Chuck Wilson, born in Boston, Massachusetts, and educated in Grand Rapids, Michigan, joined the U.S. Air Force in 1969 and came to Japan on January 10, 1970, to study judo. After spending three years in Kyoto, he moved to Tokyo and began working in the fitness industry. In 1991, Mr. Wilson landed the role of Wilson, the leader of the Futurians, in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, one of the biggest roles an American actor has ever enjoyed in a Japanese Godzilla film. In 2005, Mr. Wilson shared his experiences working on one of Godzilla’s most popular films with Brett Homenick.
Brett Homenick: What was your background before coming to Japan?
Chuck Wilson: I arrived in Japan in 1970 after being discharged from the Air Force in Korea with the intention of studying judo for about six months before returning to the U.S. I became involved in the fitness industry here and have been working in that capacity since 1973.
BH: Why did you ultimately enter show business?
CW: Quite by accident I was asked to be on a Price Is Right type of quiz show which was enjoying excellent ratings at the time, and thus my “career” as an entertainer was initiated — only insofar as it positively affected my work in the fitness industry, which it did.
BH: How did you get cast in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah?
CW: My casting in the film had more to do with my quiz show popularity and language ability than any acting talent. The part was simply one more opportunity to assist my main business through media exposure.
BH: Do you think the exposure your role got in Japan helped your business in any way?
CW: Yes, the whole media exposure experience helped my business tremendously, not only the Godzilla movie.
BH: You had one of the biggest roles of the film. What did you do to prepare for it, if anything?
CW: My preparation was minimal, and my role almost incidental to the success or failure of the film. I was simply a “television personality” that no one expected much of in terms of thespian skill.
BH: What did you think of Kazuki Omori as a director?
CW: There was no audition, (and) I rarely talked with the director, as he was busy with the “real” actors.
BH: What are your memories of working with the Japanese cast?
CW: The cast was friendly and quite tolerant of me, but were simply very busy performing their work.
BH: How did you get along with your American co-stars like Richard Berger (Grenchiko) and Robert Scott Field (Android M-11)?
CW: Richard Berger is a good friend of mine, and he, Robert Field, and myself all worked very hard and earnestly on the film. The fact, however, remains that if Japan had wanted qualified foreign actors and was willing to contend with acting unions and pay comparable salaries, they would have retained experienced professionals. I’m sure budget considerations contributed to the decision to retain resident people.
BH: The interior set of the Mother Ship is quite impressive. What was it like to work on it?
CW: The sets seemed to be well thought out, but were to me just something to work with, as I had had almost no basis of comparison.
BH: Did you work with Koichi Kawakita or the other members of the special effects crew during filming?
CW: I had almost no contact with the special effects people. Some of the setups that I did see were interesting, but my role didn’t coincide with the special effects shooting very often.
BH: Of course, you have a background in the martial arts, and there’s a climactic fight scene in the Mother Ship just before Godzilla destroys it. What was it like rehearsing and shooting that sequence?
CW: The fight scenes required very little martial arts experience at all; they were simply not complicated, but they were well-choreographed.
BH: I remember vividly the news coverage the film garnered in the U.S. because of the perceived anti-American message it carried. I’m sure you’re familiar with that controversy. What do you think about it?
CW: I was only vaguely aware of any anti-American sentiment and only after the movie came out. I was then and remain unconcerned; I was simply doing a job. If there was any political motivation in making this film, I was simply unaware of it.
BH: Did you like the film when it was completed?
CW: I never saw the completed movie. However, there was some positive feedback from some who did.
BH: What did you think about the experience shooting the film?
CW: All this being said, Godzilla movies in Japan have a huge following, and the Japanese actors were professionals doing a professional job. The director was extremely supportive and genuinely concerned that we did the best we were capable of. We all tried to live up to his and the other actors’ expectations. The Japanese commitment to the arts is well-known and respected. I am happy that I had the opportunity to make a small contribution.
BH: Even though you’ve never seen the completed film, would you see another Godzilla movie if the chance came up?
CW: Would I go to see another Godzilla film? Probably not in Japan. The Godzilla series in Japan is geared towards a very young audience. However, I would wait in line to see a sequel to the (1998) U.S. Godzilla movie, which I have seen about 10 times.