Despite the widely held belief that every movie monster is either played by Doug Jones in makeup or Andy Serkis in a ping-pong-ball-covered bodysuit, there are actually a number of actors that have graced the silver screen in elaborate costumes and achieved a sort of anonymous fame thanks to their iconic roles. One such actor is Haruo Nakajima, the man who first wreaked havoc on a miniature Tokyo dressed as the monstrous, ocean-dwelling lizard Godzilla.
Recently, the mini-documentary makers at Great Big Story sat down with Nakajima and got to the bottom of how he got into that suit. The 88-year-old actor’s career began soon after World War II, when he became a stunt man for samurai films such as Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. But it wasn’t until he performed stunts for the WWII film Eagle Of The Pacific that Nakajima caught the eye of future Godzilla director Ishiro Honda. Apparently, Honda saw Nakajima’s stunt skills as he leapt from a burning plane and thought, “I would like to make this man a lizard.”
The rest, as they say, is history, as 1954’s Godzilla was a huge hit and Nakajima in his monster costume made of ready-mixed concrete (rubber and plastics were hard to come by in post-war Japan) went on to star in 12 consecutive films. Luckily, he was able to bow out gracefully from the franchise in 1972, long before running the risk of co-starring with Matthew Broderick. “When the film was a success, I was so surprised. I was so happy,” said Nakajima, who, despite never showing his face in the film, has firmly cemented his place in the history of cinema.