GODZILLA’S LINE PRODUCER! Andrea Stern on Godzilla’s Mid-1980s Comeback!

Andrea Stern in between husband Shepard Stern (left) and director R. J. Kizer after finishing work on Godzilla 1985. Photo © R. J. Kizer.

Andrea Barshov Stern served as associate producer of the American version of Godzilla 1985 (1984). Before working on the Godzilla series’ first-ever reboot, she line-produced commercials in New York for several years and worked on The Cars’ groundbreaking music video “You Might Think.” After that, she moved to Los Angeles where her career has mostly been in visual effects and motion graphic design. Ms. Stern’s first job in L.A. was line-producing Godzilla 1985. At the time, she also worked on the trailers for New World. Years later, she would work with director David Fincher on the post-production for his music videos. She eventually returned to New York and worked on motion graphic design for CBS News, Entertainment Tonight, as well as European and Asian television channels (developing logos and branding). In 2007, Ms. Stern spoke with Brett Homenick about her line-producing work on Godzilla 1985.  

Brett Homenick: How’d you get involved with Godzilla 1985?

Andrea Stern: Well, my very, very dear friend, who always mentored me, Straw Weisman, was working very closely with New World Pictures at the time, and he was asked to (serve as a creative consultant on Godzilla 1985). He’s a writer/producer/director. What they did was, they took the footage that they got from Toho, and they reworked the script to figure in American scenes with Raymond Burr.

So he was a dear friend, and he was asked to (be a creative consultant). He said, “You should come on board as line producer of the American scenes.” I thought, “Yeah, why not? That’d be great.” So I did. We worked with New World Pictures, producing the American footage.

BH: Now did you have any kind of input when you were working with Straw Weisman?

AS: Well, as a line producer, you really don’t really insert yourself in the creative process, but I worked very, very closely with the director, Bob Kizer. We worked on the casting together and location scouting, but it’s really the director’s decision who they choose in terms of the cast and what locations they use. It’s the producer’s job to facilitate that.

BH: Well, when you’re involved in line producing, just explain what goes into that.

AS: It’s like putting a wedding together every day. No! (laughs) There’s a lot of people who run around calling themselves producer. So everybody walks around calling themselves producer, and it’s either they’re the money man, or who knows. But the line producer is really the person who is interfacing with the studio, keeping the budget.

They’re the ones who are keeping the budget on track, they’re the ones who are hiring crew, just making the whole thing happen. They’re hiring everyone, watching the budget, and interfacing with the studio. So you’re balancing a lot of agendas; you’re balancing the agenda of the director, to make sure the director is getting what he wants creatively, and then you’re balancing the agenda of the studio in terms of keeping things on budget.

BH: Now what were your memories of casting the film? I don’t know if anything stands out for you.

AS: Well, that was really fun, casting for a feature film. I had been involved in casting many commercials and music videos, but it was really fun. The really interesting thing for me was, we knew we wanted Raymond Burr because he was the original — what’s the character’s name?

BH: Steve Martin.

AS: Yes, Steve Martin. So he’s calling his agent and negotiating his deal and all of that and was really, really nice. I actually struck up a nice relationship with him on the set. It was really nice. He was an enormous man; he was enormous in height and in girth. (laughs) I’m five feet, and I was probably about 96 pounds at the time. We would leave the set together. I would walk him out to his trailer because he was the star. It was just a really hilarious scene, seeing us together! (laughs)

We created a NORAD room. It was fun. We built a pretty intense set. Actually, I think the film got pretty good reviews when it came out as a real campy, fun film, which shocked me. (laughs)

The only really well known actor that was used was Raymond Burr. Oh, actually, wait a minute! The general played Lyndon B. Johnson in a made-for-TV movie or something. He played the general.

BH: Warren Kemmerling.

AS: Yes!

BH: Well, you talked about negotiations with Raymond Burr’s agent. Do you remember any things that he wanted?

AS: No, I don’t. He was pretty smooth and easygoing. It wasn’t difficult at all. I think he only shot with us for two of days. Two days or three days? I can’t remember. It was a really long time ago!

BH: He worked on the movie more than one day, though.

AS: I think so, yeah.

BH: You talked a little bit about Warren Kemmerling. Do you have any memories of some of the other people, like Travis Swords or James Hess who also appeared in the film?

AS: They were all just really nice, happy-to-be-working actors! (laughs) Nothing stands out, quite frankly. There was no drama. It was a happy set! (laughs)

BH: This may be a little bit of an obscure question, but do you happen to remember anybody else who may have auditioned or that you may have looked at for one of the parts but didn’t get it — maybe someone who was kind of well-known or became well-known later?

AS: No. We actually had some extras. I cast my husband as one of the extras. That was fun. (laughs)

Shepard Stern (left) points at an enlarged photograph of Godzilla while Warren Kemmerling and Raymond Burr look on. Photo © New World Pictures.

BH: One other thing I wanted to ask you: It’s reported that originally the producers wanted to make this sort of like a parody, and they wanted to hire Leslie Nielsen as the wacky general or something.

AS: Oh, that would have been fun. I don’t know anything about that, honestly.

BH: Okay, you’re not aware of that.

AS: No, I’m not aware of that at all. It was really just a line-producing job. I was told I did a good job, and that was that. (laughs)

BH: Now just briefly describe what went into producing the U.S. footage.

AS: Well, we had to build the set, but we built a set that was reminiscent of what it would be like in NORAD. We had to find a location. It was a remote location where Steve Martin had been in retirement, living with his grandson. I guess it was his daughter and his grandson. So we had to find that location. That was a place up in Malibu Mountains. There was editing involved, of course. We didn’t do any special effects stuff.

BH: Do you have any interesting stories from the set?

AS: It was so long ago. It was just a nice group of people, and we had a good time working together. We really did, and it was a nice experience. There’s nothing that stands out.

I do remember being up in Malibu waiting to do those shots — the ones we did up in the house, the location that served as the house. The grip truck was really late. That was about the only drama I experienced! (laughs)

BH: Do you have any memories of R. J. Kizer or Tony Randel — what they were like to work with?

AS: They were just really nice guys. R. J., I stayed in touch with for quite some time, actually. We became close friends, but we lost touch. Tony was just a nice guy. They were just nice guys.

BH: Overall, what did you think about working on the film?

AS: What did I think working on it? Oh, I thought it was a great honor to, at that time, when that came out, there hadn’t been a Godzilla film released in the United States for years, right?

BH: Right.

AS: It was a really fun, high-profile kind of event. So I was really delighted to be a part of it. Like I said, I was a fan of those Japanese monster movies all my life.

Growing up in New York back then — what did we have, 13 channels on TV? There was no such thing as VCRs or anything, so we had Million Dollar Movie. It was like one of the local channels, and on the weekends, they would show movies. They would show (movies) continuously, back-to-back. So one Saturday they’d show Mothra vs. Godzilla back-to-back. So you’d watch these movies over and over again on Million Dollar Movie. It was a trip! So we loved those. It was really entertaining and fun.

But that was pretty novel because in 1985, there hadn’t been a Godzilla movie released from Japan in the United States for years. They made campy stuff. So it came out with color and it was cool, really cool. You tell people you’re working on Godzilla 1985, and (they’d say), “Wow!” And now it’s another one for the archives.

For a short-lived movie career, which mine was, it’s pretty fun to have that as a credit. (laughs)

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