Kenji Sahara Interview

by David Milner and Guy Tucker

Translation by Yoshihiko Shibata

Kenji Sahara

(Conducted in March 1995)

Kenji Sahara is best known as inventor Kazuo Fujita in KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (1962) and entrepreneur Jiro Torahata in GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA (1964). However, he also appears in several of the more recent Godzilla movies.

David Milner: Who asked you to appear in GODZILLA VS. GHIDRAH (1991)? (It is the earliest of the Godzilla films released since 1975 in which Mr. Sahara appears.)

Kenji Sahara: Shogo Tomiyama. (Mr. Tomiyama produced YAMATO TAKERU (1994). He and executive producer Tomoyuki Tanaka produced the last six Godzilla movies.)

DM: What made you decide to accept Mr. Tomiyama's offer? (Mr. Sahara plays the director of the Japanese Defense Agency.)

KS: I've worked on more than thirty science fiction films, so I think of science fiction as my genre. In addition, I was offered a role as a commander instead of a regular soldier, and I thought that it would be interesting to play that kind of a character.

It's not possible for me to play young, energetic characters anymore because I'm not as young as I used to be. So, I now am offered roles that would have gone to Susumu Fujita or Jun Tazaki in the past. (Mr. Tazaki plays a general in KING KONG VS. GODZILLA, a newspaper editor in GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA, a military base commander in GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER (1966), and a scientist in both GODZILLA VS. MONSTER ZERO (1965) and DESTROY ALL MONSTERS (1968). Mr. Fujita plays a military commander in THE MYSTERIANS (1957), ATRAGON (1963), GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA, and DAGORA - THE SPACE MONSTER (1964).)

Guy Tucker: Were you surprised by the enthusiasm with which Godzilla fans greeted your return to the series?

KS: The producers and I were very much surprised by the enthusiasm that the members of the audience showed when I walked onto the stage at the premiere of GODZILLA VS. GHIDRAH. I think their reaction is the reason why I was asked to appear in the subsequent Godzilla movies. (Mr. Sahara plays Takayuki Segawa, the director of the United Nations Godzilla Countermeasures Center, in GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA (1993) and GODZILLA VS. SPACE GODZILLA (1994).)

GT: Were you offered a role in GODZILLA 1985 (1984) or GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE (1989)?

KS: No. I didn't receive an offer to appear in either one of those films.

GT: Were you offered a role in YAMATO TAKERU?

KS: No.

DM: How was working on the more recent Godzilla movies different from working on the earlier ones?

KS: The special effects techniques have significantly improved. For example, the resolution of optical printers is much greater than it used to be. These improvements have made it much easier for the actors to do their jobs. (Optical printers allow two separate shots to be combined into one. They often are used to blend footage of actors with footage of a miniature set so that it will appear that the actors are in the miniature set.)

DM: How would you say the films themselves have changed?

KS: The pace of the movies has substantially increased.

DM: What was working with Kazuki Omori like? (Mr. Omori wrote the screenplays for GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE, GODZILLA VS. GHIDRAH, GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA, and GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER (1995). He directed GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE and GODZILLA VS. GHIDRAH, but did not direct GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA or GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER.)

KS: Mr. Omori took a very unique approach. He concentrated on the cerebral aspects of the characters.

DM: How was working with Kensho Yamashita different from working with Mr. Omori? (Mr. Yamashita directed GODZILLA VS. SPACE GODZILLA.)

KS: It was very different. Mr. Yamashita is more of an action film director. In addition, facial expressions are very important to him.

Mr. Yamashita took a very interesting approach toward making GODZILLA VS. SPACE GODZILLA. He separated the story into two parts. One was for adults and the other was for children. I think Mr. Yamashita felt that he needed to separate the story because Godzilla movies are seen by both children and adults.

Mr. Tomiyama felt that Takayuki Segawa was very rigid in GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA, but much less so in GODZILLA VS. SPACE GODZILLA. Mr. Tomiyama told me that he found it interesting to see a different side of the character.

DM: What was working with Takao Okawara like? (Mr. Okawara directed GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA, GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA, and GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER. He also directed YAMATO TAKERU.)

KS: The flow of the story is very important to Mr. Okawara. He always concerns himself with the flow of an entire sequence before he begins setting up the individual shots that will be included in the sequence.

DM: Koichi Kawakita once said that Mr. Omori is more creative than Mr. Okawara, but Mr. Okawara is more of a craftsman than Mr. Omori. Do you agree with Mr. Kawakita? (He directed the special effects for the last six Godzilla films. He also directed the special effects for SAYONARA JUPITER (1984), YAMATO TAKERU (1994), and a number of other movies.)

KS: Yes. Mr. Kawakita is right.

GT: Many people feel that Mr. Okawara's style is very similar to Ishiro Honda's. Do you feel that it is similar? (Mr. Honda directed GODZILLA - KING OF THE MONSTERS (1954), GHIDRAH - THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER (1964), TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA (1975), and many other science fiction movies.)

KS: Yes. There is a very strong similarity. I think that Mr. Okawara's experience working on science fiction films as an assistant director is the reason for it. By the way, Mr. Yamashita also worked on a number of science fiction films as an assistant director. However, Mr. Omori did not. (Mr. Yamashita worked on TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA as an assistant director. Mr. Okawara worked on GODZILLA 1985 as an assistant director.)

DM: What was working with Megumi Odaka like? (Ms. Odaka plays Miki Saegusa, a psychic with a telepathic link to Godzilla, in the six most recent Godzilla movies.)

KS: She knows all about the film industry. She also knows what it takes to be an actress. Her uncle, Yuji Odaka, was an actor. He worked for the Nikkatsu Corporation. (It produced MONSTER FROM A PREHISTORIC PLANET (1967).)

DM: How do you feel about TriStar Pictures producing a Godzilla movie in the United States?

KS: I have mixed feelings about it. I am looking forward to seeing the film, but since I take part in the production of Toho's Godzilla movies, I also have some trepidations about it. I think that it will have a tremendous effect on all of the people who take part in the production of Toho's Godzilla films. (The Toho Company Ltd. so far has produced twenty-two Godzilla movies.)

Kenji Sahara Interview © 1998 David Milner