Akihiko Hirata

Active - 1954 - 1993  |   Born - Dec 16, 1927   |   Genres - Science Fiction, Adventure, Fantasy

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Biography by Bruce Eder

With appearances in over 125 movies and television shows, Akihiko Hirata was a busy working actor for over three decades, but he remained best known for a role he played at the outset of his career, in Ishiro Honda's Gojira (1954) (better known in the United States and the rest of the world as Godzilla, King of the Monsters). Born Akihiko Onoda in Kyogo, Korea in 1927, he was educated for a career in the army. But the timing of his birth (and coming-of-age in postwar Japan) put a military career out of reach, and his own preference seems to have carried him in the direction of an acting career. His early career included an important role in Ishiro Honda's World War II romance Farewell Rabaul (1954), and he distinguished himself sufficiently enough to earn a prominent role in Honda's next movie, Gojira (1954). An unprecedented spectacle film in the then-unusual genre of science fiction, Gojira was a huge undertaking, built upon outsized special effects (for the time) and a serious drama at its core. Hirata had the key role of Dr. Daisuke Serizawa, the brilliant, enigmatic young physicist who finds that he holds the fate of the world in his hands twice over. His portrayal of the conscience-stricken Serizawa was among the more memorable acting contributions to the movie, even working alongside the likes of such acting veterans as Takashi Shimura. The movie proved a huge hit in Japan and went on to find unprecedented success in the rest of the world during the second half of the 1950s, after it was re-edited and adapted as Godzilla, King of the Monsters. Hirata subsequently appeared in numerous movies of all genres (including such acclaimed art-house favorites as Samurai 3: Duel at Ganryu Island), but he became most well-known for his work in giant-monster and science-fiction films, such as Rodan (1956), The Mysterians (1957), The H-Man (1958), and Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975), many of them directed by Honda. Hirata died of lung cancer in 1984 at age 56.

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