MECHAGODZILLA’S SEQUEL SECRETS! Yukiko Takayama on Writing the Screenplay for ‘Terror of Mechagodzilla’!

Yukiko Takayama in January 2016. Photo © Brett Homenick.

Born on April 4, 1945, to the famous Japanese painter Tatsuo Takayama (1912-2007), Yukiko Takayama studied screenwriting at the Scenario Center after graduating from Keio University’s Faculty of Letters. The Scenario Center was launched in 1970 by prolific scriptwriter Hajime Arai, who was known for penning Toho’s Station Front series of comedies, among many other titles. While studying at the Scenario Center, she was tapped to create the story for what would ultimately become Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975), which was also her first screenwriting job. In October 2009, with the 35th anniversary of Terror of Mechagodzilla on the horizon, Ms. Takayama answered Brett Homenick’s questions about the film in a brief telephone interview conducted and translated by totorom.

Brett Homenick: How did you get hired to write the screenplay?

Yukiko Takayama: Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975) is the movie with which I made my debut as a screenwriter, so it has a lot of memories for me. Many Godzilla movies have been produced, and the series still continues in the 2000s, but there have not been any other female screenwriters but me who have ever written a Godzilla movie screenplay. I am very proud of that.

In those days, I was studying at a screenwriting school [the Scenario Center]. One of the producers from Toho came to the school and announced a plot contest. He said that, since Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla (1974) was a box-office hit, Toho may produce its sequel, and they needed a plot for it. I was asked to write it, so I wrote it and gave it to the producer.

He really liked my plot and took me to Toho Studios where I met with [producer] Tomoyuki Tanaka. Mr. Tanaka told me to write the screenplay as I wanted. So I wrote the screenplay just as I wanted. But Toho had not yet decided to make this movie at this point.

BH: Did you work with anyone else — actors, directors, SFX directors, Tomoyuki Tanaka — to develop the story?

YT: A few months later, Toho told me they would start the production of the movie. They said they would have director Ishiro Honda make it. It was the first Godzilla movie for Mr. Honda to direct in a few years. Then I met with Mr. Honda. He gave me a few very good suggestions on the screenplay, for example, the opening sequence and how the story line should flow.

After the production started, I visited the studio where Mr. Honda was working. He was explaining something to his staff. It looked like he was explaining the movement of Godzilla, and he was acting the part of Godzilla. He was turning his head and roaring, “Gaaaahhhh!” He looked like Godzilla. (laughs) I still clearly remember that face. (laughs)

BH: How did you come up with the characters and the general scenario of the movie?

YT: For the plot contest, the only request from Toho was that the plot needed to have Mechagodzilla, as it was to be the sequel of Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla. I liked Toho tokusatsu movies and had watched many of them since I was a child. So, when I was requested to write a plot for a Godzilla movie, the first image I had in my mind was the original Godzilla (1954), directed by Mr. Honda in 1954. I wrote the plot with that image in my mind. Moreover, I wanted to write a story about a woman, so I chose a woman as the main character.

Also, I was interested in writing a story about a cyborg or an android, although they were not yet such popular subjects then. I wanted to write a story about a cyborg, a half-human/half-machine, who shed tears and destroyed itself in the end.

After Terror of Mechagodzilla, I changed my direction. I have written screenplays and directed movies that are very different from Terror of Mechagodzilla. I have made movies based on literature and the arts. However, I am very proud of Terror of Mechagodzilla. It is the most important and precious movie for me. Today, I work for many different movie productions, and young staff members always tell me that they saw Terror of Mechagodzilla when they were small. I am very happy to hear that.

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