From indie films to blockbusters

Actors Aaron Taylor-Johnson (above) and Elizabeth Olsen (above right), who play a married couple in Godzilla, both started out in small indie films.
Actors Aaron Taylor-Johnson (above) and Elizabeth Olsen (above right), who play a married couple in Godzilla, both started out in small indie films.PHOTOS: WARNER BROS, REUTERS
Actors Aaron Taylor-Johnson (above) and Elizabeth Olsen (above right), who play a married couple in Godzilla, both started out in small indie films.
Actors Aaron Taylor-Johnson (above) and Elizabeth Olsen (above right), who play a married couple in Godzilla, both started out in small indie films.PHOTOS: WARNER BROS, REUTERS

Both started out acting in small independent films that put them on the map as serious dramatic talents, but Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olson are taking a different tack with their new movie, where their main co-star is a gargantuan prehistoric sea monster.

In director Gareth Edward's remake of Godzilla, which hits screens in Singapore tomorrow, the pair play a married couple who get caught up in an epic battle between Godzilla and other monsters.

It is a warm-up to their appearance in another big action blockbuster out later this year, the comic book-inspired Avengers: Age Of Ultron, where they play twins with super powers.

Speaking to reporters in New York, they tell Life! that their roles in such projects are just as challenging as acting in more character-driven stories, if not more so.

Olsen, 25, whose breakout film was 2011's Martha Marcy May Marlene, where she turned in an award-winning performance as a troubled young woman who has fled a cult, says that she approached Godzilla "like how I'd approach anything".

"The only difference is when you're trying to react to something that's not there," says the American actress, referring to the many computer- generated shots of the monsters and elaborate action sequences.

But the sister of the 27-year-old television stars-turned-fashion designers Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen adds that "technically, we're always doing that anyway, it's just a little bit more imagination, a higher thing that you're reacting to".

"And then again, you can go, 'Well it's like a sniper shooting at me from a tall building'. It's just make-believe. I don't know, it's such a silly job," she says, laughing.

Taylor tells Life! that he took the role in Godzilla because director Edwards made sure there was a "character journey" embedded in all that action and science-fiction fantasy.

"As an actor, you really want to have something you can get your teeth into or something that you're really driven by - if you relate to the character or understand what that character's going through."

The 23-year-old British performer - who popped up on Hollywood's radar after playing a young John Lennon in the 2009 film Nowhere Boy, and went on to appear in other successful indie films such as the superhero comedy Kick-Ass (2010) - insists he is not slumming it by doing a big-money blockbuster such as this.

"I think I've been challenged and pushed more, strangely, in this commercial monster movie than I have in any independent drama-driven film," says the actor, who has two daughters, aged three and two, with wife and Nowhere Boy director Sam Taylor-Wood.

"Because if you think about it in a realistic way, like it's a natural disaster, when that happens it's terrifying and traumatic and emotional. So we gave it that range."

Edwards, a 39-year-old British film-maker who is also making an indie-to-blockbuster transition with this movie, acknowledges that it can be difficult to create character-focused moments in big-budget action and computer generated imagery- heavy films.

"The great fear of doing a film like this is, it's so much money and resources being channelled in that you have to turn up here, do that shot, get that moment, with those elements, because there're a thousand visual effects in this film. You feel like, potentially, you could lose the soul of the movie."

The antidote, he says, is to keep returning to the characters and core story. "It's a given when you've got Godzilla that you're going to have this giant, crazy, epic spectacle of carnage and destruction. But to me, it's utterly pointless unless you care about the outcome and about the people who are being affected by these events.

"That means you have to create a narrative that involves people in a way that's connected to what's going on with these creatures," he says.

And he would keep reminding his cast that they could just as well have been making a film about a natural disaster as a giant monster.

"So let's treat this like a really serious drama and go, what would be a great tale to tell that would cover this journey we want to go through."

That is why he filled the cast with accomplished dramatic actors such as Taylor-Johnsonn and Olsen, along with Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche and Sally Hawkins.

"We've got to get the best actors. And - this is going to sound like an insult but it really isn't - no part of me wanted to get good-looking hunks (for the roles)," he says half apologetically, as Taylor-Johnson and Olsen burst out laughing next to him.

"If this was a serious movie about a very serious event, we wanted genuine actors. And I was fortunate that they all agreed to do it."

Alison de Souza

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