He may be the biggest star in Hollywood. Literally.
This week, Godzilla, everyone’s favorite city-stomping, radioactive monster smashes his way back into theaters, breathing atomic breath back into a classic movie franchise, and most likely leaving a pile of demolished box-office records in his wake.
The new movie, which stars Bryan Cranston (of Breaking Bad fame), Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Elizabeth Olson, arrives on the 60th anniversary of Big Green’s first calamitous stroll through the streets of downtown Tokyo. Since then, he’s become one of the great cult heroes of all time. For those of you who may not have grown up breathlessly waiting for Saturday afternoon creature feature TV reruns, here is some background information on the King of the Monsters:
1. Godzilla made his big-screen debut in Gojira, the 1954 epic produced by Toho studios. The most expensive Japanese movie ever produced upon its release, the film was inspired by a real-life nuclear accident in which a Japanese fishing boat was accidentally exposed to radiation and contaminated by an American nuclear test.
2. Originally the monster was to have been a hybrid of a gorilla and a whale. The name “Godzilla” (the English pronunciation of “Gojira”) is a combination of the Japanese words “gorira” (gorilla) and “kujira” (whale). After Gojira producer Tomoyuki Tanaka saw the American film The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, he was inspired to base his monster on a dinosaur instead.
3. As the look for the original Godzilla developed, designers tried everything from a watery hide to covering the monster in alligator-like scales. Eventually, they decided to cover him in keloid scars, which mirrored the terrible disfigurements borne by the survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings. This fit into the storyline of the creature being created by the use of nuclear weapons.
4. While modern filmmakers can rely on computer animation to bring Godzilla to life, Toho studios did it the old-fashioned way: they constructed a latex suit in which an actor stomped on a scale model of Tokyo. Nothing like this had ever been attempted before, however, and the original suit weighed over 200 pounds and was so hot that the actor inside of it passed out. A second suit that was lighter and more flexible had to be constructed for the production.
5. Godzilla’s trademark roar, one of the most distinct sounds in cinema history, was created by rubbing a coarse, resin-covered leather glove over the strings of a contrabass.
6. The film was a smash hit in Japan, receiving a nomination for a Japanese Academy Award for Best Picture (it was beaten by Seven Samurai). For its U.S. release, the story of an American journalist witnessing Godzilla’s rampage through Tokyo was concocted and inserted into the original Japanese film. That part of the story starred American actor Raymond Burr, and was shot over the course of six days in Hollywood.
7. The original film inspired more than two dozen Toho-produced sequels, including Godzilla Raids Again (1955), King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), Son of Godzilla (1967), Destroy All Monsters (1968), and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974).
8. George Takei, Star Trek’s Mr. Sulu, got one of his first jobs in show business when he dubbed in English dialogue for the American release of Godzilla Raids Again.
10. Gareth Edwards, the director of the new film, wanted to maintain a visual connection to the classic Godzilla while making the new film. “The way I tried to view it was: imagine Godzilla was a real creature, and someone from Toho saw him in the 1950s and ran back to the studio to make a movie about the creature, and was trying their best to remember it and draw it. In our film, you get to see him for real. It was important that this felt like a Toho Godzilla.”
11. In 2004, on the 50th anniversary of the release of his first film, Godzilla was awarded with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, allowing him to join the likes of Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Kermit the Frog, Lassie, and the Simpsons. Sadly, Godzilla’s old co-star, King Kong, has yet to be so honored.
For more on why we love to fear Godzilla, see “What horrors lurk behind Godzilla and other great movie monsters?“
Source: The Internet Movie Database