By Brian Truitt
He's got smoldering eyes, a take-charge personality and a hugely influential reputation.
So it wasn't hard for British director Gareth Edwardsto fall in love when his visual-effects crew sprung their gigantic leading man on him in the middle of filming the upcoming monster-movie reboot Godzilla, in theaters May 16.
"It was such a shot in the arm to see your star," Edwards recalls of first laying eyes on the fully realized, scaly wrecking machine. "It was like knowing you were pregnant vs. seeing the ultrasound. I suddenly remembered I was making this iconic movie."
The first Godzilla trailer premieres online Tuesday (1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT) and is attached to The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug starting this weekend.
Next year marks the 60th anniversary of the atomic-powered mega-beast laying waste to Japan in Toho's 1954 Godzilla, and the new movie harks back to the roots of the original in both look and theme.
Edwards, who wrote, directed and did visual effects for his 2010 indie sci-fi film Monsters, imagined his version of Godzilla to be close enough to the first incarnation that it would have inspired the man in the rubber suit that made for a high-tech beast back in the 1950s.
And like that first film, Edwards' Godzilla is an origin story with a nuclear theme. The human cast of characters - including Aaron Taylor-Johnson as a soldier, Elizabeth Olsen as his nurse wife and Bryan Cranston as a scientist - all have to deal with the globe-stomping threat.
It's Godzilla's name on the marquee, yet Edwards didn't want to humanize him or give him too much personality.
"To me, he's like a force of nature, like the wrath of God or vengeance for the way we've behaved," Edwards says. "If this really happened, it would be like Sept. 11.
"I want it to be epic. I want to get the hairs on the back of your neck up."
Coming from Monsters, in which he designed - as cost-efficiently as possible - a quasi-futuristic setting of alien creatures taking over Mexico, Edwards is reveling in the big-budget filmmaking that Godzilla offers him.
"It's the closest thing to being a god as I think there is in terms of a job you could have," he says. "You picture something one day and draw it, and the next day, it's physical and there in front of you no matter how insane."
Edwards adds that there was a "massive appeal" for doing the kind of movie that everybody will want to see. "OK, all your life, say, you want to be a footballer and you played for your local team, and then one day, someone says, 'Do you want to play in the World Cup final?' Who wouldn't say yes to that?"
In addition to the original movie, the Monsterland conceit of the 1968 Godzilla flickDestroy All Monsters also plays into Edwards' film, with its exploration of mankind having to deal with a reality full of huge, deadly behemoths - the director teases that there is more than just Godzilla smashing around.
"I've just got a secret fantasy - well, it's not very secret anymore - about living in a world where there's fantastical things like giant creatures and what it would really be like and trying to take it seriously," he says.
"And there's no bigger or better icon than Godzilla."