A BRUSH WITH GODZILLA! American Actor Jon Gallock Discusses His Close Encounter in Godzilla vs. Destoroyah!

Jon Gallock in front of Shinjuku Station in September 2013. Photo © Brett Homenick.

Jon Gallock moved to Japan by design but became an actor there almost by accident. After becoming involved in show business, Mr. Gallock quickly landed a role in Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995) as an airline pilot taking off from Hong Kong who nearly collides with the Big G as he rises out of the sea. Mr. Gallock told his Toho tale to Brett Homenick in 2006 and shared some stories about his life in Japan.

Brett Homenick: Please give me a little bit about your background before you moved to Japan.

Jon Gallock: I’m a retired U.S. Navy member. I was a counselor in the Navy. Actually, most of my time in the Navy was overseas. Out of about 20 years, I only served two tours in the States. The rest was in the Philippines, in Japan, or floating somewhere in between.

BH: Now why did you choose Japan to live in?

JG: Well, because my darling bride is Japanese, we just chose to live here. Most of my time had been outside Continental United States, and I had already lived in Japan for about five years while I was in the Navy (though I was on a ship). So I was kind of used to Japan. So why not? (laughs) Little did I know! (laughs)

BH: How did it come about that you got involved in acting?

JG: I got involved in acting through my son. We came to Japan in 1994. (My last tour of duty was at NAS Whidbey Island in Washington State.) We retired from there and returned to Japan. When we arrived here, several friends said, “You know, you’ve got a cute boy; you’ve got to get him into the modeling thing.” He was only a year old. So we did that. We went down to an agency, and while we were registering him, they said, “Why don’t you register, Mr. Gallock?” I said, “You’ve got to be kidding me. They don’t want guys like me.” They said, “No, no, no, we really want you to register.” This went back and forth for about 10 minutes, and finally I said okay.

I got tied up with the agency that does the majority of the television extra work and small part work and movie work, IMO (the Inagawa Motoko Office).

One of the first jobs I had through IMO (actually, it was the first movie I did) was Godzilla vs. Destoroyah. That was sort of interesting. It was not what I expected.

BH: Well, that sort of dovetails into my next question, which was, how did you get involved in Godzilla vs. Destoroyah?

JG: They (IMO) called me up and asked, “Do you want to be in a movie? Do you want to be a pilot?” I said, “Yeah, great!” I was going to be in a movie with Godzilla, and I thought, “Wow, that’s neat. This is a fantasy come true.” It was a night (shoot). We went out to JAL Flight Training Center after working hours. My copilot was a Chinese guy.

BH: Do you remember anything about your copilot, his name, or just his background, or anything like that?

JG: I think he was from Taiwan, and I can’t remember much else about him, though he was very excited to be there. He spoke pretty good English.

BH: Could you describe what it was like on your day of shooting, exactly what happened?

JG: Well, we got there after normal working hours. I think we got there about seven in the evening. They actually did pretty good because we gave them our measurements, and they had our flight uniforms and all that stuff ready for us. Since it was just us, there wasn’t a lot of hubbub and crew around. There was a makeup and wardrobe person. We got ready, and we sat around. It was my first time on supposedly a movie set, but since it was actually a 747 simulator, it wasn’t much of a movie set.

Though I’d never been inside a simulator, it was kind of interesting to walk around and look at things and see how they were going to shoot it. That kind of stuff kind of interests me a lot, the technical standpoints, how they’re gonna place the cameras, the lighting, that sort of stuff. The director and staff, great people. For the evening meal, we had our really bad bento (a boxed lunch), which I guess is a normal thing. You can tell the quality of the shoot by the kind of bento you get. This is a very true thing! Good shoot, good bento. (laughs) Cheap shoot, cheap bento. (laughs) That was kind of interesting.

We had the bento, and then we settled down to shoot the thing. That was interesting because, having served in the Navy, I’m used to being on ships and going through control centers and those sort of places. I was used to a room with a lot of gadgets, machinery, and electronics. But when I got into the cockpit (it was a 747 simulator), it was very, very interesting. I hadn’t been in anything like that before. So that was kind of fun. We had a good time with it, with the exception that the flight trainer was very, very serious. He’d come in and say, “Don’t touch any buttons. Don’t touch anything.”

BH: What was his role, the flight instructor? What exactly was his role when he was on set with you?

JG: To make sure we didn’t touch any buttons! (laughs) He was gonna make it as realistic as possible for a takeoff, in terms of communication with the tower and the controls, what pilots and copilots do, their interaction in getting the plane off the ground. So he actually took us through that a couple of times, how we do that, and how we communicate. We rehearsed that a couple of times with him, and then we started actually rehearsing with the director and did a couple of takes, rehearsals, and then a couple of takes. Flight simulators are kind of expensive, so I imagine he didn’t want us breaking anything. He was a good guy. They were all very, very serious. He spoke good English.

