Japanese actor Haruo Nakajima, who suited up as the original Godzilla in the 1954 classic, has died.
Born in 1929 in Yamagata, Japan, Nakajima made his live-action debut in Hiroshi Inagaki’s 1952 samurai flick Sword for Hire. The film was co-written by the legendary director Akira Kurosawa, who later gave the actor minor roles in his classics Throne of Blood, Seven Samurai and Yojimbo. However, Nakajima was best known for playing the King of all Monsters in Ishiro Honda’s Godzilla, and eleven of its sequels.
Godzilla wasn’t the only game in town for the actor, who portrayed a number of different kaiju throughout his 18 year career wearing a rubber suit. He also had starring turns as the monster in Honda’s 1961 film Mothra and the 1965 release King Kong Escapes.
Toho special effects supervisor Eiji Tsuyubara considered Nakajima a treasure, and an integral element of the company’s successful string of monster movies. Having started an independent special effects studio in 1963, Tsuyubara called upon Nakajima when he made the move to television. The actor portrayed various monsters, including Gomess, the very first kaiju to appear in the 1966 Ultra Q series, which mutated into Ultraman, a franchise that has spawned dozens of television and film sequels.
In his last collaboration with Ishiro Honda -- 1969’s American/Japanese coproduction Latitude Zero -- Nakajima portrayed four different kaiju. He retired from suit acting in 1972 when he was cycled out of Toho’s studio actor system. But he continued to work for the company, as an employee at a bowling alley on the studio’s lot.
He suited up one last time in Jun Fukuda’s Godzilla vs. Gigan. Unbeknownst to many fans, Nakajima made several human cameos in the series of films, including as a newspaper writer in the original Godzilla, a military advisor in Destroy All Monsters, and a comic book publisher in his final kaiju film.
(via Bloody Disgusting)