Godzilla actor and stuntman Kenpachiro Satsuma (born Yasuaki Maeda) passed away yesterday. He was 76 years old. According to a translated post from his daughter, Satsuma died from interstitial pneumonia.
Satsuma is most notably recognized as a suit actor for Toho films, including his portrayal of Hedorah in the 1971 film Godzilla vs. Hedorah, Gigan in the 1972 film Godzilla vs. Gigan, and Godzilla throughout the Heisei film period from 1984’s Return of Godzilla to 1995’s Godzilla vs. Destroyah.
Godzilla fans took to social media to pay tribute to Kenpachiro Satsuma. “Very sad to hear that suit actor Kenpachiro Satsuma has passed away,” one fan wrote on Instagram. “This man played Gigan, Hedorah, and Godzilla himself all throughout the Heisei era. The films he’s been a part of are some of my favorites in the franchise and have brought endless joy to me and many others worldwide.”
Kenpachiro Satsuma Tenure as Godzilla Began After Original Suit Actor Haruo Nakajima Retired
Kenpachiro Satsuma was born on May 27, 1947, under the name Yasuaki Maeda. He embarked on his acting career in the 1960s, initially taking on minor roles in films such as Incident at Blood Pass. It was in 1971 that he made his foray into the world of monster movies, starring as the creature known as Hedorah in Godzilla vs. Hedorah. The following year, he donned the suit of Gigan in Godzilla vs. Gigan and also appeared in Godzilla vs. Megalon in 1973, as well as the tokusatsu series Zone Fighter.
In 1972, Haruo Nakajima, the original actor who played Godzilla, retired. Over the next two years, there were several substitutes. However, Satsuma took over the role in 1984’s The Return of Godzilla.
Return of Godzilla marked a departure from its predecessors, embracing a darker tone reminiscent of the original film. In this installment, Godzilla reclaimed his role as an antagonist. He was no longer positioned as a benevolent force safeguarding humanity or battling other monsters. Satsuma’s tenure in the Godzilla suite wasn’t without its hazards. He faced challenges wearing the suit, reportedly often losing consciousness due to oxygen deprivation during filming.
Apart from his appearances in the Godzilla films, Satsuma also ventured into other movies such as Hong Kil-dong and Japanese Hell. Satsuma’s last acting credits were in the films “Blind Beast vs. Dwarf” (2001) and “Kawana Mariko: Sakuragi no amai mizu” (2002), according to IMDb.
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