The Time George Takei Worked With Godzilla
By Mark Mancini
The teaser trailer for Legendary Pictures’ highly-anticipated Godzilla reboot leaked last month and has since been disappearing and reappearing all over the web. While it looks like the big guy’s going to have a few new monsters to fight in his latest romp, let’s take a moment to remember one of Godzilla’s most surprising co-stars: George Takei.
Long before reaching stardom as Mr. Sulu of the U.S.S. Enterprise and again as a pun-loving facebook celebrity, Takei got his start working on the English dubs of Japanese creature features. It all began when Takei’s father, Takekuma (to whom he dedicated a moving tribute you can read here), spotted an ad for Japanese voice-actors and encouraged his then college-age son to try out, saying “You’re a real ham. You could do this.”
Takei was cast in Rodan (1957), a film about two colossal prehistoric pterosaurs which wreak havoc upon the city of Fukuoka. Lending his distinctive baritone to its American voice-over, Rodan became the young actor’s first paid acting job and it wasn’t long before he found himself working with a more infamous giant.
Gigantis the Fire Monster (1959), an American edit of Godzilla Raids Again, marked the radioactive reptile’s second film appearance (the name was changed because U.S. producers wanted their audiences to think they were seeing an entirely new beast as opposed to a sequel).Takei served as the movie’s narrator and human protagonist.
In any language-dubbing process, much is bound to get lost in the translation and, as Takei notes in this clip around the 6:22 mark, this project was no exception:
“In Gigantis,” he recalls, “there was one word that we had tremendous difficulty getting the meaning of and finding an English word that fit the lip movement. The Japanese word was ‘bakayaro,’ which means ‘stupid fool.’” After struggling to find something that would match, the director finally came up with the line “banana oil,” which you can hear Takei deliver in the movie’s final version.
Despite this challenge, Takei’s fondly cited the experience as “great fun” and went on to voice a host of animated projects outside of his accomplished live-action career.