BH: Now you talked about the director, Takao Okawara, and the other crew. What did you think about working with Mr. Okawara, or did you work with him much at all?

JG: Didn’t work with him much at all. It was kind of a quick shoot, though he was a good guy. The staff was very, very nice. I’ve been on sets where the staff isn’t as nice, and things don’t run as smooth as you’d expect, and directors get extremely angry. But this worked really good. I think the only disappointment was that there was no Godzilla. For some reason, in my mind, I was gonna go do a Godzilla movie, and dammit, I expected to see Godzilla! (laughs) Godzilla didn’t show. I was disappointed in the fact that when we were shooting, they had a little pin light — it was a little red dot — and they sort of focused that up on a wall outside the simulator. They said, “Okay, that’s Godzilla!” So that was a little new for me. As we’d go along, we’d learn things. So it was kind of fun doing that.

BH: Was your scene done in one take?

JG: No, we did it, I think, in about five takes, to do it.

BH: Was there a particular reason for that? ‘Cause I know Ron (Hoerr), when he was doing some of his scenes, they were pretty much done in two takes.

JG: Yeah, because I needed to emote more and the camera angles, lighting. We were in a very confined space, so part of it was the technical problem with the lighting and the cameras. So they had to adjust for that. Then a couple of them were the actors. We needed to emote. You gotta remember we were both new guys at this. We weren’t old hands like Ron and Shelley (Sweeney) and the other folks.

BH: Now what other roles have you had in Japan?

JG: Well, let’s see. (I’ve) been on NHK’s Taiga dramas. I’ve played priests, bad guys. I did some comedy stuff as kind of a middle-aged buffoon type of person, those sorts of things. Let’s see. I got to play Bill Clinton; that was interesting.

BH: (laughs) What was that for?

JG: It was for a story about the Clinton family when (Bill Clinton was governor) of Arkansas. It was a couple of years ago. (laughs) It was really a good shoot because Hillary and I had an argument. It showed how the Clintons argued, and about how explosive Bill Clinton’s anger can be. Hillary was played by a very good friend of mine who is Polish and has very limited knowledge of America and American politics and has a very limited use of English.

She was Hillary Clinton, and Chelsea, who has red, blondish hair, was played by a Japanese/American girl with an Asian accent. So that was kind of interesting. So here we go, this Polish woman and (Japanese/American) girl, the Clintons. But the nice thing about it was the food. They hired a caterer to come in and fix an authentic Southern meal, a sit-down Sunday kind of meal. We had chicken-fried steak, we had greens, had a nice omelette, corn on the cob, and all this other kind of stuff. It was very, very good because they cooked it right there, and we could eat all we wanted.

On top of that, they had about four or five bottles of wine. Normally in Japanese TV, it’s usually grape juice or tea or something like that because they don’t want you drinking. But the director bought wine.

We were kind of hesitant, (but) he said, “Go ahead and have the wine.” Hillary and Bill started drinking wine! We got the dialogue part, and she’d be kicking me under the table during the scene. She’d whisper, “What do I say? What do I say? What do I say?”  But after about three glasses of wine, she was pretty good with her lines.

Other interesting roles? I used to sport a goatee. I used to play a lot of bad guys parts, which was kind of fun for me. I enjoyed that, though I got stopped by the police a lot. That’s not a joke; I used to get stopped a lot.

BH: For having a goatee on?

JG: Yeah, for looking like a bad guy.

BH: Really?

JG: Yes, the early use of profiling. But I finally gave up bad guys and shaved my goatee, and the police haven’t bothered me after that.

BH: How have you adjusted to life in Japan?

JG: Well, actually, you know, we all go through a process. That process involves: First, we really like it. Then they should change, and the newness wears off. But as we move forward, we understand that it is their country and their culture, and we’re guests here, though we live here. You get a little frustrated, but then I think you learn patience, and you learn to understand how the system works and how relationships run and those kinds of things. You can adjust to that pretty easily if you allow that to happen. A lot of people don’t. I think about the average time for a foreigner here is about three years, and then they get fed up and have to go home from wherever they came.

BH: Well, in closing, do you have any final comments?

JG: Godzilla is an icon. I feel Americans appreciate Godzilla probably just as much or maybe even a little bit more than the Japanese do. Godzilla represents a lot of really cool things. It kind of represents where we’ve been, and what we’re doing now.

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