@@@Most Sincere Director Messages ‚Ö
I entered Toho in April of 1953.  I was a new comer to the 6th batch of new actors then, along with Yu Fujiki, Momoko Kochi and Masumi Okada, all of whom are no longer with us, and Kenji Sahara, who to this day continues to take on cool roles as an actor.

Three months into the 1-year training period, I got a part in my first film, gKakute jiyuu no kane wa naruh, through an interview.  This was a biopic film about Yukichi Fukuzawa, and I played the part of Sotaro Masuda, who was a junior warrior of Nakatsuhan in Oita prefecture.  Right after this film, I then appeared in gMizugi no hanayomeh (1954 dir. Toshio Sugie), and in the spring of 1954 was when I had my fateful encounter with the film gGodzillah, in which I received the starring role.

There was a subheading to this movie:  gfeature-length fantastic science filmh.  This meant what we now refer to as gscience fictionh.  Written in bold black letters on a red cover was the title gGodzillah.  This marks my first encounter with Director Ishiro Honda, a kind-hearted, quiet film director and teacher, with whom I had working relations with for the next several decades.

On the very first day of shooting, I entered the studio and greeted aloud;  gHello, I am Akira Takarada, here to play the lead role.  Nice to work with you allh.  To what I thought was a polite greeting, one of the staff yelled gYoufre not the star, the star is Godzilla!!h.  My knees were just about to give out as I was saved by the laughter of the surrounding staff.  Before we went into the actual shooting, I would meet with director Honda numerous times.  I was fortunate to work with co-stars like Momoko Kochi, who entered Toho at the same time I did, and Akihiko Hirata, a prodigy of the film research center who was two years my senior.  With these two by my side, mentally I felt fairly comfortable.

So on Day 1, right before we went to test shoot the first cut, the director approached me saying gTakarada-kun, donft be too nervous and just move freely.  If there is anything you donft understand, just ask meh.  I cannot forget these words to this day.  This film was one which Toho took a risk in making.  They even gambled by using a young new actor like myself, who had just turned 20 years old.  Because I knew this, the pressure I felt was that much greater.  I was fortunate enough to continue appearing in films since then, but I had never received such kind and affectionate words from a director.  This human kindness he possessed actually tells all about director Honda.

Now, we were all aware of details pertaining to Godzilla, but what was most crucial is the line of eyesight of us actors, whether it was towards Godzillafs actions or his enormous size, especially because of all of the special effects involved.  Our line of sight needed to match.  So naturally, we would ask questions.  Director Honda would think with us and say gI think this should be (XYZ)h.  Even towards our acting, he would sincerely comment by saying things like gyes, I think that was goodh.

However, there were instances where the director himself even could not answer certain questions.  At times like these, the entire group would gather and refer to the storyboard sent by the special effects director Tsuburaya, and continue shooting.
Shooting under the blazing sun, on board of a patrol ship in Ise-Shima, I was dressed in a diving suit with heavy diving gear, growing weak from heat exhaustion.  Even then, Mr. Honda noticed me and said gAre you okay?  Hang in there, wefre almost doneh.

At the lodge near the location site, producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, director Honda, the famous actor Takashi Shimura, Kochi-kun (Momoko), Hirata-kun (Akihiko) and I would dine together wearing our yukatas (informal summer kimono).  In this harmonious and happy atmosphere, our conversations naturally gravitated towards the current events and backgrounds, especially about the damage caused by atom and hydrogen bomb testing and the tragic reality of the Daigo Fukuryu Maru incident.  The conversations further went into how Japan being the first country to have an atomic bomb dropped on its lands, we should especially vocalize a warning to the world through film, try to precede the fast-progressing field of science.  Certainly, all science of human civilization started with dreams, the hopes and romance of human kind, but I am not impressed with scientific weapons designed to injure and kill.  However, all other sciences are continuing to progress in pursuit of making human dreams into reality. The fact that a fictional weapon designed to melt and sink Godzilla into the depth of the sea such as the gOxygen Destroyerh was created is not altogether that ridiculous.

