The man who wore the 100-kilogram (220-pound!) suit in the first 12 films talks about his experiences.
Haruo Nakajima, now 87 years old, is not a scary-looking man, but in the role of the eponymous monster in the Godzilla films he terrified and amazed cinema audiences for decades. Great Big Story, the same outfit who took us on a tour of the world of dekotora (decorated trucks), managed to conduct an interview with the man himself.
With dreams of becoming an actor, Nakajima joined the Toho cinema company and featured in a number of samurai films, including Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (the director whose work heavily influenced Star Wars creator George Lucas) and Eagle of the Pacific before landing his biggest role.
▼ Haruo Nakajima, sans suit
Without any direction as to how the monster should move or act, Nakajima took it upon himself to do some research. This involved watching the animals at a Tokyo zoo, observing the way in which they moved and interacted with each other in what must be one of the earliest examples of monster method-acting.
In the interview, Haruo Nakajima also explains why the suit weighed as much as 100 kilos. With valuable commodities like rubber in short supply after the Second World War, it became necessary to construct the suit out of ready-mixed concrete. Not a material I’ve ever considered using for my Halloween costume and presumably not the first one the director thought of I imagine, but still.
After six months of grueling filming, Nakajima’s first portrayal of the now world-famous atomic monster rampaging through Tokyo hit cinema screens, and was so successful that it spawned a number of sequels including the recent Shin Godzilla. Nakajima himself wore the suit a further 11 times (one can only hope that the rubber shortage was temporary), with his last film 1972’s Godzilla vs Gigan.