AN ACTOR AND A GENTLEMAN! Ulf Otsuki Talks Tokusatsu in the 1970s!

Ulf Otsuki in a 2009 picture. Photo © Ulf Otsuki.

Ulf Georgii-Hemming, otherwise known as Ulf Otsuki (and sometimes mistranslated as “Wolf” Otsuki), is a Japanese actor who has appeared in several SFX films and television programs during his acting career. Most notably, he played the bearded Seatopian agent in Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973), but he also guest-starred in such tokusatsu shows as Warrior of Love Rainbowman (1972-73), Zone Fighter (1973), and Kamen Rider Super-1 (1980-81). In 2009, Mr. Otsuki told his story for the first time ever in English.

Brett Homenick: Please tell us about your biographical background.

Ulf Georgii-Hemming: I was born as a son to a Swedish architect, Gösta Georgii-Hemming, and a Japanese pianist, Toako Otsuki (who married in Berlin in 1931), in Tokyo in 1934, and naturally got a Swedish nationality. But when Gösta was stopped in Stockholm under the Nazi invasion of European countries, I was forced to stay in Japan with my elder sister Fujiko and my mother. Then when I became 20 years old in Japan, I lost my Swedish nationality automatically because I had not entered Sweden even once. Besides, my parents split up by the end of the war and, in 1970, the divorce was legally confirmed. After having been a stateless person, I decided to get a Japanese nationality in the 1970s.

BH: What led to your involvement in acting?

UGH: In my childhood, I liked to play the characters from movies like Robin Hood and chambara heroes (Japanese samurai). Then after I experienced jidou gekidan (a theater company in which the actors are children), I entered a theater company called Haiyu-za. Soon after I quit the company, I started to work for film, TV, and radio programs.

BH: How did you become cast in Godzilla vs. Megalon?

UGH: It was just given by my actors agency when I was well-known as a Japanese actor who’s of mixed race.

BH: Do you have any memories of pre-production meetings on this film?

UGH: The Tokusatsu-Gemba (a filming place for special effects) was in a huge film studio in Tokyo. The outside scenes were shot in a newly-developed residential area on the western outskirts of Tokyo and in some quarries around Mount Fuji. I spent hours and hours in a roke-basu (a vehicle which can be used to bring actors from one place to the other place for shooting) to move around.

BH: What was Jun Fukuda like as a director?

UGH: I think he is an enthusiast for movies. At the end of my role in this Godzilla film, director Fukuda asked me if I could tumble down a cliff myself instead of a stunt man. As a Japanese actor, I should have done it, whether I wanted to or not. I mean that, in the Japanese film industry in those days, directors had absolute power, and we poor Japanese actors used to be ordered to do stunts without any insurance.

BH: What do you remember about filming the scenes in the cars, which involved many stunts?

UGH: As well, in this car stunt, I was asked to get in this old car so that a camera could get my face in the swinging car. I felt really dizzy.

BH: Could you share your memories of actors Hiroyuki Kawase, Yutaka Hayashi, and Katsuhiko Sasaki?

UGH: They were all leading actors whom I didn’t spend much time with. So I don’t remember anything in particular.

BH: You spent much of your screen time with Kotaro Tomita. What was he like?

UGH: I don’t know him very well.

BH: What about the scene in the truck where you hold the two truckers hostage. What can you tell us about those scenes?

UGH: The driver of the lorry (truck) was acted by Gen-san (Gentaro Nakajima), a nice guy from the same actors agency.

BH: You also acted in Zone Fighter? What do you remember about this experience?

UGH: I don’t remember the film you mentioned, Zone Fighter. Was that one of Toho Company’s? If it was, I saw the Japanese shooting staff get tired of all their American guest actors who didn’t understand Japanese and the customs of the Japanese film industry.

BH: Another program you acted in was Rainbowman. Do you have any stories to tell about this show?

UGH: Erubanda, the character I played in the TV drama Rainbowman, is one of my favorites. Although a stupid make-up artist damaged my eyebrows while making the theatrical Kabuki-Devil face, I liked its character with a mother complex, wearing a pair of yellow tights and a blue shirt printed with a thunderbolt. He always goes back to his mother to get encouraged. Then finally, he is electrocuted by his own arms in a marsh.

BH: What was it like to work with legendary actor Akihiko Hirata on Rainbowman?

UGH: Mr. Hirata is a wonderful man, even though it was not easy to talk to him. What I mean is, he was a former Imperial naval officer who was really self-possessed, noble, reliable, and proud.

I spent a lot of time for another TV program The Great Iron Man 17 with him. He played the role of a crazy general who organizes a world-conspiratorial army and creates a super artificial brain. I performed a crazy doctor (named) Hessler, serving him. At the end of this TV series, I fought with The Great Iron Man, piloting a pyramid-shaped spacecraft. I did improvise a lot in this program, but only a few improvisations were accepted. It’s the conservatism of Japanese productions, I think.

BH: Kamen Rider Super-1 was another superhero show in which you appeared. What can you tell us about your work on this show?

UGH: In this program, I played the role of a good doctor, and I didn’t like it. The crazy doctors or bad guys are much more enjoyable to play. While playing the good ones, I should be obedient to the social code, and it’s boring.

BH: What were some of your other acting roles in Japan?

UGH: It is not easy to talk about all the experiences I’ve done in Japanese show business. I would say it was totally crazy and amusing. Please give me another crazy role in Hollywood. I can fuck up Godzilla with chopsticks.

By the way, you could see my statue in the garden of the state art museum of Nara Prefecture (Nara Prefectural Museum of Art). Nara is the most beautiful ancient city of Japan, worth a visit. Although my life was messed up by the war of fascists, I still love this country because of its primitive art and the culture. Enjoy Japan!

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