TriStar secured rights from Toho to produce an American Godzilla film in 1992. One of the key players in this arrangement was Henry G. Saperstein, who had brought several Godzilla films to America with his United Productions of America. TriStar originally hoped to have the film released in 1994. However, it was not until May of 1993 that Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott were asked to write a screenplay. The script was completed in November, but TriStar had yet to select a director for the film.
In July of 1994, well after the originally announced release date, TriStar tapped Jan DeBont to direct the film. DeBont confessed to liking the older Godzilla films, although he stated that many of the later ones with their monster free-for-alls were a bit silly. Although he intended to keep humor in the picture, DeBont also pledged to deliver stunning effects and preserve the indomitable spirit of the Japanese Godzilla. DeBont assembled a team and had Rossio and Elliott rework the script to make it more to his liking. The revised script was ready in December of 1994.
After Industrial Light and Magic turned down working on the Godzilla project, in October of 1994 it was announced that Stan Winston's Digital Domain would be doing the effects work for Godzilla, with a reported budget of around $50 million. The entire film was estimated to cost around $120 million. DeBont sent crews to construct a Japanese fishing village on the Oregon coast, filming Godzilla's attack on the Kuril Islands as the backbone for a teaser trailer. The sets were built, but filming did not occur. Sony, TriStar's parent company, panicked when they saw the massive price tag being affixed to DeBont's Godzilla project. In late December of 1994, TriStar and Jan DeBont parted company after the director refused to accept the studio's new budget restrictions. Although the script was rewritten again, this time by Donald MacPherson in May of 1995, the project was to all intents, dead. TriStar began to court Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, the team who had just reaped huge profits with Independence Day in late 1995. By May of 1996, Devlin and Emmerich officially had the job. They agreed to bring the movie in for about half of what DeBont wanted, $65 million. In the end, the resulting iguana rampage offered no aliens, ancient civilizations, atomic heat rays, or shape-shifting Gryphons. It did offer an eventual cost of $150 million for TriStar to swallow, plus the astronomical ad campaign.