Man in the Suit …
Dead at 88
Working as a contract actor for the Japanese studio Toho back in the 1950s, Nakajima picked up a scattering of bit parts—a fallen warrior in Seventh Samurai, a pilot in Eagle of the Pacific—before settling into the role that made his career. Toho needed someone to get inside its giant reptilian monster suit for the title role of 1954’s Godzilla and wreak havoc on a tiny Tokyo.
Nakajima took the role, and took it seriously—studying up on how a creature like Godzilla might move at the local zoo, where he took hints from elephants and apes (in the same way animator Willis O’Brien did when he created King Kong). He was so convincing in the terrifying role that he played the monster for 12 straight years, until 1972’s Godzilla vs. Gigan. The role required Nakajima to don a 200-pound concrete suit, which, at times, could be torture.
“I stuck a thermometer inside the suit,” he told CBS News back in 2014. “One hundred and forty degrees!”