Nakajima was the man in the monster suit for the original 1954 film

By Nick Romano
August 08, 2017 at 09:40 AM EDT
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Godzilla (Movie - 1954)

  • Movie

A giant monster stomped onto screens in 1954 and became a part of movie history, and the man who brought it to life would go down in history as a legend.

Haruo Nakajima, the stunt actor who first played the titular beast of Toho’s original Godzilla, died Monday after a battle with pneumonia, his daughter Sonoe Nakajima told the Associated Press. He was 88.

In a video from media company Great Big Story released this past March, Nakajima recalled his legacy as the man inside the rubber suit. “Just from reading the script, I couldn’t understand what this [monster] was, so I went to the zoo to do some research,” he said. “Since it is so big, I thought I should study big animals, like elephants and gorillas.”

Nakajima remembered plowing through makeshift cities in that iconic suit, “Since materials were so rare, things like rubber were not available. Instead, they used ready-mixed concrete, so it weighed about 100 kilograms. It was so heavy and hot, and with the lighting, it was even hot just to touch it. I was sweating all over my face, but I did the best I could.”

Godzilla, a metaphor for the devastation caused by atomic warfare, became a sensation — so much so that Kim Jong-il made his own version for North Korea called Pulgasari. Multiple sequels were made of the original film and Hollywood has since offered reboots, including Roland Emmerich’s 1998 film and the animated series. The most recent, Gareth Edwards’ 2014 edition, launched a new cinematic universe with Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ Kong: Skull Island.

Nakajima went on to play Godzilla dozens of times, as well as other cinematic monsters like King Kong, Mothra, and Rodan.

“In the end, the Godzilla I played remains on film forever,” he said. “It remains in people’s memory, and for that, I feel really grateful.”

Godzilla (Movie - 1954)

  • Movie
  • 98 minutes
  • Ishiro Honda