Japanese actor Haruo Nakajima, best known for being the first actor to portray the movie monster Godzilla, passed away on August 7, 2017. He was 88 years old.
Nakajima was born on January 1, 1929 in Yamagata, Japan. His acting career began at the age of 33 with Sword for Hire, before starring in The Woman Who Touched the Legs, Eagle of the Pacific, Farewell Rabaul, and Seven Samurai. In 1954, played the titular role in the very first Godzilla film. That role would launch Nakajima into a new level of critical acclaim. Between 1954 and 1972, Nakajima played the iconic character in 12 separate films. These include Godzilla Raids Again, King Kong vs. Godzilla, Mothra vs. Godzilla, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Invasion of the Astro-Monster, Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster, Son of Godzilla, Destroy All Monsters, All Monsters Attack, Godzilla vs. Hedorah, and Godzilla vs. Gigan. In addition to roles as Godzilla, Nakajima also portrayed fellow beasties Rodan, Mothra, and King Kong.
Following TV appearances on Ultra Q, Ultraman, and Ultra Seven, Nakajima’s made his final film appearance in the disaster movie, Tidal Wave in 1973. Throughout his later career, Nakajima attended countless fan conventions celebrating the various movie monsters he brought to the big screen. A biography about his life on film – Monster Life: Haruo Nakajima, the Original Godzilla Actor – was released in 2010. In the enduring history of the Godzilla franchise, Nakajima is considered by many to be the best suit actor to play the character.
Earlier this year, Nakajima was interviewed by Great Big Story about his time as Godzilla. In the interview, he recalls that rubber was scarce in postwar Japan, leading the original Godzilla suit to be made from a mixture of concrete – weighing an incredible 100kg (220 lbs). Nakajima also explains how he based the character’s movement on the gorillas and elephants he observed at the zoo on his lunch breaks.
“In the end, the Godzilla I played remains on film forever. It remains in people’s memory, and for that I feel really grateful,” Nakajima said.