Interview with Keizo Murase, Kaiju Suit maker
• Renowned monster suit maker Keizo Murase was one of the guests invited to this year’s G-FEST, an annual festival of Japanese kaiju (monster) fans, held at Rosemont’s Crown Plaza Hotel from July 13 to 15 as reported in the previous issue.
• Murase joined Toho Film Studio in 1958 and has sculpted suits for numerous kaiju and superhero characters, including Godzilla, Valan, Gamera, Ultraman Ace and Kamen Rider. Today, as the president of a creative design company Twenty Ltd., he continues to work extensively in the areas of stage and set design as well as kaiju suit making.
• As he sat at the table readying to meet G-FEST fans, 83-year-old Murase had a feel of unusual magnetism with him. Despite the appearance, though, he was calm and polite during the Chicago Shimpo interview.
Q: You sculpted the suit for Godzilla, right?
• Murase: I started with the second generation [of Godzilla]. Valan is the first one that I really began sculpting from scratch. Then followed many other Toho characters like Mothra, [King] Ghidorah, and so on.
Q: What are the major problems in suit making?
• Murase: First of all, the suit must be light. A suit actor is required to do hard actions, so he has to be able to move easily in the suit. We suit makers must consider what the actors – guys like [Haruo] Nakajima and [Kenpachiro] Satsuma – are required to do, and make a suit that’s light and easy to move in.
Q: They say it’s pretty hot in the suit.
• Murase: It really is. So we have to get the actor out of the suit in between cuts and cool him off with a fan. Then we put the suit on him when the shooting starts again. That’s how we operate.
Q: Tell us about the suit materials.
• Murase: In the early days (when we first made the Godzilla
suit), we used chicken wire as the core. Then the much lighter Styrofoam
became available, which made suit making much easier.
Q: In fighting scenes between monsters, there are even fire and explosions.
• Murase: Right. So, after destruction, we must restore
everything on the set for the following day’s shooting. Once we worked
all night to restore the set for four days in a row.
Q: Do you also install mechanisms in the suit, like the one to move the eyes of the monster?
• Murase: Yes, those are all operated by wireless motor control. I’m 83 years old but still doing the work on the set.
Q: How long does it take to make a suit?
• Murase: It requires three people to complete a suit – by division of labor. A Godzilla suit takes at least a month to finish. Back when I was with Toho, it took almost two months. The whole work is much easier now.
Q: Why did you choose to become a suit maker?
• Murase: I’m from a farm in Hokkaido, and always liked
to mess with machines and make things with my hands.
Q: Looks like making the Godzilla suit makes you forget about your allergy.
• Murase: I agree – making things does help forget your troubles and difficulties in life.
Q: Thank you so much.
Renowned monster suit maker Keizo Murase at 2018 G-FEST
A photo of Murase displayed in an exhibit room.