Julian Dennison tells us what it was like making Godzilla vs. Kong

Kong and Godzilla go head to head in Godzilla vs. Kong (in cinemas this week). Actor Julian Dennison—best known for his role in Hunt for the Wilderpeople—sits down with Steve Newall to chat about what it was like to work on such a massive production.

A sequel to both Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Kong: Skull Island, Julian Dennison joins the likes of Alexander Skarsgård, Rebecca Hall, Millie Bobby Brown, Brian Tyree Henry, Demián Bichir and Eiza González in Godzilla vs. Kong. As the title suggests, the two Titans slug it out in the pic, while human-scale adventures play out alongside them. Human-scaled Julian Dennison shares more on Godzilla vs. Kong.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

On working with Millie Bobby Brown

She’s just a really down-to-earth girl. She’s been in some crazy stuff. Obviously, she had Stranger Things on Netflix. She’s really big.

On-screen, I wanted to make sure that the friendship in the film was authentic. So, I would say we’re good friends. And for me it was good seeing a friendship like that—that isn’t romantic—in a film. I think it was cool that [director] Adam Wingard and the team went that way with it. I really enjoyed the aspect of, “No, it’s like these two friends who are on a mission.” She kind of drags him into this adventure, and they don’t really fall in love during the film. That’s what I really liked about the relationship that our characters Maddison and Josh have in the film.

On working with Brian Tyree Henry

He’s a really funny dude. I actually still have to finish watching it, but I started watching Atlanta by Donald Glover. I saw him in that and I went, “Oh, wait. That’s Brian. That’s who I’ll be working with.” And obviously, he’s kind of serious in that as well. And wasn’t he in that film Widows? Very serious. So I was like, “Oh, am I going to be able to even talk to this guy on set?” But he’s just a really lovable guy, and I just really enjoyed being around him.

Shooting on location and massive practical sets

We did most of the filming in Hawaii and the Gold Coast. A lot of it was at the Warner Bros. lot in Gold Coast. And in Hawaii, most of it was on location. Two months in Hawaii and then another month and a half, two months in Gold Coast. There were these big, practical sets and then giant green screens behind them. It was exciting working on them. It was big. It was kind of different—with Deadpool 2, it was more practical, on-set stuff. But here it was just in a giant tin can and shot in there.

The Titan skull was amazing to film in. It was just so big. And you realise, “People make these.” And the giant ruined city of Hong Kong and everything, it was so cool just seeing how much effort they all put into it.

Wait, this isn’t a documentary?

You had these big CG characters. Adam Wingard really wanted to humanise these characters. Because for so long they’ve just been seen as these giant monsters that we like to watch crush buildings and that. But he actually wanted to give them feelings and give them a reason why they’re versing each other. You want to root for one side because there’s a reason behind it. It’s not just because they look cool. I’m not saying this is a documentary. King Kong’s not going to be sitting down and chatting to the camera like he’s gone through some emotional trauma.

The pros, rather than the cons, of lockdown

With big action films, it’s like, you shoot the film, a lot of action, and then you pause. And then you do interviews and then you pause. And then the movie comes out, and then you go and do another movie. It can be kind of a rollercoaster sometimes.

I think it’s been a good reset. Before lockdown, I was working for quite a bit, and it was kind of nonstop. And then lockdown happened and it put a pause on everything. And I kind of found the pros in it instead of the cons. I got to spend a lot of time with family and friends safely. Obviously, not during the big lockdown but afterward, when New Zealand was doing a good job being the safest country in the world. I found it really refreshing to just stay here for more than a few months. And that’s what has been going on—just looking at scripts here and there. Yeah, it’s been good.

Director Adam Wingard is a crazy, Judas Priest-loving dude

He’s a crazy dude. He’s a fun dude. He is a nerd and a geek. I remember talking to him during reshoots, and he told me that he loved  ThunderCats when he was in middle school, and he had written a 130-page ThunderCats script. He still has it in his attic somewhere. Just a fat script that he wrote in a maths notebook.

I like to improvise when I’m on-set. And Brian, he was so open to it, as well as Millie. They were really open to improvisation. And yeah, Adam was like, “Let’s just have some fun. Let’s enjoy it. Let’s make this enjoyable.”

I remember meeting Adam for the first time. I’m like, “If you make me watch your horror films, I’m not going to like you because I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat.” He kind of based Josh Valentine, my character, kind of off him as a teenager. Wears a wallet chain. Listens to Judas Priest.

He was like, “Hey, can you listen to Judas Priest?” And I’m like, “Who’s that?” And he’s like, “Just listen to them.” And played the song [Breaking the Law, which plays prominently in the film].

Will Julian play Nicolas Cage or John Travolta’s part in Wingard’s upcoming Face/Off sequel?

I’ll probably play none of those parts.