BIOMAJOR’S BEST! Derrick Michael Holmes on ‘Godzilla vs. Biollante’!

Derrick Holmes in November 2012. Photo © Brett Homenick.

Derrick Michael Holmes (1958-2012) is known to Godzilla fans around the world as Biomajor spy Michael Low in Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989). But before he ever appeared in a Godzilla film, Mr. Holmes came to Japan in 1979 and worked as a dancer and DJ and later as a model. Mr. Holmes’ acting career began in Japan when, in 1984, Motoko Inagawa stopped him walking down the street and asked Mr. Holmes to join her agency. It was that connection which ultimately led to his being cast in Godzilla vs. Biollante. Mr. Holmes discussed his Godzilla role in a 2007 interview with Brett Homenick.

Brett Homenick: How did you come to Japan?

Derrick Holmes: My friend had an agent in Hollywood who was planning to send some Soul Train dancers to Osaka, Japan. However, one of the girls hurt her back doing a lift dance move. The dance troupe was canceled. The agent contacted my friend, and we put together a six-member dance team — two males and four females. We practiced six hours a day, six days a week, for one or two months. I had just graduated from Pierce Junior College. The timing was good for a road trip.

BH: How did you get started in acting?

DH: My first acting job was a commercial for my father’s record company. My dad and his business partners had recently started a new record company called Casablanca Records, [of] which he was vice president. He also was president and owner of Chocolate City Records. The [band] Parliament was signed, too.

The commercial was for Parliament’s first single on Chocolate City Records/Casablanca Records, “Up for the Down Stroke.” I was in the tenth grade — first semester. I asked a few of my friends to join, and we danced in the street behind George Clinton, the leader of Parliament, who had a music box playing his song, which made us follow him to a record store.

A year or so later, Casablanca Records merged with Columbia Pictures. Together they released the movies Midnight Express (1978), The Deep (1977), and the movie I was in, Thank God It’s Friday (1978). Honestly, I was having fun more than trying to be a serious actor. I had to get serious when I arrived in Japan and freaked out on how different it was from America.

BH: What led to your role in Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)?

DH: Well, I was working regularly for IMO, Motoko Inagawa [Office]. She decided that this would be a good part for me. She was the casting agent for the movie. So we went right to work.

BH: Were there any pre-production meetings?

DH: None that I can remember. Once I received the script, I was on my own until the day of the shooting. There was a rehearsal for blocking and props right before we did shoot. In my last scene, David [Manjot Bedi], the Arabian spy, was shooting at me and my partner in crime. There was a lot of broken glass from the test tubes splattering, so we had to keep our heads out of the way of the broken glass and move into position for Biollante’s entrance.

BH: What kind of direction did Kazuki Omori give you?

DH: Remember, there are many things happening around you. Stay focused!

BH: What was Mr. Omori like as a person and a director?

DH: Friendly. He was very clear about what he wanted from us as actors.

BH: Do you know who wrote your dialogue?

DH: David — the on-location manager and Arabian assassin — worked on the translations, but a young, intelligent, gentlemanly Japanese wrote the script.

BH: Did you have any freedom with your dialogue or character?

DH: The dialogue was short and simple. My character had no character, so it was easy to get rid of him. I had no real experience being a bad person, so I felt a little uncomfortable.

BH: What was a day of shooting like on the set of Biollante?

DH: Everyone was preparing for Biollante to come out and do her thing. The weather was great for shooting. We were shooting on location at the laboratory set. There was a nice view of the lake from the window. It was a very nice location. Everyone stayed busy preparing for the shots.

BH: What do you remember about the scene where Biollante attacks you?

DH: I will never forget it. She showed me no love. I was in the middle of a gun fight when this very fast, very long, and very big green plant-looking thing flew around my body. All I could feel at first was the slime. Lots of slime. Before I knew what was happening to me, I was being crushed like a snake steak. In order to get the shot right, we had to wrap Biollante’s branch around my body and add plenty of slime, then they pulled until the branch unwraps itself from my body. We did this several times.

The special effects crew added the finishing touches by reversing the film. This gave the effect that she was reaching out and grabbing me. She snatched me and pulled me closer so she could choke me. We used the same technique for my neck as we did for the body. Getting snatched was difficult because three crew members pulled me into the air going backwards. During rehearsals, I had a mattress to land on. There was no mattress for the real take. Fortunately, practice paid off, and I did not get hurt.

BH: Do you have any other stories from the set?

DH: During the water filming of Super X, the makeshift filming boat tipped to one side, throwing the cameraman in the water. There are interesting scenes on the DVD version, in the special features of the making of Godzilla vs. Biollante.

