From playing George in Rampage, to portraying both Rodan and King Ghidorah's center head, learn how Jason Liles transitioned from his work in New Line Cinema to Legendary & Warner Brothers for Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019).
For those who don't know Jason Liles, he's a 6'9" motion capture actor who specializes in SFX make-up, creature suits, and performance capture. To his delight, Liles stared as various aliens throughout Men in Black 3--His first gig booked with the 7-time Oscar-Winning make-up artist, Rick Baker. Liles' other works include Hellboy and Adam Wingard's Death Note as Ryuk.
Jason talks about his portrayal of both Rodan and King Ghidorah's center head, working with Alan Maxson and Richard Dorton, and how he came to be involved with the making of Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019).
(Jason Liles as Rodan)
Jason Liles, thank you for making this interview to happen.
My pleasure, Ben. Thank you for reaching out.
How did you get involved with Godzilla: King of the Monsters?
I auditioned for Michael Dougherty's previous film Krampus five years ago. I didn't end up playing the role (the wonderful Luke Hawker did), but Mike and I kept in touch. After the Rampage trailer released Mike texted me and asked if I was free to do some "Godzilla stuff." We spoke on the phone for about 5 minutes, and he offered me the part of the middle head of King Ghidorah. Pretty amazing. It was officially my first phone call offer. Very surreal dream come true.
What was it like to work for Legendary and Warner Brothers?
They're amazing! I loved working with Warner Brothers on Rampage, and it was a joy to work with them again--As well as Legendary. I'm such a huge fan of both and to get to be a part of a film with them. That was truly wonderful. They really welcomed me with open arms. Much love to everyone there.
What was your audition for Godzilla: King of the Monsters like?
Well, I guess it was the audition for Krampus five years ago. This time it was just a phone call and an offer from Mike personally. I had some NYU buddies (James Berry and Pawi Bitanga) help me film the audition for Krampus when I lived in NYC, and Joe Osheroff helped me prepare. I wouldn't be in Godzilla: King of the Monsters without them.
What kind of research did you have to do when portraying both Rodan and King Ghidorah?
I didn't know I'd get to do anything for Rodan until on the day of shooting. After messing around and acting like Rodan, Mike asked me on set, "Would you want to do some Rodan stuff before you leave?" Which of course, I replied, "Hell yeah!"
My research for King Ghidorah, however, was going to the LA Zoo where I did research for George in Rampage. Looking at snakes, reptiles, and komodo dragons. I also wanted to understand why Ghidorah was the way he was psychologically. I didn't want to just approach him as "the villain." Why is he the way he is? Why does he destroy civilizations and planets? I have my own secret reasons and motivations, but that was very important to me. Knowing why he acts the way he does. He has a history, and a background, and I had to make up a lot of it for myself to give the character something to want in the film.
What can you tell me about working with Alan Maxson, Richard Dorton, and TJ Storm?
They are all such pros. I could NOT have done it without my brothers on either side of me, and working with TJ being such a beast opposite of us. They're some of my best friends in the industry and I truly love them. We get to go all over the country together to meet fans at conventions. Such a fun adventure to go on and share.
What can you tell me about working for Michael Dougherty?
He cares so much about this franchise. He truly does. He has such a great vision when he's directing, and he creates a fantastic atmosphere to play in. The best directors I've worked with are great at that. Dougherty communicates that vision to us so well, and knows how to get out of us what he needs. I loved working with him and hope it's the first time, but not the last.
How did it feel to be a part of a near 65-year franchise?
It's surreal. That's the best word. It's weird in the best way. It's such an honor to have any hand in it at all, and the fans have been so incredibly welcoming to all of us. We love the fans so much.
What can you tell me about your career as a Motion Capture actor?
Well, I don't think any of us consider ourselves as motion capture actors. We all see ourselves as actors and artists who happen to play roles in motion capture from time-to-time. Most of the roles I've played haven't been motion capture. Most have been in practical effects like Ryuk in Death Note or just as a good 'ole human.
I think motion capture is an incredible way for anyone to be able to play any kind of character no matter their height, race, sex, size, species, or anything else. It's an incredible tool like practical effects makeup. It's pure imagination and pure movie magic. I have to say that so much of the credit MUST go to the VFX artists. Without them, it's just us in these skin-tight PJ's running around being monsters.
It's a great collaboration between VFX artists and actors. Much like a makeup artist and actor in the case of Doug Jones, or Heath Ledger's Joker, or Gary Oldman's Winston Churchill. It's a team effort, and we couldn't do it without the VFX artists.
Have you worked with anyone in this production before?
Producers Dan Lin and Roy Lee. They produced Death Note, although, I wasn't ever on set at the same time as they were. Other than that, no. This was the first time for everyone else.
How many rehearsals did it take to portray both Rodan and King Ghidorah?
We only rehearsed for an hour or two on the first day before shooting scene after scene after scene. A lot of it was just trying stuff. Having our own personal work prepared when we came into the room, and taking Mike's direction. Couldn't have done it without him guiding us as our captain.
How long did it take to film Godzilla: King of the Monsters?
I think principal photography in Atlanta was about 3-4 months. They started filming just a few weeks before Rampage wrapped. Then we shot everything on a performance capture volume months later at the beginning of 2018. We shot everything for Godzilla and Ghidorah in just 3 very fast paced days. It's incredible how quickly you can shoot on a performance capture volume.
