Haruo Nakajima

The Man in the Suit

Written by Barney Buckley

Email Address- bbuckley@triad.rr.com

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Mr. Haruo Nakajima was born on January 1, 1929 and he is a Japanese actor/suit actor best known for portraying the suit actor for the Godzilla films from 1954 to 1972. He was in fact Godzilla for 12 movies straight. Haruo Nakajima was born in Sekita City a very small town located in the Yamagata Prefecture in Japan and he is considered by many fans and actors to be one of the best actors of Japan’s time. There are others actors that have portrayed Godzilla through the years. However this particular article is about Haruo Nakajima.

Mr. Nakajima had decided in 1972 after the completion of the movie Godzilla versus Gigan to retire from the suit acting business. It was during the 1970s when the company that he worked for (The Toho Motion Picture Company) decided to split the company into several subsidiaries Haruo Nakajima was in fact still an employee of the company for several years after that. He was in fact transfer to a job located at the bowling alley within the company which is located on the studio lot, but now has since been shut down.

While on retirements Haruo Nakajima in the late 1990s made several personal appearances in Chicago during what is called G-Fest and this convention has been going on since 1995. Is also made appearances in New York City, New Jersey as well as Hollywood in 2000. These are various Japanese monster themed conventions. In California Burbank to be exact on April 8 in 2011 he did attend what is called Monsterpalooza.

Haruo Nakajima in his life as also had an actual book based on his autobiography and it is simply called (Monster Life: Haruo Nakajima, The Original Godzilla Actor) and this is published by Yosensha and it was released on July 17, 2010.

As we all know he has been an actor since 1952 starring in such films as Sword for Hire, The Woman Who Touched the Legs (1952), Eagle of the Pacific (1953), Farewell Rabaul (1954), and Godzilla films from 1954 to 1972. As well as other movies in general. Below is a list all the movies that he has been in.

  • 1952 – Sword For Hire
  • 1952 – The Woman Who Touched the Legs
  • 1953 – Eagle of the Pacific
  • 1954 – Farewell Rabaul
  • 1954 – Seven Samurai
  • 1954 – Godzilla (Godzilla, Newspaper Writer)
  • 1954 – Tomei Ningen (Invisible Man)
  • 1955 – Meoto zenzai
  • 1955 – Godzilla Raids Again (Godzilla)
  • 1956 – Madame Whitesnake
  • 1956 – Rodan (Rodan, Meganulon, JSDF Officer)
  • 1957 – The Mysterians (Mogera, JDSF Officer)
  • 1958 – Varan the Unbelievable (Varan)
  • 1958 – The H-Man (The H-Man, Fishing Boat Crew)
  • 1958 – The Hidden Fortress
  • 1959 – Boss of the Underworld
  • 1959 – Submarine I-57 Will Not Surrender
  • 1959 – Desperado Outpost
  • 1959 – The Last Gunfight
  • 1960 – Secret of the Telegian
  • 1960 – Storm Over the Pacific
  • 1960 – Westward Desperado
  • 1960 – The Human Vapor
  • 1961 – Yojimbo
  • 1961 – Daredevil in the Castle
  • 1961 – Mothra (Mothra)
  • 1961 – The Last War
  • 1961 – The Story of Osaka Castle[2]
  • 1962 – King Kong vs. Godzilla (Godzilla)
  • 1962 – Chushingura: Hana no Maki, Yuki no Maki
  • 1963 – Wings Over the Pacific
  • 1963 – Sengoku Yaro
  • 1963 – Matango (Matango)
  • 1963 – Atragon
  • 1964 – Mothra vs. Godzilla (Godzilla)
  • 1964 – Dogora, the Space Monster
  • 1964 – Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (Godzilla)
  • 1965 – Retreat from Kiska
  • 1965 – Frankenstein vs. Baragon (Baragon)
  • 1965 – Invasion of the Astro-Monster (Godzilla)
  • 1966 – The War of the Gargantuas (Gaira)
  • 1966 – What’s Up, Tiger Lily[citation needed] (footage from Kokusai himitsu keisatsu: Kagi no kagi 1965)
  • 1966 – Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster (Godzilla)
  • 1967 – Son of Godzilla (Godzilla; water scenes only)
  • 1967 – King Kong Escapes (King Kong)
  • 1968 – Destroy All Monsters (Godzilla, Military Adviser)
  • 1969 – Latitude Zero (Gryphon, Manbat, Giant Rat, Lion)
  • 1969 – All Monsters Attack (Godzilla)
  • 1970 – Space Amoeba (Gezora, Ganime)
  • 1971 – Godzilla vs. Hedorah (Godzilla)
  • 1972 – Godzilla vs. Gigan (Godzilla, Comic Book Publisher, Defense Forces Officer)
  • 1973 – Japan Sinks (Prime Minister’s Chauffeur)
  • TV
  • 1966 – Ultra Q (Gomess, Pagos)
  • 1966, 1967 – Ultraman (Neronga, Gabora, Jirass, Kiyla)
  • 1967, 1968 – Ultra Seven (U-Tom)

