Eiza Gonzalez stars as Maia in "Godzilla vs. Kong." Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
NEW YORK, March 30 (UPI) -- Mexican actress Eiza Gonzalez said her Godzilla vs. Kong character Maia is an "unapologetic, strong female" and quite different from the "stereotypical, cliched" Latin women she frequently sees or is asked to portray on the screen.
Maia is a pilot and the daughter of Walter Simmons, a tech genius-billionaire who thinks he has the solution to saving the world from massive creatures who pop up every few years and cause mayhem and destruction.
"This was very rewarding and exciting, and [the film] allowed her to be quick and smart, and it pushes you as an actor," Gonzalez told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.
"And, also, within her intensity, she is funny. She is really funny. She's quirky, and I think her denial of acceptance of the titans [is where] the comedy lies, and I think that's what makes it really fun as an actor."
The Baby Driver and I Care a Lot star hopes Godzilla vs. Kong offers a bit of escapism to audiences who have been stuck inside over the past year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"It's such a fun movie. Sci-fi is always a great way to remove yourself from the real world and engage in fantasy and I think this movie does this very beautifully," Gonzalez said. "It is very humane. There is a lot pulling on the strings of your heart."
While the monster mashup may be a wildly entertaining thrill ride, it also explores important questions about nature, power and progress.
"It's uncharted territory for us. So, addressing these titans walking on this planet Earth shows three completely different worlds clashing," Gonzalez said, referring to the people, the monsters and the technology intended to keep them in check.
"Humanity has stolen from nature so much," she added. "We are living it right now. We are seeing it right now in the middle of a pandemic. We thought we could control nature and nature controls us and the world will keep on going. So what happens? How do we adapt as humanity."
As much fun as the role was to film, it did come with physical challenges, particularly when the cast shot scenes in which Kong is first transported across an ocean and then to the center of the Earth.
"We did spend a lot of the time in that ship wet, underwater. I don't think people understand how much work comes with doing those types of scenes," Gonzalez said. "It worked out at the end of the day, but it is always hard to make."
The finished product, which has special effects and other storylines woven in, doesn't closely resemble the actress' memory of working on the movie.
"It's night and day," Gonzalez said. "There are extra characters we don't even know. We've not even actually, physically met."
The film's evolution meant she was able to watch and enjoy the picture like everybody else, though.
"It was really cool because it allowed me to transport to the world without even thinking of me in the movie," she said.
Learning from each other
Gonzalez and her co-stars bonded during the six-month shoot.
She said she was inspired by new mom Rebecca Hall, who was preparing in her downtime to direct her own feature. She also binged old Godzilla movies with Alexander Skarsgard. Hall and Skarsgard play scientists who are studying Kong.
Gonzalez said she learned sign language from Kaylee Hottle and her parents. Hottle portrays an orphaned girl who can communicate with the beast.
Gonzalez also said she was happy to work with The Bridge, Weeds, The Nun and The Hateful Eight alum Demian Bichir, who played her father.
"I really loved that dynamic," Gonzalez said of Maia and Walter.
"We had a storyline of a super-powerful man. [The filmmakers] could easily have just relied all the weight on him, and I thought it was really cool the way it was written because it was such a positive message, even though they're bad people. He trusts her. He's like, 'Maia's got this.'"
Bichir told UPI in a separate Zoom chat that he appreciated how talented and diverse the cast and crew were.
"That's one of the things that these types of franchises have. They can bring together the best teams of artists in every department," he said.
"And all kinds of different actors. Different backgrounds, different schools, different nationalities, different everything, coming together on the same project. That's, to me, what art represents. It has no boundaries."
Advances in filmmaking
The Mexican actor and lifelong King Kong fan said he was amazed at how far filmmaking has advanced since the first creature features were made nearly a century ago.
"Nowadays, it is just spectacular how they can make the whole thing look so real," he said.
"You can feel what [the monsters] feel, and that's to me such a big thing -- not just as an actor, but as an audience, as a spectator. To witness such a thing? It's beautiful to be a part of that."
Bichir said he chooses his movies and TV shows because he thinks they will tell great stories, not because they fit specific genres or have budgets of a certain size.
"This film is not about two monsters only. It is about, what do you do with power? What do you do when you are filthy rich? How can you make your power be good for others? And how are we dealing with nature?" he asked rhetorically.
"It's so timely, this type of film. Through so much entertainment, you can also feel, and get your mind positively affected."
Asked if Walter is inspired by greed, hubris or a sincere desire to solve problems, Bichir pointed out that people don't always recognize their own motivations or see themselves as villains.
"Simmons' intentions are good and he, obviously, has the drive and the will and the determination to create change, but it has been seen, more often than not, how much power corrupts a human being's soul," Bichir said. "Are you going to be Bill Gates or Donald Trump?"
Directed by Adam Wingard, the film co-stars Millie Bobby Brown, Julian Dennison, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri and Kyle Chandler. The sequel to 2014's Godzilla, 2017's Kong: Skull Island and 2019's Godzilla: King of Monsters, is to debut on HBO Max and in theaters Wednesday.