The actor had been suffering from pneumonia.

Haruo Nakajima, the actor who wore the Godzilla suit in the 1954 film, has died aged 88.

AP reports that Nakajima’s daughter Sonoe Nakajima confirmed that her father was hospitalised last month and died of pneumonia on Monday.

Nakajima was a stunt actor in samurai films before taking the role of Godzilla, which arguably is Japan’s most successful cultural export with regards to cinema.

The 1954 classic, directed by Ishiro Honda sees Godzilla surfacing from the Pacific Ocean as a result of a mutation from a nuclear testing area. Rampaging through Tokyo, Godzilla terrorises the city over an iconic score by Akira Ifukube.

In an interview with AP in 2014, Nakajima said he created the character from scratch, drawing inspiration from going to the zoo and studying how elephants and bears moved.

“If Godzilla can’t walk properly, it’s nothing but a freak show,” he said.

The Japanese actor recalled how the rubber suit was so hot, especially under the lights of the movie set, that he wrung half a bucket full of sweat with his shirt.

Honda’s original film has inspired a number of Hollywood spinoffs and resonated with postwar Japan, which suffered atomic bombing.

The latest Japanese Godzilla, which was released last year, also used a human actor to represent Godzilla. Mansai Nomura, a specialist in Kyogen traditional theatre, mimicked the movements of the monster through motion capture technology.

Despite the numerous remakes, Nakajima still believed his portrayal of Godzilla was the best. “I am the original, the real thing,” he said in 2014. “My Godzilla was the best.”