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Steveston a star in Godzilla

Mas Morimoto plays Team Member #3 in Godzilla. - Don Fennell
Mas Morimoto plays Team Member #3 in Godzilla.
— image credit: Don Fennell

Mas Morimoto is brushing elbows with a force of nature.

On Friday, the lifelong Steveston resident will find out if he’s made the director’s cut in the epic $160 million reboot of the Godzilla movie franchise directed by Gareth Edwards and starring Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad fame.

The 2014 version of Godzilla is the largest production to ever film in Richmond, shooting for 15 days in various locations throughout the city in the spring of 2013, including Steveston village and the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre.

An American science-fiction action film featuring the Japanese film monster, it recounts the origin of Godzilla in modern times in homage to the Toho series.

“My part (as part of a team of scientists) being a very small portion of the entire movie, and not seeing the finished product in its full glory makes my comments seem insignificant,” says Morimoto.

“But I feel the director was trying to capture the delicate balance between science and Mother Nature and how at times the balance is lost,” Morimoto said.

“Regardless of how this movie is received I am so grateful I had the opportunity to be a small part of this project. Again, another example of stepping out and trusting it will all work out as it should be. We are merely the actors in this grand stage and when called upon we must perform. When you think of it, it is a bit overwhelming when one ponders that there are a few billion people on this planet and an individual from Richmond had this opportunity. Wow.”

Morimoto, 66, is by nature a very humble individual who only caught the acting bug a few years ago. After retiring at the age of 60 from an engineering job at the City of Richmond, where he was employed for 30 years, he decided to go back to school to learn the Japanese form of pressure healing called shiatsu. It spoke to him internally and he says he discovered “a deeper spirituality.”

“I wanted to make sure the next phase of my life was going to be positive and I believe the positive energy you exude comes back to you. It became amazing how I was able to connect with people,” he said.

It was a conversation over coffee with a friend in Steveston, who had been modeling in New York, that led him into acting.

“She asked me what I’d like to do (with my life) and I said I’d like to do shiatsu on the movie sets,” Morimoto recalls.

She took a couple of head shots of Morimoto and sent them to a local talent agency. Not long after he got a call from Pamela Wise at Premiere Talent Management in Vancouver offering to sign him, and in short order he  auditioned for a food commercial.

“I didn’t know anything (about the industry or what was expected) and was nervous as heck,” he said. “But I got a call-back, and when I went in for the second audition there were tons more people in the room, including sponsors I later found out.”

Months passed before he heard anything, when out of the blue he got a call from Wise congratulating him on getting the gig.

“It was about August (2011) and I was at a Sockeyes’ golf tournament,” says Morimoto, who volunteers with the Richmond Junior B hockey team as its director of community relations. “I remember a feeling of elation that must be what it feels like to win an Academy Award. But I didn’t want to say anything for fear it seemed like I was bragging. But it was a huge relief.”

More auditions followed, as did more gigs. And as his confidence increased, Morimoto began to realize how much he enjoyed acting and wanted to pursue some more “serious” roles.

Morimoto has taken acting to heart and gained an appreciation for the subtle skill and craft it is.

“I now view movies from a whole different perspective,” he says. “You have to become that person and that takes a lot of energy. You have to peel back all the biases and prejudices, which is what all the great actors like Pacino and DeNiro are able to do. A little flick of the eyelid or a facial expression can make all the difference.”

Morimoto is a big believer in the forces of nature and that things happen for a reason. He claims to never plan for anything.

“Things just work out,” he says. “Life is like a train station to me. Arriving or leaving is like entering another phase. The older I get the more comfortable I feel with that. So when they say life begins at 50, that can be true, but now with experience and possibly wisdom.”

Despite not acting on his talents as a child, Morimoto remembers always having a creative side. He always enjoyed drawing and was fascinated by the arts in general. He encourages everyone to open the door of opportunity when it is presented.

Godzilla may have left a big footprint in Steveston, but it’s one that may ultimately pave the way for bigger and better things for a local actor.

*WATCH: Godzilla trailer.

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