How John Wayne Changed Pacific Rim

John Wayne has been one of the most notable actors in the Western genre, and apparently his characters were a huge influence on Pacific Rim.

By Douglas Helm | Published

john wayne

Pacific Rim was a surprise hit when it came out in 2013. Leave it to fantastical director Guillermo del Toro to create a world of giant robots and monsters that just drips with style while also offering us an interesting story. Guillermo del Toro certainly knows how to integrate little details in his movies that take them to another level, and perhaps the most interesting tidbit is how the famous cowboy actor John Wayne inspired the design of one of the robots.

In a previous interview with The New York Daily News, del Toro talked about his process when he collaborated with the design team to create the giant robots known as Jaegers in Pacific Rim. In particular, he talked about Gipsy Danger, the Jaeger piloted by the protagonists Raleigh and Mako in the movie. Gipsy Danger’s movements were apparently inspired by John Wayne and his swaggering gunslinger roles.

The choice makes sense because each country in the movie has its own Jaeger to take on the invading Kaijus that are destroying the planet. Gipsy Danger belongs to the United States, so John Wayne is a fitting personality to base the robot on. Additionally, it was revealed that the design of Gipsy Danger was based on NYC buildings like the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building. This design language would carry on to the other Jaegers featured in the movie, like the Russian Jaeger which was based on nuclear containment siloes and T-34 tanks. The team would also draw on interesting sources of inspiration for the Kaiju. Knifehead, for instance, was based on the rubber suit monsters of the early Godzilla movies. The Kaiju Otachi was based on the dragons of Chinese mythology. They would also base the movements of the Kaiju on real animals like the Komodo dragon.

The John Wayne detail and the other design choices made for a really engaging world that wowed audiences. Clearly, a lot of care went into creating the world of the Pacific Rim. The Jaegers felt heavy and imposing, with a lot of camera angles that captured the sheer size of these machines and the monsters they battled. The follow-up to Pacific Rim wouldn’t do as well. Pacific Rim: Uprising lost some of the momentum and care of design that went into the first movie. It also didn’t perform as well commercially. Where Pacific Rim made about $411 million worldwide, the sequel made around $290 million. While it’s hard to call that a bust, it’s not the expectation that was set with the original movie. The big problem with the sequel was the robots didn’t feel weighty and huge like they used to. The departure of Guillermo del Toro as director likely played a part in this disappointment. Due to scheduling conflicts with his fantastic Oscar-winning Shape of Water, del Toro was unable to head the sequel.

While we might not be getting any more Pacific Rim movies and seeing more of Gipsy Danger’s John Wayne swagger, you can still see more of the universe in the animated Pacific Rim: The Black. The series is premiering its second season on April 19. It’s not Guillermo del Toro’s work, but it should still be entertaining.