A flashback for a guy with a small role in a Godzilla movie25 september 2013, 14:38
Over the years the T-Rex-looking monster Godzilla has wreaked terrible havoc on Tokyo and other parts of the Japanese isles.
A scary dude, I thought when I was a kid. Adults could laugh at the huge, cranky reptile but Godzilla could give nightmares to kids.
My fear was heightened by the fact that the pronouncements of the Japanese actors in the film didn’t match their lip movements. I thought as a kid that Godzilla was so scary that he made his victims blubber instead of talk.
I didn’t realize that the actors’ Japanese had been dubbed over in English. Hell, I thought everyone spoke English.
I had a Godzilla flashback the other day. It wasn’t a scary memory from childhood, though.
I must admit reluctantly that when I was a journalist in Japan, I had a small part in a production called “Godzilla 1985.”
I say “reluctantly” because American film critics called it the worst movie of the year.
The flashback came in the form of a photo that my daughter Angie in Portland, Oregon, sent me recently.
It was a still shot of the scene where I appeared in “Godzilla 1985.”
A still shot from Godzilla 1985. The actor to the left is playing the U.S. ambassador to Japan. Hal Foster photo
This surreal moment came about because my son Dan, who works in a U.S. government job in London, has a colleague who is a Godzilla freak.
When Dan told his workmate that I’d had a small part in “Godzilla 1985,” the guy got excited, grabbed his CD of the film and made a still shot of the scene I was in. Dan, howling with glee, sent it to Angie, who forwarded it to me.
My role in the film was deputy to the U.S. ambassador to Japan. The still photo shows the actor playing the ambassador making a spirited diplomatic argument in the foreground, while I am looking on in the background.
You can see the movie at http://kinofilms.tv. The scene I’m in starts 44 minutes and 45 seconds into the film.
The premise for the scene is that Godzilla has risen from the sea and is marching on Tokyo again. None of the weapons in Japan’s arsenal can stop him. To confirm that, all you have to do is look at the dozens of snippets of the film on YouTube.
The only way to keep Tokyo from being destroyed, the Japanese government decides, is to nuke the scaly scourge.
The problem is that the country’s constitution bars nuclear weapons.
Godzilla 1985 poster. Photo courtesy of armandsrancho.blogspot.com
So the Japanese ask the nuclear powers America and the Soviet Union to consider using their nukes against the threat.
In the scene I’m in, the ambassadors of the three countries and their deputies are in a big conference room engaged in a lively discussion about whether to unleash the first nuclear weapons against a “hostile” since the United States bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Their deputies, including me, are looking on stone-faced with concern.
It’s not a great scene for those playing the deputies to show off their acting abilities.
But I did a great job of following the director’s instruction to look worried. A true artiste, I told myself.
By the way, the actor playing the Soviet ambassador looks like a scraggly Lenin. Talk about type-casting. If memory serves me, he wasn’t Russian, either.
The movie was filmed 29 years ago, so I was young – and, actually, quite suave-looking, if I do say so myself. At least I thought so then.
When I scour the still photo now, I realize I look like a CIA agent, not a diplomat. I’m wearing a cheesy brown-checked suit that only a spook could love. The only thing I need to show the world I’m a spook is sunglasses.
To prove my point, I asked my friend Marina Petrova at Astana Photo on Abai Street to use Photoshop to add glasses to my face. You can see the photo on this page, along with the original photo. ”The name is Bond . . . James Bond.”
The CIA look that Marina Petrova of Astana Photo created for me. Hal Foster photo
The whole movie was silly, really – but great fun. And what a line to add to your resume: “Actor, ‘Godzilla 1985.’”
(Actually, I’ve been too ashamed to add it to a CV. It’s been awhile since I auditioned for a role in a Budweiser beer commercial or whatever.)
The funniest part of my “Godzilla 1985” story occurred not in Tokyo, but the next year when I was in Columbus, Ohio, in the States.
“Godzilla 1985” was such a box office bomb that its producers quickly signed the rights over to American television – to recoup at least some of the cost of making it.
I pulled in to a gasoline minimart in Columbus one night to fill my car.
I noticed when I walked in to pay for the gas that the cashier was watching a movie on a TV set hanging from the ceiling behind him. He was so riveted to the film that he was checking out the customers with only one eye while watching the tube with the other.
Suddenly, to my horror, THE scene came on.
And it took only seconds for me to realize to my chagrin that I was wearing the same cheesy brown-checked suit at the minimart that I had worn in the movie.
The cashier looked at the scene, looked at me with wide eyes, looked back at the scene with even wider eyes, then pointed at me and blurted out to his customers: “Hey, that’s you – that’s you!”
My God – I’d been found out!
Two or three customers were in line with me to be checked out. They all looked at me, a couple with faces of wry amusement and one with adulation, as if I were Brad Pitt or something. Actually, it would have been Robert Redford at the time. Brad came later.
The only words I said were: “Yep, that’s me.” I tried to look nonchalant, as if I didn’t care, but the words “The worst movie of 1985” were ringing in my ears.
I paid my bill as quickly as I could and sped out as if Godzilla were roaring in to stomp the minimart.
I didn’t wear the suit again for several months, until the movie was off TV and the coast was clear.
After getting the still photo, I decided to check YouTube for video of the movie and the trailers advertising it.
The action was cheesy but wonderful – the monster stomping buildings and Tokyoites themselves, the military zapping him time after time to no avail.
I also read about “Godzilla 1985” on Google.
And I found a few modern-day critics who have declared that the movie wasn’t as bad as the original critics had pronounced it.
This revisionist history made me swell with pride.
And of course the only conclusion I could reach was that my brilliant acting had saved the flick after all.