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How Adam Wingard Became the Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire Director

How Adam Wingard Became the Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire Director


  • Adam Wingard’s journey from low-budget horror to big-budget blockbusters shows his endless creativity and skill in film-making.
  • From $2,000 horror films to directing
    Godzilla vs. Kong
    with a nearly $200 million budget, Wingard’s rise in Hollywood is truly remarkable.
  • Collaborating with writer Simon Barrett, Wingard paved his way to success, proving that talent and dedication can lead to greatness.

In the tradition of Peter Jackson, Sam Raimi, and Robert Rodriguez, Adam Wingard ascended from the depths of low-budget film-making to achieve blockbuster success in Hollywood with the films Godzilla vs. Kong and Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, both of which prove that he is just as adept at working with mammoth budgets as he was with pocket change. The director has traveled much farther, figuratively and literally, on his journey to success than seemingly many other filmmakers over the past 20 years. His film-making odyssey began in the small town of Marion, Alabama, in 2002, when 19-year-old Wingard embarked on his feature directorial debut, the horror film Home Sick, with sparse equipment and virtually no money.

By the time Home Sick was completed and set for release in 2007, Wingard had already completed his sophomore feature directorial outing, the 2007 micro-budget horror film Pop Skull, which was released to critical acclaim in 2007 and established the filmmaker as a talent to watch.

The steady upward progression of Wingard’s directorial career over the next decade culminated in 2017, when he was announced as the director of the epic monster film Godzilla vs. Kong, which grossed approximately $470 million at the worldwide box office against a production cost of somewhere around $200 million. The success of Godzilla vs. Kong led to Wingard directing the sequel, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, which is poised to become one of the highest-grossing films of 2024. Moreover, far from being daunted by the transition to big-budget film-making, the director’s Godzilla films prove that Wingard is exactly where he belongs.

Adam Wingard Started at the Very Bottom Before Blockbuster Hits

Read Our Review

The success that Adam Wingard had with the blockbuster films Godzilla vs. Kong and Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire highlights how far his career has progressed since his extremely humble origins in Wingard’s native Alabama, where his second feature directorial outing, Pop Skull, was made for just $2,000. Despite its ridiculously low cost, Pop Skull established Wingard as a filmmaker with a uniquely twisted vision who could generate maximum value from limited resources.

Indeed, it’s hard to imagine that many other living filmmakers could take $2,000 and make a film as impressive as Pop Skull, which tells the genuinely disturbing story of a notorious serial killer who, upon escaping police custody, embarks on a quest to find his former girlfriend. With his debut feature, Home Sick, and Pop Skull, Wingard slowly developed a cult following, especially within the film festival circuit, where Pop Skull received several awards, while the filmmaker’s dark directorial style was compared to that of Darren Aronofsky and David Lynch.


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Adam Wingard’s Career Is Made of Stepping Stones Before Godzilla

Adam Wingard’s third feature directorial outing, the 2010 horror film A Horrible Way to Die, marked a transition point in his career in terms of enabling the filmmaker to progress to directing more expensive independent films. While A Horrible Way to Die had a budget of just $75,000, this represented a sizable amount for the director relative to the budgets of his previous films. Moreover, A Horrible Way to Die marked the beginning of an enduring creative partnership between Wingard and Simon Barrett, who wrote the script for A Horrible Way to Die and later worked with the director on the films Blair Witch, The Guest, You’re Next, and Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, for which Barrett co-wrote the screenplay and developed the film’s story with the filmmaker.

Barrett and Wingard collectively attracted the attention of mainstream Hollywood with the 2011 slasher film You’re Next, which carried a production cost of approximately $1 million. After debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival, You’re Next, which became his first film to receive a major theatrical release, was acquired for distribution by Lionsgate for $2 million. Released theatrically in 2013, You’re Next grossed nearly $27 million at the worldwide box office. Barrett and Wingard’s next feature collaboration, the intense 2014 thriller The Guest, marked the beginning of an ambitious plan to progress to more expensive, bigger-budgeted films. While The Guest, which cost approximately $5 million, only received a limited theatrical release, it brought the filmmaker the best mainstream critical reviews of his career.

The next phase of this plan involved the 2016 found footage supernatural horror film Blair Witch, a direct sequel to the groundbreaking 1999 horror film The Blair Witch Project. While Blair Witch, which carried a production cost of approximately $5 million, received mixed reviews, the film grossed over $45 million at the worldwide box office. Before Blair Witch was released, the director completed filming for his next film, the $40 million supernatural crime thriller film Death Note, which marked Wingard’s first foray into big-budget film-making.

Adam Wingard Was Ready to Direct Godzilla

While no one could have predicted that Adam Wingard would make such a successful transition to big-budget film-making with Godzilla vs. Kong and Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, it’s obvious that the sheer ingenuity from his early career has been effectively transferred to the Godzilla franchise, which he has long admired. Compared to the mammoth $200 million budget for Godzilla vs. Kong, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire carries a relatively modest production cost of approximately $135 million. However, despite the reduced budget, Wingard has infused Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire with at least as much monster-mashing spectacle as its predecessor. Indeed, despite his now lofty status, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire shows that Wingard still knows how to stretch his dollars. Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is in theaters now.

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