My main scene where my partner and I break into the laboratory to find Godzilla’s DNA information: It took a long time to arrange the room to appear like someone had broken in and had been searching the entire room. All I had to do was open a few envelopes, and I found what I was looking for. Then the Arabian agent shows up, and the gunfight starts. Finally, Biollante shows up and kills me and scares the crap out of everyone else. There were many takes from many angles.

Helicopters and boats: A few of those scene are actually miniature[s]. The crew did a good job making the miniatures look real. During my break time at Toho Studio, I was able to look into the studio that had the miniature city. Wow! An entire city that did not even come up to my knees. I could not believe my eyes. The detail was perfect!

Godzilla’s first outside location shooting for the film was in Gotemba, August 1989. He rises out of the volcano in all his glory. Biollante’s big scenes were October 17 and 27. Super X[’s scenes were at] 7:26 p.m., October 28, Studio 8. You can check this info by searching the special features. Also, check out the commentary.

I’m very happy to have had the opportunity to work with a great company. I’m looking forward to seeing the next Godzilla film. Toho has the technology. Godzilla needs to face his new responsibility.

In the real world of 2007, I’m an animal care handler [and] employee for Business Ventures Japan. I’m also a music consultant for Dios Music Asia.

BH: What did you think of the film?

DH: I liked the film very much. Godzilla films are very entertaining. Both children and adults can enjoy the movie. The relationship between the characters and the special relationship the scientist had with his daughter. The mixture of Godzilla’s DNA and his daughter’s DNA, to give Biollante feelings, I thought was a very important point of the film. I enjoyed the special effects used to show Erika’s spirit ascending to the sky.

There are touching moments in the film that you do not want to miss. The young girl played an important role in Godzilla. I enjoy Godzilla being Godzilla.

BH: What do you remember about working on Lady Battle Cop (1990)?

DH: The funny thing about Lady Battle Cop was when my agent first told me about the Toei movie, she said “Japanese RoboCop,” and I for some egotistical reason thought she meant that I was going to be RoboCop in the Japanese version of the movie. I guess my head was getting bigger. On the day of the fitting, the other actors and I were trying on our wardrobe. I kept looking for the robot costume. Finally, I asked one of the crew when was I going to try on the RoboCop outfit. Everyone in the room was rolling on the floor laughing. The name of the film is Lady Battle Cop. Man, did I feel silly.

My part was for an assassin who belonged to a military-style cartel who had taken over Shinjuku. We were very, very bad. One of my scenes had to be cut, and the other deleted. The young lady who played the lead role was Ms. Azusa [Nakamura]. [The month before Lady Battle Cop], we worked together on a detective story called The Detective. I played twins. My brother was investigating a Japanese smuggling ring when he was shot. I flew over from America to find my brother’s killers. I worked with a famous Japanese actor who had his own detective story which came on every week, Yutaka Mizutani.

In the first scene, we break into a laboratory and kill everyone inside and blow up the building. One of the female employees that I almost murder is given a bionic body so she can stop the cartel. In the meantime, we go to a Japanese disco where the two largest Mafia groups are about to settle who controls Shinjuku. We shoot and kill everyone except the two big bosses. There were five of us who traveled together. My boss said, “Listen up, this area is controlled by the cartel now.” We took over the city and continued to wreak havoc.

Lady Battle Cop eventually kills us one at a time. She really put a hurting on me, as she remembered what I did to her. I fell to the ground, and a laser beam ran across my eyes, killing me instantly. There were many days of shooting in the studio and on location in an abandoned factory where the cartel was killed off. In the last fight scene, Lady Battle Cop has to fight a man with all kinds of special powers, like the ability to move objects and harness destructive power, which he released in the form of energy. It was a hard fight, but she was a Battle Cop, as she could not lose.

Derrick Holmes in November 2012. Photo © Brett Homenick.

UPDATE (March 2023): On November 28, 2007, Derrick Holmes sent me the following email with detailed information about his background in Japan. As Derrick himself admitted at the time, the message was written in haste and contained more than its share of spelling mistakes. I’ve done my best to correct the errors and verify the information contained therein, but some of the sentences were completely indecipherable, so those parts have been deleted. I’ve also noted certain statements that I haven’t been able to independently verify. As a tribute to Derrick’s memory, I am presenting his detailed message to me in the most accurate form possible.

In 1979, I worked [for] three months in Osaka for the Kanimitsu family, who owned the Seiko Corporation. [Note: “Kanimitsu” is exactly how the name was written in the email, but I wasn’t able to verify it, nor the assertion that they owned the Seiko Corporation.]

I was a dancer. We worked at three clubs: The Bottom Line live house, the Focal Point disco, and the King’s Head — a show restaurant.

I danced with four females and one other male. We also did a late-night TV show called 11PM (1965-90) as show dancers. The show was live every Tuesday.