I will say that no one deserves more credit for Godzilla enduring international popularity than this man. It is said that Haruo Nakajima was Toho’s main guy for the Godzilla suits. He has also gone and wore suits like Rodan, Varan the Unbievable, and yes believe it or not he was also Baragon from the movie Frankenstein Conquers the World came in 1965. Haruo Nakajima also was the actual robot Moguera in the 1957 movie The Mysterians. As you can see the man has done some quite popular suit acting through the years.

With the new movie Kong Skull Island coming out in a couple of days I will mention that he did wear the suit for King Kong in the movie King Kong Escapes which came out in 1967 and he also wore the suit for the green gargantuan Gaira. If that wasn’t enough he has gone on to do start choreography for the company Tsuburaya Productions which was owned by Eiji Tsuburaya was a special effects director for The Toho Motion Picture Company. He did an episode of Ultra Q and because he does the Godzilla suits so well he did the actual suit with the very first episode which had a Godzilla like creature called Gomess.

Haruo Nakajima when he was a child began working at a very early age actually fetching seaweed of the ocean right after school. Now here is a crazy thing when he was 14 years old he actually joined the Japanese Imperial Navy during World War II as a pilot trainee. As soon as the war was over he would go on to be a truck driver at an occupational forces camp before finally enrolling at the International Film Acting School located in Tokyo Japan, and he would do this in 1949. There he would be an instructor was an actual contract player for the Toho Motion Picture Company.

During his stint in the company Mr. Nakajima was in fact assigned as a stunt actor he would go on to do minor pictures and he would have the opportunity to work with major directors Akira Kurosawa who by the way incidentally Ishiro Honda was also an assistant director under this director. You also have the opportunity to work under the direction of Hiroshi Inagaki.

How he got started with the whole Godzilla suit acting and he does mention that he does not remember exactly how or why he was picked to play Godzilla. What he does remember one day in 1954 when he was approached by the head of the actors division at the Toho Motion Picture Company, told him about an unusual new project at the studio that he might be “suited” for.

He does in fact remember when he was first assigned to play Godzilla and this is what he had to say “at first I was told there was this new science-fiction film – it was called “Project G” and it was dorm preproduction, since they have not yet revealed the monster’s name yet. I was introduced to Mr. Eiji Tsuburaya who was in charge of the special effects department.

He goes on to say he does have an incredible memory of when he first put on Godzilla suit for the very first time. He says it was the very first suit ever constructed of Godzilla and it was located on Stage 3 of the studio lot itself. I and the other suit actor and a lot of people don’t know there were actually two suit actors for the film “Godzilla King of the Monsters” which came out in 1954 also had a suit actor by the name of Katsumi Tezuka who in fact tried on the suit right in front of Mr. Ishiro Honda, Mr.Tsuburaya, and the producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, as well as other members of the staff.

However they come to realize that the suit in fact was much too heavy and way too stiff. Mr. Haruo Nakajima also put on the suit and the best he could do was walk 10 m, but for Mr. Tezuka he can only walk mere 3 m in the suit. Then he suddenly fell down and the first thought that came to Haruo Nakajima’s mind was “This Is Going to Be Impossible.”

As time progressed Haruo Nakajima skills as a monster man did in fact grow through the years. It was so good at it during most of the films that Eiji Tsuburaya gave him the freehand to actually choreograph the actual monster battles himself.

