Japanese actor, Haruo Nakajima, passed away on Monday, August 7 at the age of 88, the victim of pneumonia, and while you may not know his name, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the character he played.
Though the actor’s face is most recognizable for his career in samurai films (The Hidden Fortress, Seven Samurai), his name was best known as the king of monsters himself: Godzilla. Nakajima had the grueling task of portraying the title character through twelve feature films including King Kong vs. Godzilla and All Monsters Attack.
The actor has recounted the filming process on numerous occasions, stating that he had to repeatedly risk his life for the role. The suit reportedly weighed a staggering 220lbs, the least of Nakajima’s concerns as it also drastically limited his breathing and did little to insulate him from the freezing pool of water used to represent the Pacific Ocean. Despite the difficulties involved in the job, however, Nakajima never failed to exude enthusiasm and thanks for his time as the classic movie monster.
More than sixty years after the release of the original film, the franchise still lives on, thanks largely to Nakajima’s contributions to the iconic character. Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures have recently revitalized the property with 2014’s Godzilla and this year’s Kong: Skull Island, with plans for a crossover film, Godzilla vs. Kong, currently slated for 2020.