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Loyal to zip-up Godzilla, Japan wary of U.S. remake

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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.

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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."

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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