November 3rd is Godzilla Day! And today marks Godzilla’s 67th birthday! To celebrate we took a look back into how the atomic lizard came to be. Here are some facts you may or may not have known about Godzilla (1954).
5. Godzilla’s origin came from a real nuclear bomb test
After WWII, the United States continued to do nuclear weapons test on the Bikini Atoll. On March 1, 1954 they dropped a thermonuclear weapon called Castle Bravo. The bomb had 1000 times the power of the first two atomic bombs dropped in Japan. The size of the explosion was much larger than expected and the radioactivity spread further than anticipated. About 20,000 Japanese fishermen near the danger zone and local fish suffered radiation poisoning. A month after Castle Bravo, Toho producer Tomoyuki Tanaka returned from Indonesia back to Japan and needed to come up with a new film after a previously failed film. He got a spark of inspiration after reading about a b movie called The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. He took some ideas from the film and ended up getting Gojira (Godzilla) green-lit at Toho.
4. Working on set was brutal
Filmmaking doesn’t always go as planned and Godzilla was no exception. The film was shot on the coast of Mie Prefecture and it took nearly two hours to reach the set everyday. They had to travel to set by boat and a lot of the actors and actresses suffered motion sickness. It also was extremely humid with temperatures hovering above 100 degrees with no shade. It got so bad that many of the cast and crew would pass out on set. Principal photography on the film wrapped at a whopping 122 days.
3. The actor who played Godzilla was a champ
There were originally two actors who took on the role of the radioactive lizard. Actor Haruo Nakajima took the brunt of the work in the suit. He studied animal movements in order to get into character. But wearing the suit didn’t come without any issues. The suit was so heavy he ended up only being able to wear it for a less than 10 minutes. It also caused him to get many burns and sores and he became so sweaty they needed to pour out his sweat between takes.
2. They didn’t have a soundtrack
Test screenings shown to the big wigs at Toho lacked a crucial element, the soundtrack! With no sound the film didn’t pack a punch and made it look ridiculous. Eventually the film found it’s composer, Akira Ifukubue, who put his own reputation on the by taking on the film. Working on a monster film could have ended his career. It ended up working in his favor and the film’s score has since become iconic.
1. The final film had multiple different cuts
The film opened to a large amount of success in Japan and across the globe. Unfortunately the international viewers never truly got to see the original cut of the film. The German theatrical release cut nearly 20 minutes of footage that included the character Dr. Kyohei Yamane as well as a re-edited version for all of Europe. The U.S. version had a major recut and was retitled Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Much of the film shifted the focus of the Japanese sentiment towards nuclear war, for a more “Americanized” version that included newly shot footage of American actors.