Interview with Akira Takarada
Akira Takarada is a world-famous Japanese actor. Born in Harbin, Manchuria in 1934, Takarada rose to fame in 1954 when he starred as navy diver Hideto Ogata in Ishiro Honda's smash hit film, Gojira (Godzilla). After the massive success of Gojira, Takarada became a hot commodity in the Japanese film industry. In the West, Takarada is best known for his role in Gojira as well as several other genre films: Half Human (1955), Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964), Invasion of Astro-Monster aka Godzilla vs. Monster Zero (1965), Godzilla vs the Sea Monster (1966), King Kong Escapes (1967), Latitude Zero (1969), Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992) and Godzilla: Final Wars (2004). He is surely one of the most recognizable actors in Japanese science fiction films and he has also worked extensively in television and on the stage.
Akira Ifukube scored most of these genre films including, of course, Gojira. When I was fortunate to meet Mr. Takarada in July 2012, he agreed to make some brief remarks about Akira Ifukube for AKIRAIFUKUBE.ORG.
The webmaster thanks Brett Homenick (yes, my brother!) for helping arrange the meeting and Yutaka Ichimura aka totorom for helping prepare and translate the questions and answers. And certainly, thanks to Mr. Takarada for his kindness and participation.
Erik Homenick: What are your recollections of meeting Akira Ifukube for the first time?
Akira Takarada: The impression I had of him was that he was like a Zen priest as he was very quiet and calm. That was in 1954. He was always smoking Peace cigarettes, which is a Japanese brand. He was a heavy smoker.
EH: In an interview in 2000, Ifukube-sensei describes how he was asked by Toho to give lectures about film music to the studio's younger actors. You attended these lectures. Can you describe them?
AT: Ifukube-sensei gave us two lectures a week. We studied music theory, music history from classical music to comtemporary music. Among his lectures, I was most interested in a famous opera aria. We would listen to a world-renowned tenor and learn about him.*
EH: Had you known of his music and/or reputation before you met him?
AT: Not at all.
EH: When was the first time you heard the music for Gojira? Did you hear any of the music before you saw the completed film?
AT: I heard the music for the first time when I saw the film for the first time in the screening room at Toho Studio. The music made me scared but at the same time it sounded solemn.
EH: For me, the most effective music in the film is at the end when Ogata (played by Mr. Takarada) and Serizawa (played by Akihiko Hirata) deploy the Oxygen Destroyer on the floor of Tokyo Bay to kill Gojira. What are your feelings about the music during this very emotional scene?
AT: I could not help crying when I first listened to the solemn music for the scene where Gojira was turning into a skeleton and sinking deep into the sea. I understood that Gojira was an imaginary creature, but the shameful H-bomb testing by us human beings woke him up, and he did nothing wrong. Gojira was a messenger to alert us of something. The H-bomb could destroy ourselves, human beings, which is really stupid. I was disappointed and got angry to see Gojira was destroyed. My heart bled for him.
EH: How important do you think Ifukube's music was to the success of Gojira?
AT: Films are always said to be a "total work of art" and, especially for Gojira, the music plays an important part as the theme music is so impressive. I believe that Ifukube-sensei was one of a few persons who built the foundation of the kaiju film genre.
EH: What do you think of the music for your other films where he was the composer?
AT: All of his works for Gojira films are impressive.
EH: Do you have any interesting stories about other meetings you had with Ifukube during your career?
AT: While we were shooting the first Gojira in Iseshima, Mie Prefecture on location, Mr. Ifukube came to our hotel with the producer, Mr. Tomoyuki Tanaka. Mr. Tanaka and Ifukube-sensei often visited us during shooting and had dinner with Director Honda, Takashi Shimura, Akihiko Hirata, Momoko Kochi and myself. We spent a few days together and, sharing time over dinner, he told me how difficult it was to compose for this film. He told us his ideas for the music for Gojira and, because the music was difficult to compose, he said it was a heavy responsibility.
EH: What was your reaction when you learned Ifukube died in 2006?
AT: Many people who had created the first Gojira film together have passed away including Ifukube-sensei, Ishiro Honda, Tomoyuki Tanaka, Akihiko Hirata, Momoko Kochi, Takashi Shimura, etc. When I heard of Ifukube-sensei's passing, I felt "a great star has fallen."
*Mr. Takarada does not specify which opera aria or tenor he is describing.
Akira Takarada in 2015. Photo by Brett Homenick
Akira Ifukube and Akira Takarada celebrating the release of Godzilla vs. Mothra in 1992.
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