Haruo Nakajima, an actor who gained fame for suiting up as Godzilla from the monster’s earliest days on screen, has died at age 88. Long before the age of CGI and motion-capture, he helped pioneer the look and feel of blockbuster moviemaking.
After appearing in war and samurai films, including Eagle of the Pacific and Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, Nakajima was chosen to get inside the monster suit for 1954’s Godzilla, which added the subtitle King of the Monsters for its later U.S. release. Because rubber was in short supply after the war, materials like concrete were used to make the original suit, pushing its weight to 100 kilograms.
After the success of the original, which was directed by Ishiro Honda, Nakajima went on to play Godzilla a dozen times. His final outing was Godzilla vs. Gigan in 1972.
As a stuntman and contract player for Toho Studios, Nakajima starred in several other kaiju (monster) movies. He played Mothra in 1961 and King Kong in King Kong Escapes, also appearing in War of the Gargantuas and Frankenstein Conquers the World.
In his retirement, Nakajima continued attending monster conventions and fan gatherings. He also wrote an autobiography, Monster Life, which was published in Japanese in 2010.