Haruo Nakajima, The First Actor To Don The Rubber ‘Godzilla’ Suit, Has Died At 88

The first time I remember being put in “time out,” I had just destroyed a little girl’s made-from-blocks town while impersonating Haruo Nakajima’s performance as the title creature in Gojira. Subsequently released in the United States as Godzilla, the 1954 post-World War II film would go on to launch the Japanese cinema powerhouse Toho, a slew of sequels, and several remakes. Sadly the world has lost Nakajima, who died from pneumonia on Monday.

According to the Associated Press, Nakajima’s daughter, Sonoe Nakajima revealed the former samurai films stunt actor died due to complications from a lung infection on August 7th. Throughout his long life he remained a frequent and favorite celebrity guest at conventions and film festivals celebrating the Godzilla character all over the world. He was even scheduled to appear at the Tokyo International Film Festival in October before his health took a turn for the worse.

Nakajima, who had previously performed stunts and played minor roles in Akira Kurosawa films like The Seven Samurai and The Hidden Fortress, took the prospect of playing a giant, mutated monster seriously when Toho first approached him. “If Godzilla can’t walk properly, it’s nothing but a freak show,” he told the AP in 2014. “It’s not some cowboy movie.” After studying animal movements at a local zoo, Nakajima donned the thick rubber suit in Gojira and nine other movies through the 1970s. Wearing the suit was so hot, he joked, that it often made him sweat enough to “fill half a bucket.”

Even so, the Japanese actor never balked at the prospect of donning Godzilla’s guise. Nor did he mind the international adulation the role would bring later in his life. “I am the original, the real thing,” he boasted to the AP. “My Godzilla was the best.”

(Via Associated Press)