A four-foot-tall boy became an 800-foot-tall lizard in a Chicago production studio recently, battling monsters and wreaking havoc on a miniature cityscape.
Five-year-old Maddex, aka “Madzilla”, stomped in costume through a meticulously designed set that volunteers had built as part of a Make-A-Wish Foundation project. Cameras rolled as he roared and took directorial cues in front of a green screen. Local celebrities, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel and ex-Bears football coach Mike Ditka, also participated.
Maddex – his parents asked that his last name be left out of this story for privacy reasons – was diagnosed with leukaemia a year ago, and since then, has been on a treatment regimen of chemotherapy, spinal taps, a half-dozen daily medications and other discomforts, his parents said.
Godzilla, whom the boy took a liking to after watching the 1950s Japanese original at 18 months old, has been an unlikely source of comfort for him since the April 2013 diagnosis. When he was asked to make a wish, his parents weren’t surprised by the answer. “I want to be Godzilla,” he replied, said his mother, Tareen.
As his wish started to take shape as a five-minute film, the boy made a set of demands. He wanted to star in his own movie, destroy buildings, take a bite out of a vehicle, breathe fire, scare people, come out of the water and fight Godzilla nemeses Baragon and MeccaGodZilla, said Jonathan Becker, the film’s creative director.
With help from miniGorilla productions producer Mo Wagdy and an outpouring of support from the Chicago film community, Maddex’s wish became a reality. Shooting started in the boy’s home. His parents feared that the intensive process of shooting a film might exhaust the sick boy, but Maddex remained full of energy at the end of the long day, they said.
“It was definitely the happiest we’ve ever seen him,” said his father, Tony.
The days that followed included four helicopter flights, shots on a boat, location shooting downtown that shut down a stretch of LaSalle Street, and lots of cameos. Appearances included Ditka as mayor of Chicago, Emanuel as a taxi driver, and TV news reporter Maureen Maher as a news reporter, Becker said.