Writer Travis Beacham on Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim

Fans of Pacific Rim got a treat recently as the NuArt featured the blockbuster at one of its midnight movies! What’s more, co-writer Travis Beacham took the stage to answer a few questions! The event was arranged and hosted by Witney Seibold of the B-Movies Podcast. Read on for answers on the first draft, the inspirations for the film and Guillermo del Toro’s contributions!

Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots

Question: Do you hate the “Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots” Jokes?

Travis Beacham: Eh…I don’t hate ’em, I mean, I sort of see where they come from, you know, it’s just… it’s like… You go in and you know you’re not making, like, Chinatown, you know you’re not making, like, A River Run Through It, you know you’re making a giant robot versus giant monster movie. So I don’t hate it, but I’d like to think there is more to it than that, but I don’t resent anyone for saying that there’s not. You know, it’s all totally subjective. We all bring our own sort of baggage to it when we watch it.

On Godzilla and Pacific Rim

Witney Seibold: This is very anime-inspired, very Godzilla-inspired. This is a Legendary film… Legendary also owns Godzilla… Has anyone approached you yet about the crossover between Pacific Rim and Godzilla?

Travis Beacham: I have not been officially approached about it, but it definitely is something that’s been discussed, you know, in and out of the room, you know… I’m not going to say “never”, but as I like to say, I’d like to get a few other Pacific Rim movies out there… you know, lay the groundwork, you know… I don’t want Godzilla to eat my whole baby!

Prequels

Question: Do you ever see the possibility of a prequel happening?

Travis Beacham: I really hope so. I really, really hope so! At first when we were talking about stuff like that it was like, “Oh, no way! Sequel, sequel, sequel!” but even now behind the scenes we’re starting to talk about prequels more and more. That’s an area of the timeline that’s just breezed over in the movie that I think is really interesting. Because then you can bring the Russians back and you can bring Pentercost back…

Witney Seibold: Yeah, those Russians… fuck you for killing those Russians, by the way, I love those guys!

Travis Beacham: They sacrificed themselves, and you know what? They knew what they were signing up for!

Witney Seibold: They are a noble people! A moment of silence for the Russians!

The Original Draft

Question: One of my favorite characters in the original draft was the Ivo Czerny, the doctor. I remember reading a while back that Willem DaFoe was attached to that role. I was curious what led to that entire arc being cut out?

Travis Beacham: It went through a simplification process. That’s just the trajectory of any movie of this size. You’re developing it, you know, there’s concerns from execs, that “is this too much to deal with”. Originally we went into the Drift and stuff like that in a lot more detail and we’re saving that now for later movies, we have an animated series coming out, we have graphic novels, but it was decided, you know, for this movie, for it to stand on its own, to work on its own, we had to focus on the plot lines that really told the kernel of the story that we really thought was important. And so that stuff was jettisoned for this draft. That’s not to say that this stuff won’t show up in later bits of the mythology.

Witney Seibold: Will you bring the character back?

Travis Beacham: I’m not gonna say! I’m not gonna say! If you’ve read the first draft, there’s things you might recognize later on.

Witney Seibold: I feel like the monsters in this one get a little bit short shrift. You watch the old Godzilla movies and they’re really overly explained and that’s kind of one of my favorite parts. Did you write more of the monster personalities in the draft or just sort of in a bible?

Travis Beacham: The first draft had a very lengthy… at the beginning where there’s a montage there was actually a very lengthy kaiju voiceover… I’m just kidding!

The Kaiju

Question: I noticed that there was really sort of a plot thread in the movie about Kaiju Blue that doesn’t really get fleshed out a lot. Did you intend to do more with that, or intend to do more with it in the future?

Travis Beacham: We do intend to do more with that in the future. The whole idea there being that Kaiju Blue, you know, where the Kaijus bleed, it’s really poisonous. I can’t remember how much detail they go into that in the movie, but it’s in the mythology and the [movie] bible. The idea being that even if you were to beat one of these things, they’re dangerous in death. So you can’t even blow it up without, like, without killing a bunch of people. So on every level the Kaiju were designed to be sort of the perfect weapons that you throw at a civilization and there’s nothing they can do about it. EXCEPT BUILD GIANT ROBOTS!

Question: What is your favorite Jaeger and your favorite Kaiju?

Travis Beacham: My favorite Jaeger would probably… it’s the boring answer, it’s the generic answer, but probably Gipsy Danger? Because it’s the first one that I named, the first one that I thought of… and I look at her and some many things like the little nose art of the scantily clad lady riding the bomb on the chest and the fact that she’s blue… I just remember so much of that description from the first draft and it’s rewarding to write something and to just see it on screen like that. Especially for feature writers where your drafts go through so many changes that by the time it gets to the screen it bears very little resemblance to what your wrote.

Guillermo del Toro

Witney Seibold: You’re only credited as co-screenwriter on this movie. It was sort of your idea, but Guillermo del Toro took a lot of it and added a lot of his own stuff. What did he add?

