honeymoon is over and it’s much more about storytelling, and I think we’ll create better films, hopefully,” Edwards said.
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“We were trying to do a very realistic Godzilla, but I also wanted to do a very adult take on the story. If it really happened, it would be a very dramatic and moving experience, and we wanted to give it that weight. We needed to balance the emotion and the suspense,” he said.
The advances in filmmaking technology — Monsters used off-the-shelf equipment — mean that filmmaking has become very democratic. “You don’t have to have lots of money or live in a particular country, you just have to have some talent and a lot of perseverance. With the tools we have today, you can make a film from home or from film school, so the most important thing is not how little you get knocked down, but how often you get back up,” Edwards said.
He spoke of how inspiring it had been to work on Godzilla with Bryan Cranston, who managed to blend emotional depth and humor. “He can change gears like a Formula One racing driver. Every actor has their own unique advantages, but he’s very technical. He’s got it to a fine art and has really earned his position. He is going to be one of the best actors in the world by the time I’ve finished my career.”
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