I’m sad to report that Haruo Nakajima, the man that was Godzilla, has passed away at age 88. Nakajima had not acted in a film since the 1970’s and you may not recognize his face from the films he’s been in, but that’s because he was often wearing a hundred pounds of rubber in most his films roles. Japan has become known for its man-in-suit kaiju cinema and Nakajima was one of the first to ever put on such a suit and trash Tokyo for our enjoyment. He played many of our favorite monsters over the years, most notably Godzilla, but also Rodan, Varan, Baragon, and one of the mushroom people in Matango. In addition to his suit acting, Nakajima was a stuntman and had bit parts in multiple films, including a few Akira Kurosawa films like Seven Samurai (he played a bandit who gets struck down by Toshiro Mifune in the woods) and The Hidden Fortress (he was one of the soldiers sworn to protect the princess).
I never met Nakajima but those who did describe a charming old man with a genuine love for the fans. He often posed in photos with his back hunched forward and his hands raised. The untrained eye might’ve seen an old sumo wrestler, but fans recognized Nakajima’s Godzilla pose when they saw it. At the Godzilla convention G-Fest last month there was word that he was sick. Those who were present signed a giant get well card and many donated money to aid his recovery. Fans might have seen this day coming, but it doesn’t make the loss any easier.
Nakajima’s passing closes an important chapter in Japanese film. My fellow kaiju fans and I offer the Nakajima family our condolences.
Writer of horror, science fiction, and dark fantasy. Lover of fiction and film. Lifelong Godzilla fan. Reluctant blogger.
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