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R.I.P. Haruo Nakajima, the original man in the Godzilla suit

Nakajima greets at fan at the 2016 Monsterpalooza convention. (Photo: Albert L. Ortega / Getty Images)
Nakajima greets at fan at the 2016 Monsterpalooza convention. (Photo: Albert L. Ortega / Getty Images)

Haruo Nakajima, the Japanese actor who originated the role of Godzilla by stomping around in a hot, heavy suit long before the introduction of CGI, has died. Horror site Bloody-Disgusting reports the news, as does the UK-based International Business Times. He was 88.

Born in 1929, Nakajima was a stuntman and contract player at Toho Studios who performed in bit parts in Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954) and Ishiro Honda’s Eagle Of The Pacific (1953) before stepping into the title character’s gigantic shoes for Godzilla in 1954. In a video interview for Great Big Story earlier this year, Nakajima says he based the character’s movement on gorillas and elephants he observed at the zoo on his lunch breaks, and explains that, as rubber was scarce in postwar Japan, the original Godzilla suit was actually made of mixed concrete and weighed more than 100 kg.

Nakajima tries on the suit one last time for a photo shoot in 1983.

Nakajima would go on to play Godzilla in 12 films, including Godzilla Raids Again, King Kong Vs. Godzilla, Mothra Vs. Godzilla, Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster, Invasion Of The Astro-Monster, Godzilla Vs. The Sea Monster, Son Of Godzilla, Destroy All Monsters, All Monsters Attack, Godzilla Vs. Hedorah, and Godzilla Vs. Gigan. He also played various kaiju in Frankenstein Vs. Baragon, The War Of The Gargantuas, King Kong Escapes, and Mothra, where he played Mothra’s head. He retired from suit acting in 1972, but continued to make appearances at fan conventions until his death. “In the end, the Godzilla I played remains on film forever,” he told Great Big Story. “It remains in people’s memory, and for that I feel really grateful.”

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