Haruo Nakajima has mentioned that he has some admirers not only Godzilla fans but Hollywood types as well. Haruo Nakajima says that during the filming of King Kong versus Godzilla which came out in 1962 it was in fact approached by an American producer (this could possibly be John Beck) and invited him back to Hollywood to work for a four-year but ultimately our Nakajima declined the offer. This is something I did not know as well.

Haruo Nakajima did mention to the special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya about the offer that was made to him and he mentions to him that he could not possibly make any Godzilla homes without him. This was a very nice gesture as he is well connected to Mr. Tsuburaya.

Now we come to some questions that was asked all Haruo Nakajima and the first question that obviously was asked to him which of his monster roles was in fact his favorite and he responded with “both the original Godzilla and War of the Gargantuas which came out in 1966. When he played Gaira he said it was a very different monster compared to Godzilla and any of the other creatures that he suited up for. This particular Kaiju is a Fleet-footed humanoid and he also said because of the costume the face in itself was much more expressive however he did succeed in giving the creature a thorough demonic, quality look that was very chilling in nature.

It would be every Godzilla fan or Kaiju friends dream to actually put on the suit and tear down those miniatures. Haruo Nakajima is also mention that where the suits does have its problems. They are very thick very little air circulation and the heat from the studio lights very down on them especially in the thick rubber scan you eventually can lose a tremendous amount of weight in these costumes just like he did in 1954. He managed to lose 20 pounds during the production of Godzilla 1954.

Also were in the suits can be quite risky Haruo Nakajima does mention that he does not like to complain about the intense discomfort and injuries that are created while wearing the suits. Does mention that he was hurt one time while filming the movie Varan the Unbelievable he has mentioned that he was inside the suits and a truck that was loaded with explosives did in fact crashed into him and that my friends was his “important spot” was in fact burn from the explosives.

When Eiji Tsuburaya passed away in 1970 Haruo Nakajima lost the will to continue doing Godzilla films. He was in fact persuaded by Teisho Arikawa and Teruyoshi Nakano to keep moving on and he would eventually wear the suit for Gezora the giant squid like Kaiju from the movie “Yog: Monster from Space” this movie came out in 1970. He would also go on to store into more movies that were based on Godzilla and then he would finally retire from the business.

There is also another reason why Haruo Nakajima left the business and pretty much retired and was in fact because of the Japanese movie industry was in fact in terrible condition. The Toho Motion Picture Company had a total of 350 actors under the contract and because of the massive budgetary problems in order to save money here and there and this would be happening around 1972 they in fact released all 350 actors all at once.

Haruo Nakajima what on as he was offered a job to work in the bowling alley he was around 43 years of age when he did this and it wasn’t because of his age. He was physically fit. It was just one of those things that the Toho Motion Picture Company offered him at the time. He does mention that ever since he retired other Godzilla suit actors have fill in his place bought the actual character has never been the same and he knows it.

During the Heisei Series these of the films ever made after Godzilla 1985 even though Godzilla 1985 is part of the Heisei Series it was made during the Showa Series. A new suit actor would step in and do all other Godzilla suit acting from 1984 to 1995 and his name is Kenpachiro Satsuma.

There is an interesting side note that Haruo Nakajima also has a very small parts in some pretty dramatic segments of several monster movies. Was in fact a military officer at the strategy center in the movie “Destroy All Monsters” which came out in 1968? He was also the Prime Minister chauffeur in the movie “Tidal Wave” this is a non-Godzilla movie. It is also rumored that in the movie Godzilla King of Monsters Haruo Nakajima was the power plant worker throws the switch that ineffectively electrocute the monster, but this is incorrect.

Now to end the story of all stories in recent years Haruo Nakajima has helped to further the cause of the Godzilla fandom abroad. In 1996, 1997, and 1998 along with fellow monster suit actor Kenipachiro Satsuma travel to the United States of America to attend Godzilla conventions in Chicago and in New York. As I mentioned earlier. With all that he has done for this fandom he has retained in enthusiasm and a certain amount of pride for the fandom and the monster itself as many friends fall in love with him because of this very aspect.

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