Haruo Nakajima, the Japanese actor who wore the Godzilla suit for about two decades from the monster movie series' original, died of pneumonia on Monday, his family said Tuesday. He was 88.

Godzilla - Haruo Nakajima - Obit

A native of Yamagata Prefecture, Nakajima aspired to become a movie actor as a teenager shortly after the end of World War II and played stunts in a number of movies in his early career, most notably Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai.

Nakajima's fire stunt performance as a warplane pilot in a 1953 film led to him getting the role of Godzilla the following year when the first of the series featuring the monster was released.

As Godzilla gained worldwide popularity, Nakajima went on to wear the Godzilla bodysuit for 11 more titles until the 1970s, giving him a reputation as a suit actor both at home and abroad.

He also performed inside the bodysuits of many characters in "tokusatsu" (special effects) movies and television series.

Even after retirement, Nakajima maintained a high global recognition as the man inside Godzilla. In 2011, he received an honorary award from the city of Los Angeles.