Fans of monster movies, and cinema in general, have to say goodbye to an absolute legend today. Haruo Nakajima, the actor who portrayed Godzilla in the suit in the original 1954 classic, has passed away at the age of 88. The exact cause of the actor's death has not yet been revealed.
As reported by Bloody Disgusting, Haruo Nakajima died at the age of 88 but leaves behind an absolutely tremendous and unforgettable legacy. Long before CGI could create just about anything one can dream up on screen, monsters were portrayed by actors in elaborate suits and the humans inside those suits had to bring them to life. Haruo Nakajima was tasked with bringing Godzilla to life for the first time in 1954 and thus created the most famous movie monster of all time. Even though he spent all of his time on screen in a costume, it is a performance that will never be forgotten. Actors like Andy Serkis, who have helped to pioneer motion capture for the modern age, owe a lot to Nakajima and the work he did more than 50 years ago.
There is perhaps no single person who had a greater effect on the Godzilla franchise than Haruo Nakajima. The late actor portrayed the legendary kaiju in 12 consecutive movies, starting with the 1954 original that was directed by Ishiro Honda. Nakajima then went on to play the role in 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.
In addition to his unforgettable work in the Godzilla franchise, Haruo Nakajima also played monsters in movies like Mothra, Frankenstein vs. Baragon, The War of the Gargantuas and King Kong Escapes. He did have an acting career outside of his work in giant rubber monster costumes, but Nakajima will always be best remembered for bringing these monsters, specifically Godzilla, to life. Though Haruo Nakajima retired from acting in a suit back in 1972, he regularly was recognized by the film community for his achievements and interacted with fans around the world, embracing his role. He appeared at events like the 2011 Monsterpalooza convention in Burbank, California in order to meet fans who celebrated his work.
Gareth Edwards' 2014 Godzilla and the recent Toho entry Shin Godzilla were financially and critically very successful, but made use of CGI in order to create the monster. Even so, they surely took their cues from the work of Haruo Nakajima, whose work across two decades defined the character was we still know him today. Director Michael Dougherty, who is currently filming Godzilla 2, has said that there will be some practical creature effects in the movie. Hopefully, they will be able to honor the legacy left behind by Nakajima with that. RIP Haruo Nakajima, who is survived by his daughter, Sonoe Nakajima. You can check out some tweets of those remembering the legendary actor for yourself below.