Orig­i­nal Godzilla ac­tor dies at 88


Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - associated press news.obits@latimes.com

Haruo Naka­jima played the fire-breath­ing, screech­ing mon­ster in the 1954 Ja­panese movie clas­sic.

He stomped over minia­ture bridges and build­ings in a rub­ber suit and gave the world Godzilla, the fire-breath­ing, screech­ing mon­ster that be­came Ja­pan’s star cul­tural ex­port and an en­dur­ing sym­bol of the pathos and de­struc­tion of the Atomic Age.

Haruo Naka­jima, who por­trayed Godzilla in the orig­i­nal 1954 clas­sic, died Mon­day of pneu­mo­nia, his daugh­ter So­noe Naka­jima told the Associated Press on Tues­day. He was 88.

“Godzilla,” which went on to be­come a mega-se­ries and in­spired Hol­ly­wood spinoffs, struck a chord with post­war Ja­pan, the only na­tion to suf­fer atomic bomb­ing, in Hiroshima and Na­gasaki, by the U.S. in the clos­ing days of World War II.

Vi­va­cious and en­er­getic, Naka­jima said he in­vented the char­ac­ter from scratch and de­vel­oped it by go­ing to a zoo to study how ele­phants and bears moved. He said it was im­por­tant to show the pathos of the crea­ture, which could only smash ev­ery­thing in its way.

The theme of his Godzilla was grand and com­plex, he said, ad­dress­ing uni­ver­sal hu­man prob­lems, as it spoke to a Ja­pan that still re­mem­bered wartime suf­fer­ing.

“If Godzilla can’t walk prop­erly, it’s noth­ing but a freak show,” Naka­jima said in a 2014 in­ter­view with the Associated Press at his sub­ing ur­ban Tokyo apart­ment, proudly sit­ting among pho­tos of him as a young man and Godzilla fig­ures.

“It’s not some cow­boy movie,” he said.

He re­called that the rub­ber suit he wore was so hot that the sweat he wrung from his shirt would fill half a bucket.

In the orig­i­nal movie, directed by Ishiro Honda with an un­for­get­table score by Akira Ifukube, Godzilla sur­faces from the Pa­cific Ocean sud­denly, a mu­ta­tion re­sult- from nu­clear test­ing in the area.

Naka­jima was a stunt ac­tor in samu­rai films when he was ap­proached to take the role of Godzilla. Some fans pre­fer Naka­jima’s ver­sion over some Hol­ly­wood de­pic­tions, which they say re­sem­ble an evil-look­ing an­i­mal.

Although re­cent “Godzilla” films use com­puter graph­ics, the lat­est Ja­panese “Godzilla” re­make, re­leased last year, used a hu­man ac­tor, Man­sai No­mura, a spe­cial­ist in the tra­di­tional theater of Kyo­gen. His move­ments were du­pli­cated on­screen through mo­tion cap­ture tech­nol­ogy.

Un­til re­cently, Naka­jima was a star guest at fes­ti­vals and events. He had been sched­uled to be fea­tured at the Tokyo In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val in Oc­to­ber.

“I am the orig­i­nal, the real thing,” he said in 2014. “My Godzilla was the best.”

A fu­neral is to be held for fam­ily and close friends.

Toho Co. Ltd

‘MY GODZILLA WAS THE BEST’ Haruo Naka­jima, shown in 1966, was the first ac­tor to don the Godzilla suit for the 1954 film. Later movies used com­puter graph­ics to gen­er­ate the mon­ster.

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