Haruo Nakajima, the first actor to play the role of Godzilla on the big screen, died Monday at age 88. The actor’s daughter, Sonoe Nakajima, confirmed the news and revealed her father died of pneumonia.
Whether you knew his name or not, you would certainly recognize his most iconic role. Beginning with Ishirō Honda’s 1954 original “Godzilla,” Haruo Nakajima played the lizard monster in 12 films. He was only 25 years old when he first put on the costume, which reportedly weighed over 200 pounds. His last appearance as Godzilla was in 1972’s “Godzilla vs. Gigan.”
Nakajima was born in Yamagata, Japan in 1929. He began acting at 23 when he landed a part in Hiroshi Inagaki’s “Sword for Hire” in 1952. The same year he donned the Godzilla costume for the first time, he also appeared in a small role in Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai.” Nakajima went on to be a contract actor for the Japanese movie studio Toho, where he played other monsters such as King Kong. He retired from acting in 1973, just a year after saying goodbye to Godzilla.