×

Haruo Nakajima, Man Inside Godzilla Suit, Dies at 88

The man behind the monster has died: Haruo Nakajima, who wore the Godzilla bodysuit for every “Godzilla” film from the original to 1973’s “Godzilla vs. Megalon,” has died at 88.

Japanese movie major Toho confirmed Nakajima’s death. “We offer our heartfelt prayers for the soul of Mr. Haruo Nakajima, who was the first suit actor to play Godzilla, our company’s signature character,” the company said in a statement. It confirmed that he died from pneumonia on Monday (Aug. 7).

Nakajima’s career began in samurai and war films, notably “Seven Samurai” by Akira Kurosawa and “Eagle of the Pacific.” He landed the “Godzilla” role starting with 1954’s “Godzilla, King of the Monsters,” directed by Ishiro Honda. And shared the credit on the first film with Katsumi Tezuka, a former professional baseball player.

In an April interview, Nakajima explained how the original 1954 Godzilla costume was created from ready-mixed concrete — though other reports describe it as a special plastic — since commodities like rubber were in short supply after WWII. As a result, the actor was forced to wear a suit that weighed up to 100 kilos. Nakajima added that he was given little direction on how to portray the monster, and conducted his own research by studying animals in the Tokyo zoo.

Nakajima took on the monster role in more than just “Godzilla” films, however. As the principal suit actor for Toho, he also played Mothra in 1961 and King Kong in 1967’s “King Kong Escapes,” among many other Japanese kaiju roles such as “War of the Gargantuas” and “Frankenstein Conquers the World.” In his later years, Nakajima attended Japanese monster conventions, including several across the United States, and wrote a Japanese language autobiography “Monster Life: Haruo Nakajima, the Original Godzilla Actor,” which was published in 2010.

“Godzilla” has gone on to become a monster classic. It spawned three Hollywood remakes, in addition to 29 original Toho films.

  • Mark Schilling in Tokyo also contributed to this report.

More Film

  • Apollo 11

    Film News Roundup: 'Apollo 11' Re-Release Set for Moon Landing Anniversary

    In today’s film news roundup, Neon is re-releasing “Apollo 11”; “Sesame Street” gets moved; “Supersize Me 2” is set for Sept. 13; Will Ropp gets a “Silk Road” deal; and Apple makes a movie deal. RE-LAUNCH Neon will re-release Todd Douglas Miller’s documentary “Apollo 11” in theaters on July 20, the 50th anniversary of the [...]

  • Michael B. JordanAFI Awards Luncheon, Los

    Michael B. Jordan's 'Just Mercy' Moves to Awards Season Slot

    Michael B. Jordan’s upcoming legal drama “Just Mercy” has been shifted forward three weeks from Jan. 17 to Dec. 25 for an Oscar-qualifying theatrical release. “Just Mercy” is based on the case of Walter McMillan, an African-American death-row prisoner who was exonerated in 1993 after being convicted five years earlier for a 1986 murder in [...]

  • Harry Styles to Play Prince Eric

    Harry Styles in Talks to Play Prince Eric in Disney's 'Little Mermaid'

    Harry Styles is going under the sea. The former One Direction frontman is in early negotiations to play Prince Eric in Disney’s live-action adaptation of “The Little Mermaid.” Halle Bailey will portray the Ariel, a mermaid princess who dreams of being a human, while Melissa McCarthy is playing her evil aunt Ursula. “The Little Mermaid” [...]

  • Stuber Movie

    Disney Left With a Slate of Film Flops After Fox Deal

    Is Disney having buyer’s remorse? The studio would be forgiven if it were having some regrets after absorbing 20th Century Fox, the company that once generated big box office with the likes of “Avatar,” “Life of Pi,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” After “Dark Phoenix” bombed earlier this summer, Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista’s action comedy “Stuber” [...]

  • Taika Waititi Returning to Direct 'Thor

    Taika Waititi to Direct Marvel's 'Thor 4'

    Taika Waititi is returning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The filmmaker will write and direct the sequel to his 2017 blockbuster “Thor: Ragnarok.” Waititi’s take on the fourth “Thor” movie puts Warner Bros.’ long-in-development “Akira” adaptation on hold indefinitely. However, the studio hopes that “Akira” can get resume production with Waititi at the helm once [...]

  • Akira

    'Akira' Production Put on Hold by Warner Bros.

    Warner Bros. has put its long-in-development “Akira” adaptation on hold indefinitely, sources tell Variety. Sources indicate that after a brief delay, the studio has pulled the plug on production indefinitely for the classic anime adaptation, which was set to begin later this fall. “Thor: Ragnarok” helmer Taika Waititi was on board to direct, and the [...]

  • Sir Elton John, David Furnish. Sir

    New Elton John AIDS Foundation Gala to be Held in the South of France

    Elton John and David Furnish are launching a new gala for the Elton John AIDS Foundation. The two will host the inaugural A Midsummer Party benefit on July 24 in the south of France at the Johnny Pigozzi’s private estate, Villa Dorane, in Cap d’Antibes. A cocktail reception will be followed by dinner, a live [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content