Star Trek and Godzilla Production Designer Talks Redesigning Icons

What does Star Trek have in common with Godzilla? If you’re Scott Chambliss, a lot more than you might think.

SyfyWire brought us an interview yesterday with Chambliss, who is the production designer on the upcoming film Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Chambliss started his career as a set designer on Broadway, but after connecting with then-up-and-coming director J.J. Abrams, took the leap from stage to television, and then to films. With J.J. Abrams, he was a production designer for Felicity and Alias, and eventually Star Trek (2009). Since then, he’s made a name for himself on films like Cowboys and Aliens, Tomorrowland, and Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2.

Chambliss spoke to SyfyWire about how his work on Star Trek influenced designs for the latest Godzilla movie. When asked about how much freedom he had designing the monsters and sets for Godzilla, he said: “We had as much [freedom] as we wanted. And one of the things about this, it was kind of like when J.J. and I were approaching Star Trek, the whole point of view the first time was, ‘We're going to take the material seriously and really pay tribute to what Roddenberry's intentions were.’ The Starship Enterprise, of course, was the big icon of the show. We had to take that seriously in terms of what it represented, but that didn't in any way mean that we had to reproduce it literally or just tweak it a little bit and send it off again.”

He also talked about difficulties he had while working on Star Trek: Into Darkness, and the decisions he had to make as a production designer. One particular story related to a set design they just couldn’t figure out, so he and J.J. Abrams worked it backwards. He said: “It was an environment we could never quite figure out exactly what we wanted the story to be. And at the end of the day, we kind of worked backward. It's like, ‘Okay, this needs to basically be a playground for this to happen, this to happen, him to jump from somewhere and that to happen…’”

Chambliss went on to describe how he used the inspiration of the Roman Coliseum as an eventual solution in that scene, but that production realities meant it would never be perfect. He said, “Because that happened so late in the day and the money was an issue, I was never really satisfied that we got the richest environment and story that we could have. But at the end of the day, I don't think it did serious damage to the storytelling.”

You can see Scott Chambliss’s latest production design work, including his monster design, in the upcoming film Godzilla: King of the Monsters, out in cinemas May 31st.

Alison Pitt