During the sixties, actress Kumi Mizuno (born in Niigata, Japan in 1937) was the belle of the Toho Studios special effects film, appearing in Gorath, Matango, and Godzilla Vs the Sea Monster among other titles.
She’s probably best known for her 1965-1966 “gaijin trilogy” (Frankenstein Conquers the World, Godzilla Vs Monster Zero, and War of the Gargantuas) when the studio paired her with foreign devils Nick Adams (seen below) and Russ Tamblyn.
Her definitive appearance is in Godzilla Vs Monster Zero where she plays “Miss Namikawa,” a sexy-as-hell alien spy from Planet X who winds up falling in love with a hot-blooded astronaut from Earth (played by me... no, wait...Nick Adams).
This interview (which ran in the Janurary 2003 issue of Eiga Hiho magazine) was conducted at the Toho offices in Hibiya, Tokyo on November 4th, 2002. It was done to mark the release of Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, in which Mizuno plays the Prime Minister of Japan. The film marked her return to the tokusatsu (special effects) film genre after a long absence.
Present at Toho that day were hopeless Kumi Mizuno fanboys and interviewers Tamao Urayama, Tomohiro Machiyama, and Patrick Macias (who presented Kumi with a bouquet of flowers, only to be told, “that’s very American of you.” Did Nick Adams get the same treatment?). Mizuno’s son, Junichi (who also appeared on the Kamen Rider Ryuki TV show) was also in attendance.
Tamao Urayama: So what made you return to Godzilla movies after all this time?
Kumi Mizuno: They called me up and made the offer. It’s been 36 years since I last appeared in a tokusatsu film and I said OK. It feels like the first time I’ve played a human being in one. I’ve played mainly non-human roles in the past.
Urayama: You’ve played aliens, scientists, and animal-like people before…
Kumi: I even played a mushroom in Matango! But this feels like the first time I’m playing a normal person. But she’s also exceptional. She’s a woman Prime Minister and someone who has gone through a lot of struggle in her life.
Urayama: In the film, your department is responsible for the development of the Mazer cannon from War of the Gargantuas, and footage from that film also appears in this new movie. Are you essentially playing the same character?
Kumi: The vision of my character is this film is like an extended version of Akemi from War of the Gargantuas. When I did the voiceover narration over that old footage, I really began to remember a lot of things about the past.
Urayama: So you are passing the torch from the 20th century to the 21st for Godzilla films.
Kumi: I’d like to think so.
Patrick Macias: Do you approach acting any differently when you perform in a Godzilla film?
Kumi: No, my motivation is always the same. Even if I face a human being or Godzilla, it’s the same thing. If I open my heart up, then the other person will open theirs.
Urayama: In Godzilla Vs the Sea Monster, you were kind of a monster translator.
Kumi: I remember I had the line, “poor Godzilla.” I had a lot of compassion for him.
Macias: How did you feel when wearing the X-alien costume in Godzilla Vs Monster Zero?
Kumi: When I wore those costumes, I really felt like the character I was playing. The X-alien outfit was really sexy. But I can’t wear it now.
Macias: Did you add any of your own touches to the character’s appearance?
Kumi: Yes. I did my own makeup and came up with the style of acting.
Urayama: Did (director) Ishiro Honda encourage that?
Kumi: He just decided on the costume I wore. I did my makeup and he hardly gave direction.
Macias: I had always imagined Honda giving you very detailed instruction
Kumi: No, he was very gentle and let us act freely. But he was very picky about special effects and the technical side of filmmaking.
Macias: I’m also curious about your work on Matango. It’s such a strange film with that mix of fear and sexuality.
Kumi: Yes, that film is one of my favorites.
Tomo Machiyama: In the opening of Matango, you play the ukulele and sing a song. In America, it was used in another film (It Came from Hollywood) and that scene is very popular.
Kumi: You mean the one that goes “la la la la la”?
Machiyama, Macias, and Urayama: Ahhhhhh!
Kumi: Yes, that was really me singing in the film.
Macias: Ok, I have a lot of questions about (Godzilla vs Monster Zero co-star) Nick Adams.
Kumi: Nick was known in America and I was known in Japan, so they put us together. We had a translator working on the set so we could communicate.
Macias: Was it difficult working like that?
Kumi: No. Even though we didn’t speak the same language, the basic emotions were the same. As long as I was paying attention to Nick’s expression, I could understand what he was saying.
Macias: What kind of guy was he?
Mizuno: He was gentle, especially compared to (War of the Garganutas co-star) Russ Tamblyn, who was cold. But maybe it was because he came to Japan with his wife and he couldn’t get too involved with the staff and cast. But Nick was very warm. I even invited him over to my house after the shoot. His gentleness somehow turned into a marriage proposal. He even told me, “I will divorce my wife to be with you!”
Macias: And then?!!?
Mizuno: I turned him down.
Macias: There is a rumor in America that he went crazy after being turned down by you…(Adams died of an apparent drug overdose in 1968).
Kumi: No, no. I don’t think so. When I turned him down, I knew that he had already proposed to another actress at Toho. Maybe he misunderstood me when I invited him over.
Macias: What else did he do to try and win you over?
Mizuno: While he was staying in Japan, he called me every night on the phone. Since I didn’t speak English, I had to keep checking a dictionary to understand him.
Macias: What sort of things did he say?
Kumi (In English): “Kumi, I love you! I love you!”
Urayama: Your son Junichi is also in Godzilla Vs Mechagodzilla
Junichi Mizuno: Yes. I play a pilot.
Macias: What was it like growing up as Kumi Mizuno’s son?
Junichi: When I was in kindergarten, I didn’t really know what my mom did for a living, same as any other kid.
Machiyama: You didn’t know there were many crazy kaiju otaku fans of your mom?
Junichi: No, but recently, I noticed there are a lot of fans of her X-alien character. I’ve even seen figures for sale.
Machiyama: She is kind of an icon! You didn’t know that? For many years at (Japanese comic convention) Comiket, there are always many fan-made X-alien products!
Junichi: I didn’t know that…
Machiyama: I am part of the generation that was really traumatized by Godzilla Vs Monster Zero. Kumi Mizuno was one of the first actresses that I could recognize and paid attention to.
Macias: Your special effects films are shown on television all the time in America, and have been for decades. They are also beginning to come out on DVD.
Kumi: I didn’t know that. I actually receive many fan letters from the US.
Urayama: Just as we are longing for foreign actresses, fans outside of Japan feel the same way about you.
Kumi: That’s a pleasure to hear.
Urayama: How does it feel to be appearing in a new Godzilla film after all this time?
Kumi: I feel like I’m coming back home, and feel very nostalgic.
Macias: Would you like to continue appearing in more Godzilla films?
Kumi: Yes, because it’s fun!
And she did just that. Mizuno appeared in 2004’s totally stupefying Godzilla: Final Wars .