After some trial and error, the long filming finally finished.  Everyone involved in making the film, the staff and cast were all able to see the finished film in a small screening room within the Toho studio.  This screening was called gshogoh, which means the first issue.  We were all just dumbfounded by the brilliant unity of the drama and SFX segments as well as the intensity of Godzilla.

Godzilla is soon turned into bones by a scientific weapon and sinks to the bottom of the ocean.  Akira Ifukubefs solemn music makes this scene very emotional and even divine.  I could not hold back the tears flowing out of me.  The screening finished and the lights turned on, but I was not able to stand up for a while.  Mr. Honda came up to me and kindly said, gTakarada-kun, I saw you were crying.  You really did a great jobh.

The film premiered at all Toho movie theaters on November 3, 1954 with much anticipation and anxiety.  The theaters were so packed, the audience spilled out to the hallways.  They kept the theater doors open and people were tip-toeing to get a glimpse of the screen.  The result was a total attendance of 9,610,000 people, an unprecedented huge hit.
This means that approximately 10% of the entire population of Japan back then saw the film.  Kochi, Hirata and myself spent morning and night appearing at premieres around the nation.  Toho won itfs huge gamble.

The following year in 1955, Toho produced the 2nd film of the series titled gGodzilla Raids Againh by director Motoyoshi Oda, with box office numbers reaching 8,340,000.  I filmed gHalf Humanh with director Honda in August of this same year.

In 1957, I was able to work with director Honda on gA Rainbow Plays in My Hearth Part 1 and Part 2.  For Mr. Honda, this was a straightforward drama film, which he wanted to make for a long time, and here he demonstrated his skills to the fullest.

In 1962, director Honda worked on the 3rd Godzilla film titled gKing Kong vs Godzillah, with which he established a strong foundation for himself.  The box office numbers were up at 12,560,000, which is the first and probably the last record of its kind.  Two years later in 1964, I worked with director Honda again on gMothra vs Godzillah, which was my 2nd Godzilla film, 10 years after my first Godzilla film appearance.  The attendance of this film totaled 7,220,000.  Then came gInvasion of Astro-Monsterh (1965), which became my last (Godzilla) project with director Honda.  After this, I appeared in the 1992 remake of the ever-nostalgic work, gGodzilla vs Mothrah, and in the very last Godzilla film gGodzilla – FINAL WARSh with Kenji Sahara and Kumi Mizuno.  Over the course of half a century, 28 films were made for the world to see, 8 out of the first 15 of which were directed by Mr. Honda.

It required 20 years of time.  The 8 Godzilla films made by director Honda pulled in a box office total of 39,000,000, which calculates to an average of 5,000,000 per film.  I think you can well understand the magnitude of these numbers.

Now, it is not an exaggeration to say that gGodzillah was the gdoki no sakura (honorable cherry blossom)h  (reference to an old military song, comparing a character to ethe cherry blossoms of the same yearf which bloom and fall magnificently, implying the state of being content to fall and die for their country with honor and beauty, just like the flower).  Consistently bringing in record-breaking numbers, his popularity reached to the other side of the earth, unrivaled.  Director Honda saw Godzilla at times as an enemy to human kind, a destroyer.  At other times, Godzilla was portrayed as one of the victims of a reckless arms race of mankind.  In the very last episode, the director makes Godzilla show his back to the audience as he disappears into the ocean.  Ahead of him is either a road to a quiet place under the sea where he used to sleep in peace, or a road leading him to his now-deceased creators who made him into the greatest hero of the 20th century:  producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, writer Shinichi Sekizawa, SFX director Eiji Tsuburaya, composer Akira Ifukube, and the person who understood him the most, director Ishiro Honda, where he engrosses himself in nostalgia.  I sincerely pray for our predecessorse souls.
Akira Takarada