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Haruo Nakajima – who many Godzilla fans may very well know as the original suit actor in the classic monster movie franchise – has passed away at the age of 88. Born January 1, 1929 in Yamagata, Japan, Nakajima established himself over the course of his career in the Japanese filmmaking industry as perhaps the best suit actor to ever work for the Toho film studio.
Beginning with the original Godzilla film directed by Ishirō Honda from 1954, Nakajima went on to portray most of the kaiju monsters in the eponymous franchise. Serving as the principal suit actor under the direction of Toho’s visual effects director, Eiji Tsuburaya, for some 24 years – while playing Godzilla in 12 movies straight – Nakajima retired from suit acting after completing work on Godzilla vs. Gigan from 1972.
Considered an invaluable member of the Toho company for his work on the classic Godzilla films made throughout the 1950s and early 1970s, Nakajima left the iconic feature franchise and lead role after cycling out of his contract with Toho as a performer. Though he retained employment with the company for some years thereafter, he spent the remainder of his professional career working at a bowling alley located on the studio lot.
In the late 1990s, Nakajima began making a series of appearances in celebration of his groundbreaking work as the principal suit actor in the classic Godzilla movies, with events that saw him become the main attraction of various Japanese monster-themed conventions in the United States. Of particular note, he appeared at the 2011 Monsterpalooza convention in Burbank, California.
By no means a minor footnote in the legacy of the
Godzilla feature franchise, Nakajima’s passing will be keenly felt by anyone with a passing interest in the films that made him into one of the premiere suit actors at Toho for some twenty-plus years. And by the grace of his own Japanese-language autobiography from 2010 – namely Monster Life: Haruo Nakajima, the Original Godzilla Actor – his personage will be remembered well beyond his immediate resume.
On that note, may Haruo Nakajima , the classic Godzilla suit actor of 24 years, rest in peace following his death at the age of 88.