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, (the Inagawa Motoko Agency). 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, 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 gun fight 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. 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 pm, 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 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 had 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.