One reason for his absence was that Toho felt the days were over for the old-style special effects, invented by the legendary Eiji Tsuburaya, centering on miniature cityscape models trampled by an actor. The next Godzilla film out of Japan, if there is one, will rely on Hollywood-style computer graphics, he added.
"Godzilla is an actor we rented to Hollywood," Ichikawa said, while declining to disclose terms. "The times are changing."
Haruo Nakajima says a true Godzilla must be a figure of pathos as it destroys buildings and bridges in its path.
He should know. He was the first Godzilla.
Nakajima, 85, was a stunt actor in samurai films when he was approached to take the Godzilla role. He had to invent the character from scratch, and went to the zoo to study the way elephants and bears moved.
The suit was so hot, especially under the glaring lights on set, the sweat he wrung from the shirt off his back would fill half a bucket, he recalled.
"I am the original, the real thing," he said, stressing that later Godzilla are mere imitations. "If Godzilla can't walk properly, it's nothing but a freak show."
The theme of his Godzilla was grander and more complex, addressing universal human problems, as it spoke to a Japan that still remembered wartime suffering, he said.
"It's not some cowboy movie," Nakajima said proudly, sitting among sepia-toned photos of him as a young man and Godzilla figures in his apartment.
"Everyone asks me to play Godzilla again," he said. "My Godzilla was the best."
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