Travis Beacham: He adds a whole sensibility that I think he brings to everything that he does. And I think there’s a sense of fun that wasn’t necessarily there in my first draft? My first drafts tend to come out very long and dour and serious. It was pretty long. It was pushing like 150 [pages], I think… yeah. See, I had a lot of fights, but they were short fights. And Guillermo, I think quite wisely, said “No, let’s only focus on a few fights”. That moment where Gipsy Danger takes the oil tanker and smacks the Kaiju with it, that’s the perfect example of what Guillermo brought to the table.

Writing The Movie

Witney Seibold: Were you inspired by any movies specifically, because I see a lot of “Robot Jox” in this movie. There’s a lot of Godzilla in this movie.. I know this is just sort of an homage to all of that but were you thinking of any one film in particular?

Travis Beacham: Never any one in particular, I was just sort of moving back and forth between them, just depending on what the scenes were. I think, when I was watching Godzilla movies as a kid, I was always frustrated with that thirty minute chunk before Godzilla shows up, just people in suits, like, talking to each other.

Witney Seibold: All Godzilla movies are like 90 minutes long. First 30 minutes, no monster, next thirty minutes, monster shows up, next thirty minutes monster fight. That’s every Godzilla movie.

Travis Beacham: And I knew if we had a giant monster thing and it wasn’t tied to any brand that couldn’t be a boring part. The people had to be interesting, you know, they had to be just as interesting as the monsters. So that’s really what we tried to do.

Question: Were there any giant fighting robot anime that were an inspiration or just giant fighting robots in general?

Travis Beacham: It was both. I really like Evangelion, was always like a touchstone, I think, and it was so serious. When I was a kid I remember, like, Voltron, you know, that was sort of like my first, you know, “Oh yeah!”. When you see these latter-day anime takes on it, they’re more tailored for adults. I think that really opened my eyes to… I really liked Big-O on cartoon network! Art Deco giant robot, yeah! Fantastic! I could go on and on and on, but it was like a general sort of love of it all, I think.

Witney Seibold: Is the upcoming animated series anime designed or is it American?

Travis Beacham: It’s somewhere in between. It’s sort of like the American-slash-anime style, you know. But the stuff I’ve seen looks really great. But it focuses on characters and tells a part of the story that I think is going to be surprising to people.

Question: I wanted to know if it was a conscious decision and if it was a fight that Raleigh and Mako don’t kiss?

Travis Beacham: It was a conscious decision and it wasn’t a fight, really, though. Because we kept going back and forth on the development of the screenplay. Like, “Should they kiss? Should they not kiss?” and there were times when it took place over a longer time. There were drafts where the movie took place over the course of weeks, or months even, and they had time to develop a relationship, but as we developed the story and it got more and more compressed, there just wasn’t… there was no believable amount of time to pass for them to develop that sort of relationship. And so we thought, instead of force it and have this obligatory sort of romance, to have it naturally develop and then it ends wherever it ends. I think that’s the non-patronizing way of doing it. I’m not, in general I’m not opposed to romances between lead characters, what I’m really opposed to is when you have the female character who seems to only be there to reward the man at the end with a kiss.

Witney Seibold: With this one, the reward is “Monster” and “Punch”

Question: I have to say that “Tonight we’re cancelling the Apocalypse” is probably one of the best motivational speeches since, I don’t know, Bill Pullman in Independence Day… Was that you?

Travis Beacham: Thank you! Thank you! Yes, yes that was my line. It was around the time, I can’t remember, it was like 2012 or something… I just got sick of people always talking about the Apocalypse, talking like the end of the world was near, that kind of thing. And through all these arguments and discussions I was having with these people, this line just poured out of me, just like, it was like, “We’re fucking CANCELLING the Apocalypse! You know what? Our footprints are on the fucking moon, you know? We’re not just going to sit down and die! We’re canceling the Apocalypse!” Yeah, I wrote that line.

Witney Seibold: Were there other zingers that you were proud of that didn’t make it into the final one?

Travis Beacham: I think all the zingers, all the really good ones, the whole thing about fighting a hurricane, that was one of my favorites, cancelling the Apocalypse… no, I think all of my favorite-favorite lines are basically in there. I wish I could say there was some golden speech or something that you’ll never see, that was lost like all volumes in the fires of Alexandria, but no, it’s all up there, so…

Thanks for the memories

Audience Member: I just wanted to say, thank you for the thought you put into it. So often, these action films, they’re so thoughtless, so I really appreciate not only, visually, it’s such a visual orgasm, but the thought that goes into the story line. So thank you!

Travis Beacham: Thank you, thank you! No, that means a lot to hear! Thank you so much!

Witney Seibold: I would love to see the phrase “A visual orgasm” on the poster!

Travis Beacham: Yeah, that’s the pull quote!

And with that, Travis and Witney got off the stage and the movie began! And it was indeed a visual orgasm… Until next time, folks!

About the author

Erik Hentell: I started out in theater before moving to graphic design. I eventually moved into web design while trying to expand my knowledge on software development. I currently work for a media company helping with their digital assets such as source code archives and ebooks.