|This is a picture of George
Takei (rhymes with OKAY) who portrayed Capt. Hikaru Sulu in the Star Trek-i-verse.
Although most famous for his role as Sulu, George has had appearances in
other films too. You don't get to see his face in any Godzilla flicks,
but if you're paying careful attention when watching the Americanized versions
of "Gigantis the Fire Monster" and "Rodan", you can hear his voice!
The idea for this interview came from my boyfriend Scott. We were sitting at home one day when he got the craziest notion of actually contacting Mr. Takei for an interview. "He does stuff like this all the time," he said. I was just a little skeptical: "Yeah right, he's actually going to give out an interview!!" To my surprise, Mr. Takei actually answered my e-mail and graciously agreed to do the interview. It's been almost 50 years since he worked on a kaiju film, but without further ado, here is the man, George "Capt. Sulu" Takei, let's have a big round of APPLAUSE!!!!
Connie Goodnow: The kaiju eiga genre took off in post WWII Japan
and really made a bigimpact here in the United States as well. Do you
believe that, socially and culturally speaking, these movies and the voice
acting work needed helped widen the opportunities in Hollywood for
American actors of Chinese or Japanese descent?
George Takei: Since working on Rodan was my very first paying gig, for me
personally, it certainly "widened" my opportunities as an actor. However,
because these jobs were so infrequent, I can't really say they generally
contributed to wider opportunities for Asian American actors.
CG: You're famous for your role in the Star Trek series as Mr. Sulu, but
lesser known are your voice-acting roles in Rodan and Gigantis the Fire
Monster. Do you ever get anyone who watched any of the Toho movies you
have helped dub saying, "Hey, that's Mr. Sulu's voice!"
GT: I have done many different kinds of voice work including Disney's "Mulan."
Yes, certainly from "Mulan" but also from my many documentary narrations,
people have recognized my voice. However, I have yet to come across people
who have mentioned my work in Rodan or Gigantis.
CG: How did you get started doing voice acting work for monster films, and
how, if at all, did this lead to your role in Star Trek?
GT: My father noticed an ad in a local paper for voice actors while I was back
in L.A. during summer break from the University of California at Berkeley. I
auditioned and got the job. I can't really say that my work on Rodan led to
Star Trek. In fact, I feel they were totally unrelated.
CG: Do you consider yourself a fan of Japanese monsters in general, Godzilla
in particular? Which is your favorite of all the monsters? Which is your
GT: I must confess, I am not a fan of monster films. My all-time favorite movies
are "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge Over the River Kwai."
CG: Godzilla has several meaningful roles in his career. The first and
foremost, to the Japanese, is that he is a symbol for the nuclear death
and radioactive destruction inflicted by the United States in Hiroshima
and Nagasaki, and also by the Bikini Atoll tests that cost the lives of
the crew of the Lucky Dragon. Another is that he is a force of nature.
Still another is that he is the guardian of the Earth in general and
Japan in particular against aliens like King Ghidorah and MechaGodzilla.
And finally, that of a buffoonish hero, whose campy movies are to be
watched purely for fun, not to be taken seriously in the least. Which of
these roles has the most meaning for you and why?
GT: I suppose they all apply. My maternal grandparents immigrated to this
country from Hiroshima and our family lost relatives in the atomic bombing
so, certainly the nuclear and radioactivity symbol applies to me. (Editor's note:
My deepest condolences on the loss of your family.) Godzilla is undeniably a
force of nature. And I do think the films are rather campy both in script and acting
style and thus, a hoot. So I think all your descriptions apply.
CG: What do you think of someone like myself who, after years of watching
Godzilla movies, became interested enough in Japanese language and
culture to learn everything they could about it, including independently
studying and learning to read and speak the language outside of an
GT: Subarashii desune! Dewa, korekara Nihongo de kotaemasho ka? Boku wa,
shaberu koto wa dekimasu keredo yomi kaki suru koto ga dekinai no de zannen desu.
