"Guillermo built the entire head [of the Jaeger], almost life-size," Kikuchi recalls. "It was like an amusement park ride: they would pour tonnes of water and [shoot] sparks on us, for hours. It was like a torture machine."
Del Toro seems only partly repentant about having put his stars through such a physical ordeal. “It’s been well publicised how brutal the machine with the pilots was,” he laughs. “We had two of those compounds, one on one stage, one on the other, and they were rigged for two types of brutalisation: one was able to drop fast, forward and back, and the other was going side to side.”
Kikuchi is matter of fact about how perilous the shooting process was. “It was not safe at all! If I lose my concentration, I can’t survive in the cockpit, so I always felt like ‘Wow, this is a real fight: I have to beat them up, I have to concentrate on this’. I became like a true pilot, you know? I have to survive, and I have to save the world!”
Lest you think the director is some sort of sadist, however, Kikuchi realises she has left one vital detail out of her production memories: “When I lost my concentration [in the pod], Guillermo would sing me the theme from Totoro in Japanese. It was a great, great moment. He is so sweet.”"
More from my Pacific Rim feature, including the best thing I have ever heard.