'Godzilla: King of the Monsters': Ghidorah’s Backstory Was Almost Different

“People seemed to love the idea of Ghidorah having off-world origins,” director Michael Dougherty tells Inverse.

Godzilla meets his match in King of the Monsters, but the movie’s main villain, King Ghidorah, almost had a very different backstory. Director Michael Dougherty tells Inverse that the evil three-headed dragon we meet in Godzilla: King of the Monsters went through some major changes during development before reaching the version we get in the new movie.

Warning: Light spoilers for Godzilla: King of the Monsters below.

Ghidorah vs. Godzilla in 'King of the Monsters'

Warner Bros.

In Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Ghidorah is an extraterrestrial three-headed dragon. It arrived on Earth in ancient times before being frozen solid only to wake up in the present, but that wasn’t always in the script. Dougherty says that, originally, the movie left Ghidorah’s origins more vague as a reference to the beast’s complex lore, which shifted over the decades as new movies tweaked and altered his backstory. (In some movies he’s an alien, in other’s he’s man-made.)

“Initially we also left that more open to interpretation,” Dougherty said. “In the original version of that scene as written and shot, Dr. Chen [Ziyi Zhang] says, ‘Some stories say he came from the stars, other stories say he was created by man.’ The point being that either way he’s not part of the natural order. So initially we were saying it could be column A or B.”

But in the final version of the movie, Zhang’s character is much more emphatic, revealing in a pivotal scene that Ghidorah arrived from outer space long ago to challenge Godzilla’s dominance. According to Dougherty, the decision to solidify the three-headed dragon’s backstory was all about keeping things simple and giving most fans the version of Ghidorah they already know and love.

“It made more sense to simplify it and commit to one path,” he said. “That seemed to be the origin most fans embrace and love: You know, the idea that there are giant creatures outside our own world that could pose an even greater threat. People seemed to love the idea of Ghidorah having off-world origins.”

Ghidorah makes his 1964 debut


Toho, the studio behind Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan and countless other kaiju, first introduced Ghidorah in 1964’s Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster. In the movie, he’s an alien creature that crash-lands in an egg before hatching and trying to destroy the planet. It takes an Avengers-style team-up of Godzilla, Mothra, and Rodan to defeat the extraterrestrial kaiju, but it wouldn’t be the last time we saw him.

One year later, Ghidorah returned to earth in Invasion of Astro-Monster. This time he was controlled by a group of aliens and referred to as “Monster Zero” (a term that resurfaces in 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters.) Ghidorah reappears two more times as an alien-controlled kaiju in 1968 and 1972.

Then, in 1991’s Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, Toho reimagined Ghidorah once again as a monster created men. In the movie, time-travelers from the future attempt to stop Godzilla from ever existing. Instead, they create Ghidorah, but Godzilla also comes into existence and the two kaiju do exactly what you’d expect (they fight). In the following years, the three-headed dragon appeared a few more times, but we can mostly ignore those in the context of King of the Monsters. (Click here for a comprehensive history of King Ghidora.)

Ghidorah in 'King of the Monsters'

Warner Bros.

While Godzilla: King of the Monsters considered combining Ghidorah’s various backstories to create something more mysterious, Dougherty and his team ultimately settled on a more familiar version of the classic kaiju. Ultimately, though, Ghidorah’s backstory may not matter at all.

As long as it’s a giant golden three-headed dragon capable of beating up Godzilla, does anyone really care where it comes from? Even King of the Monsters star Ken Watanabe agrees that the best part of Ghidorah is the mystery. Well, that and the dragon heads.

“I love King Ghidorah,” Watanabe tells Inverse when asked to pick a favorite kaiju. “It’s a really strong villain, and the three different minds it has are so mysterious.”

**Godzilla: King of the Monsters hits theaters on Friday,