It was following the performance of a dangerous stunt as a fighter pilot in Ishiro Honda's Eagle of the Pacific (1953) that Nakajima was recommended to play Godzilla in the original 1954 film, since donning the heavy costume beneath sweltering studio lights required an unusual amount of strength and endurance from the suit actor.
Special effects master Eiji Tsuburaya was so impressed by Nakajima’s skill as a stunt performer and choreographer that he featured the actor in nearly every science fiction, horror and fantasy film produced throughout his own illustrious career. In addition to Godzilla, Nakajima would also embody an unprecedented number of notable movie monsters including Rodan (1956), Mogera in The Mysterians (1957), Varan the Unbelievable (1958), Mothra (1960), Matango (1963), Baragon in Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965), Gaira in War of the Gargantuas (1966) and even King Kong in King Kong Escapes (1967).
His impressive body of film work also includes appearances in Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954) and The Hidden Fortress (1958). In 1966, Tsuburaya once again tapped Nakajima’s talents when the effects director first brought his giant monsters to the small screen in the ground-breaking television series Ultra Q and Ultraman.
Nakajima finally retired as the reigning champion of monster suit actors with 1972’s Godzilla vs. Gigan.