When Godzilla first stomped into Japan in 1954, not even the actor who brought the colossal kaiju to life was sure how the creature's reception would play out. The man inside the suit, Haruo Nakajima, recalls that when he went to see Godzilla for the first time in theaters he sat in the very front row so he could watch the audience's reaction.
Much to Nakajima's excitement, Godzilla not only became a success, but spawned one of Japan's most influential cinematic achievements. Though the legacy of his creature lives on, actor Haruo Nakajima has passed away on Aug 7, 2017 at the age of 88.
Haruo Nakajima began pursuing an acting career after WWII when he moved to Tokyo to work for Toho Pictures. After several roles in samurai and WWII films, Haruo Nakajima would make an impression on director Ishirō Honda, earning him a spot in Honda's upcoming, untitled monster movie.
Without much direction or instruction, Nakajima sought inspiration for his monster at the zoo, where he observed the movements of large animals like gorillas and elephants — fitting, as the name "Gojira" is a combination of the Japanese words for gorilla (gorira) and whale (kujira). Nakajima used his research to plan out how #Godzilla would crush his way through Tokyo once the actor stepped inside the monster suit.
However, this was no easy task, as the suit itself proved to be hulkish. Because materials like rubber were rare in post-war Japan, the effects team used ready-mix concrete poured over a metal skeleton covered in layers of latex to achieve Godzilla's scaly appearance. The suit tipped the scales at nearly 220 pounds, and Nakajima could only spend minutes inside before he almost passed out from the heat.
Nevertheless, he persisted, and Haruo Nakajima would don the suit as Godzilla in 12 consecutive films, beginning with 1954's Godzilla until his final appearance in the 1972 movie Godzilla vs. Gigan.
RIP Mr. Haruo Nakajima, your legacy lives on in the hearts of all Godzilla fans.
Which of Godzilla's early appearances do you remember most fondly?