Shikkari Nihongo no benkyo wo tsuzu kete kudasai. (Editor's Note: UGH! Time to
haul out the ol' Japanese English dictionary, cuz I'm not THAT good! ;)
CG: You have had voice over roles in "Rodan" and "Gigantis" as I previously
mentioned. Are there any other Toho installments of kaiju eiga that I am
missing, or are they the only two you have worked on? Also, if asked to
do more voice work for Godzilla movies to be released stateside, would
you consider it?
GT: Rodan and Gigantis are the only two Japanese monster movies that I have
done. However, I have dubbed a few other Japanese films such as "Retreat
From Amchitka" in which I did the voice of the great Japanese actor, Toshiro
Mifune. Certainly, if asked to do more voice work, I would relish it. I
enjoy working with my voice.
CG: Would you consider putting in an appearance at a kaiju eiga convention
such as G-Fest in LA, G-Con in Chicago, Asian Film Fantasy Expo and
Chiller Theater in New Jersey, and the like?
GT: I have a crowded calendar but by contacting my manager, Brad Altman at (323)
938-6477 such appearances can be arranged.
CG: Watashi no Gojira hoomu peeji wa daisuki desu ka? Watashi no Nihongo ga
taihen heta desu ne. Issho ni bangohan ga taberu ga shitai deshou ka?
(Watashi wa katte imashou) :)
GT: Doomo arigato gozaimasu. Issho ni shokuji wo doko de shimasho ka? Los
Angeles ni sunde oraremasuno desuka? Dewa isshoni Nihongo de hanashinagara
Scott Walker: How severely altered was the original shooting script? Was it rewritten
in such a way as to try and put words that would match what the actor on
the screen's lips were moving at the expense of the original dialogue?
GT: There was a word I recall that gave the writers a great deal of difficulty.
It was "bakayaro" which means "stupid fool." They just couldn't find the
English equivalent that fit the lip movements. We tried many words to no
avail. Finally we settled on "banana oil." Do you remember who says that
word in the movie?
SW: Have you done much recent voice over work? If so, how much different
is the modern tecnique from what you did in the late 50's?
GT: I just got back from Toronto, Canada last week where I worked on a
documentary on nuclear fusion. The most dramatic difference in technique
from the late 50's is, I found, is in the care and money spent by an outfit
like Disney. And, of course, the equipment is vastly superior. There is no
SW: As a child were you told many stories about any Japanese legends, any
with monsters and supernatural creatures (maybe useful for the basis of
making new monster movies?)
GT: I was told many Japanese children's stories but they were all either fairy
tales or heroic historic tales. I can't remember stories that had monsters
SW: Have you ever toured TOHO Studios on any of your visits to Japan?
GT: Never. I would love to though.
SW: Would you be interested in seeing a copy of the original Japanese
versions of Rodan or Gigantis (just to see how different it is from the
finished product you worked on in the Americanized version)
GT: Is it radically different from the version we did? If so, how does it
SW: Which actor was easier to work with, Rodan or William Shatner (sorry,
couldn't resist it!)
GT: You have posed the most challenging question here. It is extremely difficult
to answer. You'll have to give me some time to think on it - how about a
The price for answering all these questions is a simple request. You will
all have to become a part of the Excelsior Campaign and send a letter to the
President of Paramount Television urging him to make the next Star Trek
television series about the U.S.S. Excelsior with Captain Sulu. You can get
all the information about this effort at the website for the campaign.
www.IFTcommand.com. A dedicated young man named Russ Haslage in Cleveland,
Ohio is heading it up.
Conster wishes to thank George Takei and Scott Walker both, Scott for pestering
me to contact Mr. Takei and George for being so nice as to give me the time of
day! Guess we'll all have to push for the USS. Excelsior series now!!! (I know I'll
watch it a lot. And yes, George, Scott and I both love sushi!!!!) You can get more of
Mr. Takei on his official web site, http://www.georgetakei.com! We now return you to
our regularly scheduled psychobabble. :)