Original Godzilla Actor Dies at 88
Godzilla, a fire-breathing, screeching monster remembered as a stomping-machine on buildings and bridges became Japan’s star cultural export and a symbol of destruction. However, this frightening monster that can cause nightmares started as a rubber suit worn by someone who is greatly loved and remembered, and his name is Haruo Nakajima.
Nakajima, the 88-year-old actor who played Godzilla in the original 1954 classic, has died of pneumonia on Monday, his daughter Sonoe Nakajima told The Associated Press on Tuesday. The actor’s funeral will be held for family and close friends.
Godzilla became a hit, inspired Hollywood spinoffs, and triggered memories with postwar Japan—the only country in the world to suffer an atomic bombing, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki to be specific—during the World War II.
Godzilla was made from scratch by the actor himself. Nakajima said he was able to develop the character by going to zoos to study how elephants and bears moved. He added that it is important to show the pathos of the character or its capacity to only destroy everything in its way. Moreover, the actor described the theme as grand and complex.
“If Godzilla can’t walk properly, it’s nothing but a freak show,” Nakajima said in a 2014 interview with the Associated Press at his suburban Tokyo apartment while sitting in front of sepia-toned photos of him as a young man and Godzilla figures.
“It’s not some cowboy movie,” he said.
He shared that the rubber suit he wore during filming was hot, especially when he catches glaring lights of the movie set, and that his sweat if wrung would fill half a bucket. The 1954 Godzilla movie was directed by Ishiro Honda, while the score was made by Akira Ifukube. In this movie, Godzilla, a result of mutation because of the nuclear testing in the area, is seen to come out of the water.
Before he was tapped to take the role of Godzilla, Nakajima was a stunt actor in samurai films. According to the Associated Press, fans prefer Nakajima’s Godzilla than the Hollywood depictions.
“I am the original, the real thing,” he said in 2014. “My Godzilla was the best.”