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MONSTERS Exclusive: Interview With Gareth Edwards

by Tom Fordy

First off, director Gareth Edwards is a bloody nice bloke – polite, funny, and decidedly modest for someone who has recently redefined the monster movie. Yep, altogether he’s a thoroughly nice chap. Which is strange when you consider that he has a self-confessed ‘fetish’ for the apocalypse.

‘I’m fascinated with it,’ Edwards tells The Hollywood News. ‘If the doors were gonna bolt shut and you were locked in a sub-genre of science fiction for the rest of your life, the one I’d race toward is post-apocalyptic. It taps into a few fantasies.’

The film with which he has managed to live out these fantasies is Monsters, an original and subversive take on the monster movie genre. The film follows Andrew (Scoot McNairy) and Samantha (Whitney Able) as they attempt to make their way to the U.S. by way of Mexico, a country that happens to have been ‘infected’ by a species of giant aliens.

Though the film approaches the genre from a fresh angle, it nevertheless deals with a number of issues common to all apocalypse movies.

‘In modern society,’ Edwards says, ‘we live in these boxes and we have these tools, like magic phones. But we’re hard-wired to live the way we used to a thousand years ago. By society falling apart, it gives you that back. It forces you to go back to the way things used to be.’

It’s reassuring to hear that the young director is so enthused by this subject matter. He has a genuine passion for the ideas he has chosen to explore, something that apparently comes from a life-long interest in such stories.

‘You couldn’t get a post-apocalyptic film for love nor money when I was growing up,’ he says. ‘Now there’s four or five a year.’

But this doesn’t appear to have deterred him at all. In fact, throughout his short career he has jumped at any and every opportunity to produce similarly themed movies.

‘I was always pushing toward this,’ says Edwards. ‘When someone said “do a science documentary” I said “can I do it about the end of the world?” and when they said “which one of these subjects do you want to do” I said “can I do the one about a tornado destroying a city”.’

There’s no doubt, the young maverick certainly has a taste for this sort of thing.

‘It’s like you’re slowly crawling your way towards your ideal subject matter,’ he tells THN. ‘No one will make a massive leap with you but they’ll make a little leap, so you’re constantly pushing towards where you want to be. It’s this slow crawl toward the end of the world, and I’m quite happy to be based there.’

For those of you fortunate enough to have already seen Monsters, you will know that it attempts to do something different with the genre. Unlike most monster movies, the star of the show takes a human shape, as opposed to the giant destructive superstars that usually dominate this kind of film. But that isn’t the only thing different about Monsters.

‘Did anyone make an alien invasion movie that didn’t begin with them arriving or end with them leaving?’ Edwards asks THN. And after some deliberation, we realise that we don’t have an answer for him.

‘I was so paranoid that people would be bored of the genre by the time the film came out,’ he confesses. ‘We’d heard about other films that were on the horizon and we couldn’t possibly compete with Hollywood, so we came up with this.’

But Edwards considers this to be a double-edged sword.

‘I think it frustrates people because they’re not bored yet of things blowing up left right and centre.’

THN thinks the director may be selling himself short here – though Monsters is undoubtedly short on explosions, it’s big on emotion, drama, atmosphere, and character… pretty much all the things that make a good story.

The conversation soon turns to the creatures themselves, and Edwards – who cites Giger’s Xenomorph as his favourite ever monster design – is keen to explain the difficulties in transferring his ideas from paper to screen. He even takes the time to doodle a quick example for us (which we quickly nab for the staff room fridge).

‘What looks good on paper,’ he says, ‘you can never get that shot. When it’s in three-dimensions it looks completely different. So there’s a big back and forth. I allocated two weeks in the schedule to do the creature design and it took me two months before I did a single shot. It’s very complicated – way harder than I gave it credit.’

But all this hard work has undoubtedly paid off. In Monsters, Gareth Edwards has succeeded in bending rules and defying convention. He has achieved something rare within a genre that is so dominated by monstrous money shots and big-scale destruction. And though the title of the movie may suggest a focus on… well, monsters, overall it’s a film about people. Something of a refreshing change for us fanboys.

It will be interesting to see if Edwards can continue this trend in innovation. Especially when you consider that his next gig will be directing a little known monster named Godzilla…

Monsters is available on DVD from April 11th

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