Have you always been a fan of the Godzilla franchise?
Oh, of course. It's the greatest and longest running franchise in film history. The amount of people and the generations who have been impacted the last 65 years all over the world is incredible.
What can you tell me about the technology set-up for this production?
It's called performance capture volume (or space). It's a carpeted and taped-off space with infrared cameras all around us capturing every inch. We have reflective dots on precise points of our bodies that the infrared cameras can capture light from and track in the computer.
That frame, created by the dots, is captured by the camera and goes into the computer. And the VFX artists can take that and put in hundreds--thousands of hours to create the beauty you see on screen while using our performance as much as they need. It's truly movie magic.
When portraying Rodan and King Ghidorah, were you ever physically worn out?
Not really. Honestly. George in Rampage was a truly exhausting role. I've never been sorer in my life. Compared to that, Rodan and King Ghidorah were sweat-free. So much fun and demanding in different ways. Every role is a new challenge.
What can you tell me about the first day of filming Godzilla: King of the Monsters?
It was a lot of getting to know everyone. A lot of us had never met before. It was trying to figure out how Ghidorah would move with the three of us working together, and a lot of problem-solving around that. It was surreal that we were about to help bring these characters to life and play a small part in such a massive experience. I was so thankful to be there.
How is portraying Rodan and Ghidorah different from George in Rampage?
Great question. George is a lot closer to who I am as a person at my heart. Gorillas are far closer to our anatomy, so it can be a much closer 1:1 ratio of my performance to the finished product the VFX artists are able to create. Our anatomy is very, very different from reptiles and dragons, so that was a new challenge.
However, there are a lot of similarities with Ghidorah and George. Both being alphas, both knowing they're the highest status in any room they are in. At least they think they are. That's a ton of fun to play in a character, but they're motivations with that status are so wildly different. Ghidorah wants to destroy everything and everyone, while George has such a big heart, wanting to make others laugh and enjoy the moment. George is such a thoughtful and kind creature. The complete opposite of Ghidorah.
You're 6'9". Does your height give you any problems when filming?
Sometimes, I'm too tall. Literally. I typically get in the door for a role due to my height, and it is what often keeps me out of the running. There are only so many tall human roles. I often end up portraying non-human characters. I love playing these creatures and monsters though. They're typically the most interesting and fun characters in a project to me, but I'd love to be just a good ole human more often in the future.
At what age did your professional career begin?
I guess technically in 2009 when I first got paid at all for being an actor. I was at an outdoor theater in the summer of 2009 before moving to New York getting paid $100 a week with free housing in an 8-bedroom, 100-year-old house. It honestly may have been haunted. We had some interesting experiences there.
I officially quit my job waiting tables and started full-time acting 3 years ago in June of 2016 when I booked Ryuk in Death Note. I was so happy to finally get a major chance and cried when I called my parents to tell them. I'm very grateful for the experiences I've had so far, and I can't wait to see what's next.
What can you tell me about the World Premiere and the Red-Carpet Event?
It's just surreal. I was at the premiere for a major, 9-figure budget, tentpole film, in a 65-year-old franchise, at the Grauman's Chinese Theater on Hollywood Blvd surrounded by people whose work I've looked up to for years. And the character I portray is on the poster! How did I get here? It's pretty nuts. I'm incredibly grateful. I was having a blast eating food and hanging with my friends--Alan, Richard, and TJ. It's nuts. What a journey to get here, and I haven't even gotten started yet.
If there is anything that you would like to address, the floor is all yours.
To anyone out there who has a dream: You can do it. Listen to me: YOU CAN DO IT! Don't listen to anyone who tells you, you can't. If they say you can't, they probably have never succeeded at anything great, and they are just trying to steal your dream. Don't let them. Ask anyone who has ever been successful, "Can I do it?" They will tell you, "Of course, you can! If anyone has before, then you can. If they haven't yet, then you'll be the first."
Trust yourself. Don't be afraid to fail. Ignore the naysayers. Break the rules. Work like Hell. Grow just 1% EVERY single day. Always find a way to give back. Do that every single day? You can do anything. Consistency is key. Consistency brings confidence. I used to deal with anxiety and panic attacks. I worked through it all, and now I'm stronger than ever. Read books. Grow yourself. Get around other people who have the results in life you want. Choose your association VERY carefully. You will become the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Choose those 5 wisely. Find a mentor and convince them to take you under their wing. Without a mentor, your chances of making it are very slim. With a mentor, you can go farther than they did.
Never give up. NEVER! Focus on the journey. Who you become on the way to the destination and goal. Don't ask, "How long will it take?" Focus on growth everyday and ask, "How far can I go?"
Jason, thank you so much for all of your time for this interview. It was an honor chatting with you on Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
Thank you so much, Benjamin.
Stay tuned for the interview with Richard Dorton. Enjoy the read everyone!
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This article was written By Huge-Ben and published on 2019-06-17 14:41:43
More about upcoming Godzilla movies
Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) is the sequel to Michael Dougherty's Godzilla 2: King of the Monsters and will be the fourth and final installment in the Monsterverse movie quadrilogy. It will also bridge both the Godzilla movies and Kong: Skull Island by bringing Godzilla and Kong face-to-face for an epic match-up. To learn more about Godzilla vs. Kong, check out the Godzilla vs. Kong about page here!
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