Thursday, June 30, 2011

40 Years of "Godzilla vs. Hedorah": The Men Who Played Godzilla and Hedorah

by Armand Vaquer

Above, Kenpachiro Satsuma (Hedorah) and Haruo Nakajima (Godzilla) take a break during the filming of "Godzilla vs. Hedorah." This still was signed by both actors. From the personal collection of Armand Vaquer.

As posted previously, July marks 40 years since the release of Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971) in Japan.

I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the two men who gave it their all in their portrayals of Godzilla and his foe, Hedorah.

Above, Kenpachiro Satsuma (left) and Haruo Nakajima share a laugh in Hollywood 29 years after making "Godzilla vs. Hedorah." Photo by Armand Vaquer.

I had the good fortune to first meet Kenpachiro Satsuma (Hedorah) and Haruo Nakajima (Godzilla) at G-FEST 2000 in Hollywood. Since then, I have gotten to know Mr. Nakajima well and attended a dinner party in the Nakano section of Tokyo with Mr. Satsuma in 2001, following the premiere of Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack at the Tokyo International Film Festival. Both men are some of the nicest people I've ever met in show business.

Satsuma played Hedorah and other monsters before he took over the Godzilla role in 1984 in Return of Godzilla (a.k.a. Godzilla 1985). His stint as Godzilla ended with Godzilla vs. Destoroyah in 1995.

Above, the Bandai Hedorah toy I bought during my 2007 Japan vacation.

Nakajima's appearance of Godzilla in Godzilla vs. Hedorah was second to the last before his retirement from the role. He began his run as Godzilla in the original 1954 feature. His last appearance as Godzilla was in the following year's Godzilla vs. Gigan. Nakajima published an autobiography of his life and career in Japan last year. He is now a spry 82-year-old.

A tip of the cap to both men and domo arigato gozaimasu!

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Burbank, CA – March 29, 2010 – Legendary Pictures announced today that they will develop and produce a new film based on Toho Company’s famed GODZILLA character. Through the terms of the agreement, Legendary Pictures has acquired the rights to produce a movie inspired by Toho’s Godzilla, a franchise the Japanese company created and has nurtured for over fifty years.

Toho’s GODZILLA franchise boasts one of the most widely recognized film creatures worldwide, resulting in a series of books, television programs, video games and more than 25 films worldwide. Legendary intends to approach the film and its characters in the most authentic manner possible. The company will, in the near future, announce a filmmaker to helm the film for an intended 2012 release. The film will fall under the company’s co-production and co-financing deal with Warner Bros. Toho will distribute the film in Japan."

"Godzilla" is coming back -- this time, with Legendary Pictures taking the lead, co-producing and co-financing with Warner Bros. for release in 2012.

Legendary announced Monday it had obtained rights to the iconic monster character from Japan's Toho Co., which has overseen more than 25 "Godzilla" films. Toho will release the pic in Japan.

Legendary said it's planning to announce a director shortly.

In addition to Legendary, producers on the new film will be Dan Lin, Roy Lee and Brian Rogers. Yoshimitsu Banno, Kenji Okuhira and Doug Davison will exec produce.

"Godzilla is one of the world's most powerful pop culture icons, and we at Legendary are thrilled to be able to create a modern epic based on this long-loved Toho franchise," said Thomas Tull, Chairman and CEO of Legendary. "Our plans are to produce the Godzilla that we, as fans, would want to see. We intend to do justice to those essential elements that have allowed this character to remain as pop-culturally relevant for as long as it has."

Legendary noted the film will fall under its co-production and co-financing deal with Warner Bros. Legendary's productions with Warners have included "The Dark Knight," "300" and "The Hangover."

Speculation about a new "Godzilla" has been active since last summer. The Bloody Disgusting web site reported in August that the project was in development.