DEFENDING THE EARTH! Actor Jonathan Legg Remembers Shooting ‘Godzilla: Final Wars’!

Jonathan Legg (center, in the black shirt) poses with other cast and crew members of Godzilla Final Wars. Director Ryuhei Kitamura is second from the left. Photo © Jonathan Legg.

American-born Jonathan Legg is an actor and model who has worked on both sides of the Pacific. When he lived in Japan, Mr. Legg appeared in Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) as an Earth Defense Force soldier. In 2007, Mr. Legg shared his memories of the shoot with Brett Homenick.

Brett Homenick: How did you get involved with Godzilla: Final Wars?

Jonathan Legg: I was called by my agency in Japan about the audition. We were all asked to do a reading and then demonstrate any martial arts skills we had. I took karate in grade school and high school, but it’s been a while since then, so I just sort of faked it by putting together a little something I saw in a JCVD (Jean-Claude Van Damme) movie, and I guess I pulled it off. (laughs)

BH: What are your memories of Ryuhei Kitamura, the director?

JL: He had a couple ADs working for him that were in more direct contact with the actors in my scenes, especially in the fight scenes. But I do recall he had a very laid-back, down-to-earth personality. He seemed really relaxed and positive during the shoot.

BH: What about the principal cast members, like Masahiro Matsuoka and Kane Kosugi? Do you have memories of them?

JL: Masahiro kept to himself a lot, as I recall. I think he’s juggling a lot of projects, so he’s probably got plenty of his mind. Kane Kosugi was a bit more sociable, but we never talked about much in particular.

BH: Did you get to work with Don Frye much?

JL: Don Frye is probably the guy I spoke with the most out of all the lead actors. He’s got quite a powerful presence in real life. A huge strong guy with a great “one of the guys” kind of attitude. I remember at one of the wrap parties people started challenging him to arm wrestling matches, and he just tooled every comer. At one point, Masahiro Matsuoka had both of his hands and most of his weight leaning down on Don’s arm which was just frozen about 5 inches off the table. Another girl and guy showed up and put their hands in to help Masahiro get the job done, but Don’s arm still didn’t flinch. Then in classic style he pulled the trigger and slammed them all down for the win.

BH: Were you involved with many of the stunts or fight choreography?

JL: The crew was open to suggestions from the actors during the fight scenes, but as my experience with fight choreography was limited, I didn’t add anything to their ideas. A lot of the actors on set had extensive martial arts backgrounds, so they had a lot of input in these scenes. Quite a few of the Japanese actors were fresh off the set of The Last Samurai, so they felt right at home with battle scenes.

Fun times on the set of Godzilla: Final Wars. Photo © Jonathan Legg.

BH: What was it like on the set?

JL: Hot. We had on these rubber suits that didn’t breathe. We were filming in summer and under the glare of a lot of lights. During breaks in the fight scenes people came in with towels and mops to get all the sweat off the floor. One guy was pulled off his boots, after one long series of takes, and poured out what seemed like two cups of sweat.

BH: What did you think of the film?

JL: I think the film had its moments, but as a whole it wasn’t all it could have been. Ryuhei Kitamura is a gifted director, but he had a heavy responsibility to pay tribute to all the other Godzilla films plus give the series something new, and the budget wasn’t all that big considering all the kinds of scenes they wanted to include.

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