|Shodaigoji (First Godzilla)
Films used in: GODZILLA (1954)
Suit Actors: Haruo Nakajima, Katsumi Tezuka
|While GODZILLA (1954) was still in its pre-production stage, Tomoyuki Tanaka made the decision to portray Godzilla in a suit, instead of the very expensive and time-consuming stop-motion technique.
Godzilla had many concept designs, one being a giant octopus, suggested by Eiji Tsuburaya. Tomoyuki Tanaka quickly turned it down. Another design had Godzilla with four legs, instead of two. In the end, suit sculptor Sadami Toshimitsu created three clay models, which would become Godzilla. The first model was a Tyrannosaurus-rex like creature, with stegosaurus plates running down its back, and scaly skin. The second model had Godzilla with a smaller head and warty skin. The model which would become Godzilla’s final design, the third one, was Godzilla with alligator-like skin.
Ryosaku Takayama and Iwao Mori designed the costume, combining features of a dinosaur and a Chinese dragon. Craftsmen Kanzi Yagi and Sadami Toshimitsu created two suits out of latex. Godzilla had four toes, little ears behind his eyes, beady eyes, and fangs in front of his mouth. Inside the suit was an inner lining of cloth, stuffed with Bamboo for durability, and urethane foam for bulk. The Godzilla suit was then painted brown, although the Godzilla suits for other movies would be painted charcoal gray. The first Godzilla suit was too stiff, so a second one was made. The second one weighed an intense 220 lbs. (100 kg) Haruo Nakajima and Katsumi Tezuka both stuntmen, portrayed Godzilla. Katsumi Tezuka was used as more as a back up actor. Haruo Nakajima did most of the work.
Eiji Tsuburaya filmed Godzilla at a higher frame rate than normal speed, 24 frames per-second, so Godzilla would look more realistic. Because of the higher frame rater, the already hot studio lights had to be lit even more brightly. This made Haruo Nakajima’s job even harder. Nakajima’s head was in the neck of the Godzilla suit, seeing through very tiny holes. He was also expected to breath through those holes. With little ventilation, Nakajima could not stand for more than a few minutes inside the suit. Nakajima fainted several times throughout filming. To lower the level of pain, Toho built a “half suit”, which just had Godzilla’s legs, and were worn by suspenders. This suit was used for close ups on Godzilla crushing buildings, cars, or other things with his feet.
|To the left: A photo of Haruo Nakajima in the "half suit". On the right: Special effects mastermind Eiji Tsuburaya along with another special effects worker preps Haruo Nakajima for the famous power lines scene.|
|When filming was over, Haruo Nakajima had lost twenty pounds from working inside the heavy suit.
After GODZILLA (1954) was finished, the Shodaigoji suit was placed in the Toho warehouse and was never used again. Today, not a piece of the suit remains.
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