At 13 years of age—long before he set out to re-imagine the screenplay of Godzilla—Max Borenstein had already developed an obsession with movies. With summer vacation approaching, the Los Angeles native found the phone number for a production company owned by Oliver Stone and asked to be their intern. Unaware of his young age, they interviewed him, and Borenstein landed his first internship, with the warning that “the job is going to suck, you are just going to pour coffee and maybe Xerox things.” Eager to do anything that put him within proximity to a studio set, he couldn’t care less, but when he returned home he found a message on the answering machine saying they noticed his age and couldn’t hire him.
“The guy I had the interview with [Jonathan Krauss] was such a mensch,” Borenstein recalls, “that he said, ‘Why don’t you come back in and we can talk?’” Seeing Borenstein’s passion, he taught him how to analyze screenplays and showed him the ropes every summer until Borenstein became more independent. “He really changed my life,” Borenstein says. “I try to take it to heart and give back in similar ways to people who look for that kind of help.”
It might seem Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. took a gamble with a fairly unknown screenwriter for their $160 million production of the new Godzilla, but Borenstein explains that he has been working up to doing movies like this for a long time. His senior year at Yale, he wrote and directed Swordswallowers and Thin Men, which later won Best Feature Film in Drama and Best Screenplay at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival. “We made it truly for zero dollars,” he remembers with amusement. “And we all ate in dining halls because we were all students, but it was an incredible experience.”
Shortly after college, he began working as a professional screenwriter. “I started rewriting and writing scripts and have been doing so for the past 11 years,” he says. His work has ranged from a screenplay about Jimi Hendrix for Legendary Pictures, to the upcoming film Seventh Son starring Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore, and of course, the current Hollywood remake of the classic 1954 Japanese film about the mutant gorilla, initially created as a metaphor for nuclear weapons.
“The two greatest creative experiences in my life were completely different from one another,” he says about his first film and Godzilla. “But both are equal in terms of being fulfilling and unforgettable.” Borenstein insists he hasn’t “jumped ship” from smaller movies forever. “There is something to be said for the ability to tell things on a small scale,” he says. “And the film that I am hoping to direct next will certainly be somewhere in between.” For now, after three and a half years of work on Godzilla, he can just sit back for a second and enjoy the “emotional hangover,” the success of—and there is no better way to put it—his giant monster movie.