It was a particularly sad day for fans of big movie monsters (and in general, good cinema). Haruo Nakajima, the legendary actor who portrayed Godzilla in the original classic of 1954, passed away today at the age of 88. As per the reports of Bloody Disgusting, the exact cause of death is yet not revealed to the press. He is survived by his daughter, Sonoe Nakajima.
The famed actor left behind him a legacy that is absolutely unsurpassable. In a time where you could create entire worlds from CGI, it is hard to appreciate the work of Nakajima. But the truth is, his work was more crucial than any live-action movie lit with CGI and VFX. In 1954, Nakajima brought the legendary monster Godzilla on the big screen for the first time. He remained behind the suit in all scenes, yet his work transcended boundaries.
The work of Haruo Nakajima laid down the foundation of the Godzilla franchise, establishing a benchmark that people even today try to emulate. Even the greatest motion capture artist alive today, Andy Serkis, looks up to him. Nakajima began portraying the mythical kaiju from the 1954 original, and went to bring him on silver screen 11 more times in future movies.
But Godzilla wasn’t the only monster Nakajima portrayed. He further starred in Mothra, Frankenstein vs. Baregon, The War of the Gargantuas and King Kong Escapes. There was a time when his name was synonymous to movie monsters. Nakajima also had an acting career beyond playing monsters, but it was Godzilla who immortalized him. Even after retiring from the role in 1972, he was regularly recognized by the industry and kept making appearances at conventions for his fans throughout the world, the most recent being in 2011.
The Godzilla franchise is easily one of the most bankable in the world. It was rebooted in 2014 by Gareth Edwards, and followed by Shin Godzilla. Both of these movies relied heavily on CGI to recreate the mythical monster, but Nakajima’s influence helped them to define the character. Michael Dougherty, the director of upcoming Godzilla 2, said that they were trying to implement some practical effects in the movie, instead of relying solely on CGI. It is evident that the tremendous legacy Nakajima left behind would continue to be honored by filmmakers. May he rest in peace.