The clubs were actually in the entertainment district/pink area/red-light district, so it was always very bright and very loud from the noise coming from the pachinko parlors and the men yelling on the street: “Welcome to my shop.”

My boss had a nickname, “Big Boss,” [in] the area. He was very nice to us, but we gave him hell sometimes. He was not prepared for young, spoiled American blacks in their twenties.

One time, the girls slipped away to Tokyo for a dance contest with one of the local club owners and a dancer. The boss did not know where they were and sent many men out to look for them at a couple hundred dollars per person. When they got back, and he found out what really happened, he called the club owner and told him to come to the club through the back exit.

When he did, my boss was hiding behind something and came out and hit the other club owner — Mr. Eddie, a Japanese man — in the arm with a baseball bat, of course breaking his arm. Then he was going to break the dancers’ legs, but the girls started screaming and fainting, so he stopped. [My] boss had became boss by beating out seven other men.

If the girls would have known this before, I’m sure they would not have tried to miss a show so they could go to a dance contest in Tokyo. I told them it was a bad idea, but they did not listen. By the way, the local club shop was trashed and shut down.

All in all, it was a lot of fun once they moved us out of the small two tatami rooms they used to use for the sex trade and gave us bigger rooms on the second floor. We shared two people per room.

For three months, I worked for the Niko Niko Corporation — Hayashi family. [Note: I wasn’t able to verify this company or its association with this name.]

I was a dancer and a DJ. Mr. Hayashi owned several clubs in a seven-story building. The sixth floor was a disco called Super Studio Heaven. I played R&B, rock and roll, and pop music. I also talked to customers and made people feel comfortable.

On the fifth floor was a club called Soul Trip. It was a funk disco. I played funky music, and three male dancers whom I hired [from] Los Angeles did break dance shows. We all talked to customers.

On the third floor was a hostess club with a live band, and three American women came over with me to be dancers. After the dance shows, the girls became hostesses.

The second floor was a new wave club with Gary Allen as the host and DJ.

Mr. Hayashi was half Chinese/Japanese. His family owned the Kumamoto City baseball team [and] convenience stores, and [his] oldest brother was a lawyer.

[In] 1984, my modeling career began. I went on interviews for two weeks before anything happened. I was signed by [the] Askew Japan modeling agency. I did fashion print modeling, posters, magazine layouts, editorials, and TV commercials.

I worked a lot until new models came into town, and the agency started sending them to auditions instead of me. That’s the politics of the business. I was able to build a good portfolio of sports catalogs, high fashion, TV commercials, and fashion shows.

[Next was] Management Japan Corporation — MJC — a good agency. Fashion shows: Christian Dior, Issey Miyake, Takeo Kikuchi Men’s Bigi, Arrston Volaju, and the Marui Collection, which consists of many top designers. I did maybe 10 shows.

TV commercials and print modeling were good income. I also did background dancing for major a Japanese recording artist: Toshinobu Kubota’s Bonga Wanga tour and video.

[For Japanese idol] Minako Honda, [I did] two shows in Tokyo and Osaka. There were other shows. Working for MJC was a great experience.

One day, in 1984, I was walking down the street with a friend when Motoko Inagawa stopped me and asked me to work for her agency. This was the beginning of my TV and film career.

NHK English conversation: one television show — one-year regular, textbook learning. [I also did a] video movie [called] Lady Battle Cop (1990) [for Toei, as well as] a karaoke video — “Won’t Be Long” [performed by Da] Bubble Gum Brothers.

[I also did a] Tokyo Broadcasting [System, a.k.a. TBS] evening drama called Video Party (1987). I was a military solider on leave in Japan. My girlfriend was a Japanese painter. One evening, my lady and I went to a Japanese love hotel. Without our knowledge, we were videotaped making love.

In the near future, she had a party with her friends. It was a video party. Everyone sat in front of the TV and watched skin flicks. Total shock took over the room when we appeared on the video. At first, she thought I set her up, so she hated me. I spent the rest of the story proving my innocence. I had to win her confidence back by researching the video company.

I went back to the hotel through the back exit and found a few people shooting a video through a magic mirror. My friends are with me, and we can prove that I did nothing wrong to hurt her. I also had to get an AIDS test to make her feel at ease. It was negative. I helped her overcome her manic-depressi[ve] state of mind, which she had been suffering from. In the end, I was sent to Brazil on military business.

[There was a] Thursday night suspense drama called “Nanase Futatabi” [“Nanase Again” (1995), which aired as part of Ghost Story Thursday (1995-97)] where I played a person who can see the future and move things with my mind. My partner, the leading lady, could see the future. People were trying to kill her, and I showed up to save her. Many people came to kill her, but every time I saved her. Eventually, we had to run away until we were killed by the police because we were involved in many incidents to save her life.


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