The careers advisor could barely stifle a giggle as the schoolboy revealed his dream job.
“Yes,” she replied earnestly. “But if you can’t be a film director – what’s plan B?”
Shrugging his shoulders, the 15 year old looked her firmly in the eye and said: “There isn’t one. I’ll just die trying.”
Today, 23 years later, Gareth Edwards is having the last laugh as he completes one of the most meteoric rises in modern movie history – taking him to the pinnacle of Hollywood’s elite.
His £95m blockbuster Godzilla is No 1 at the box-office and set to be one of the biggest smashes of 2014. Incredibly, it’s only the second film he’s ever made.
“What’s my life become?” he laughs. “Every day something insane happens.
“A few years ago I was making a film in my bedroom and now I’m being invited to hang out with [Lord of the Rings director and producer] Sir Peter Jackson. I still can’t quite believe it.”
The ultimate local-boy-does-good story began in early ’80s in the Nuneaton living room of Gareth’s parents, Allan, from Pontypool, who runs a computer systems company, and maths teacher Yvonne, from Usk.
“Every Saturday night my dad would go to the local video shop and rent two titles, one for me, and one for the grown-ups.
“I would always have some sort of fantasy flick but would stick around to see the more adult film. When I was about six, my dad came home with An American Werewolf In London, which absolutely scared the s*** out of me – I didn’t sleep in my own bed for the next three years.
“But it fired my imagination and got me fascinated about what was out there in the darkness – which you can see in Godzilla. I guess that’s really where it all began.”
Like many of his generation Gareth, 38, was also a huge fan of 1977 epic Star Wars – an obsession that almost drove his parents and older sister Lisa to distraction.
“Once we were driving to see family in in South Wales, and I tried to recite the entire script from beginning to end. I think I actually managed it.”
As a youngster, Gareth’s ambition was to be the film’s hero, Luke Skywalker. But as he hit his teens, he decided being in charge was better.
Now, in the culmination of those childhood ambitions, he has been announced as the director of the first of a series of Star Wars spin-offs.
He says: “People told me I was really lucky to know exactly what I wanted to do but I always felt the opposite.
“It was like a curse, because the chances of me succeeding were so slim that I could easily have ended up wasting my whole life. Thankfully my parents were always very supportive, although I can’t say the same for my school careers advisor.”
After school, Gareth took a course in audio-visual arts at North Warwicks and Hinckley College and then a BA in film and video at UCA Farnham in West Surrey.
Later he moved to London and landed a BBC job on visual effects.
He recalls: “The idea was I would stay for six months and then make a film. It actually took me 10 years to get the nerve to quit.
“It came to the point where I thought, ‘If I don’t do it now, I never will’.”
Gareth decided to write a film about huge, extra-terrestrial creatures bringing civilisation to the verge of collapse. He shot Monsters in just three weeks on a budget of just £297,000 – much of it created in his flat in Pimlico, West London.
He smiles: “I suppose you could call it a home movie. But it was incredibly hard to get done. When I started out, I had enough savings to buy a small house.
“But by the time the film was released, I’d had to borrow £10,000 from my mum just to feed myself.”
Gareth, who is single with no children, says his flat was so small that his computer was positioned right next to his bed – meaning many of Monsters’ 250 special effects were created while sitting on his duvet.
He admits: “I had five months to finish the film and would have to resort to lots of cheats and sleights of hand to make it look right.”
Much of the film, shot in Guatemala, Costa Rica and Mexico, was made with a crew of just four and all the actors improvised their dialogue.
Gareth admits: “We grabbed people in off the street and asked if they wanted to be in it. It was crazy.” Despite its humble origins, Monsters became a huge word-of-mouth hit on its release in 2010 and was even nominated for a Bafta.
It also attracted attention in Hollywood. Gareth says: “I went to LA and met about 100 people in two weeks, then nothing happened for three or four months and I thought that was that.
“Then I got a call from my agent. He made sure I was sitting down, then asked me if I’d be interested in directing Godzilla.”
It was both a thrilling and terrifying prospect. Aside from presiding over that huge budget, the shoot was scheduled to last almost three months and meant he’d be working with stars such as Aaron Taylor-Johnson, David Strathairn, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliet Binoche and Bryan Cranston, from TV’s Breaking Bad.
Gareth says: “My heart said ‘Yes’ but my nerves were saying ‘No’. I really felt overwhelmed, but then I thought about how I’d worked all my life to get to this point and that I couldn’t turn it down.
“Making the film turned out to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done, mainly because of the pressure I put myself under. Panic would come and go all the time and I controlled that by telling myself, ‘If this is the only thing I ever do in my life, I’ve got to go out in a blaze of glory’.”
The shoot began in March last year, followed by post-production, when more than 1,000 special effects were added.
The result, released on the 60th anniversary of the original, sees the 355ft reptile attempt to save humanity from two colossal, radiation-chomping monsters.
It has already taken £55m during its opening weekend in the US and £6.4m in its first week in the UK.
For parents Allan and Yvonne, Gareth’s career seemed an abstract concept – until they were flown to Los Angeles for Godzilla’s world premiere this month.
He says: “I don’t think it hit them how big the film was until they were walking up the red carpet. I know they were really proud, but then they would have been if you’d put a test card on the screen.”
Seeing their reaction was the highlight of his career, – although he admits being invited to New Zealand to see Sir Peter Jackson make The Hobbit comes a pretty close second.
It’s only now, more than two years after he took the phone call that changed his life, that he has starting to think about his next move – and how to spend his newfound wealth.
He says: “I decided to hold a party for the cast and crew which was a costly mistake since I insisted on a free bar. But I haven’t really had
time to think about going on a spending spree. I’ve been so busy I haven’t had a chance to go to a shop in two years.”
But presumably his mum will be expecting him to repay the loan she made him all those years ago?
“Actually, I paid it back the day we started shooting Godzilla,” he laughs.
“And I made sure to give her interest.”
Godzilla (Cert 12A) is out now