My father was in the Air Force and in my senior year of high school they stationed him in Japan, so that's the reason I wound up in Tokyo. The day that I arrived my father told me that a little girl I used to live next door to when we lived in France also graduated the same year and that night was having a graduation party. I went to the graduation party and I met a girl there who was shorter than I am and she said that she was making extra money by modeling. I got the information from her and went to the modeling agency and started working right away.
Did you know what you were getting yourself into at that point, meaning had you seen any other Kaiju movies before, like Godzilla, Mothra etc?
I had heard of Godzilla and Mothra and those kind of movies because I lived in Japan. But I was so busy working as a model and doing a TV show called English for Millions
that I rarely watched TV or went to the movies. So when I got the part in King Kong Escapes
I had no idea the historical significance it would have one day.
Your voice was dubbed by someone else in the movie. Did you know your voice wouldn't be used and what did you think of this new voice of yours?
I had no idea and I was not ever told that my voice would be dubbed by someone else. Arthur didn't mention that when the film went to the states the actors would have to read up their own voices so I just assumed I would be doing my own. But because I lived in Japan and I did not have a union contract like I would have if I had been in the states they did not let me record my voice. When I saw the American version of King Kong Escapes
and heard that voice I was horrified. I was not happy, I was embarrassed and I couldn't believe they chose that voice for my character. Sounded more like a cartoon than a real person. So that's something that I've never been happy about. I will say that anytime you hear lieutenant Watson scream that's my voice. They used my real voice for the screens. LOL
You starred alongside veteran TV-actor Rhodes Reason. Did being the only two prominent American actors help create a bond between the two of you? What was your relationship like off-screen during the making of the movie?
Yes being the only two Americans on the set did create a bond between us. He was very instrumental in helping me with my role. Because I had no training whatsoever, he stepped in and became sort of like a coach and teacher for me. We became very good friends, his family and my family and when I returned to the United States he was instrumental in helping me find an acting school and an agent. He also was very helpful in telling me what people to stay away from, which was almost more important than anything else he did. We stayed good friends until the late 80s early 90's when we left California. Last time I saw Rhodes was when he was doing Annie
on Broadway.I love that King Kong Escapes has a mix of both kaiju and the spy genre, which was very popular back then with the success of the James Bond franchise as well as TV-shows like The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and I Spy. One of your co-stars, Mie Hama, actually played a Bond girl that same year in You Only Live Twice and was a very experienced actress. This being your first movie, did she help you during filming, give you pointers or anything of the sort?
Unfortunately she and I had very little contact. I guess you could say she was out of my league is more correctly. She was not unfriendly, she was just not overly helpful because we had so few scenes together.
Naturally, you can't have a semi-spy movie from this era without someone playing the part of an evil genius with high ambitions of either getting rich or conquering the world, sometimes both. Hideyo Amamoto played that kind of villain to a tee as Dr. Who. With the kind of commitment to the part he was displaying, I'm curious to know what he was like off-screen. Do you have any anecdotes you want to share with us?
Boy he certainly did play his part perfectly, didn't he? Off screen he was very funny and very charming and very friendly. Because I spoke Japanese good enough to have conversations he and I would talk from time to time and I just found him to be delightful. Completely opposite of the way he looked, except he looked a little offbeat and he really was a little upbeat in his personality but very endearing. After we wrapped King Kong Escapes
he invited my mother and I to come see him in a play in Tokyo and afterwards we went out together. He was a very nice man.
Your director was the legendary Ishiro Honda, who is most famous for his work in the Kaiju genre and specifically for having directed the very first Godzilla. What was it like working for him and what was he like as a person?
Honda-san was a very quiet director. He spoke softly and was not intimidating at all. But he was very serious and you could tell by the expression on his face whether he liked what you did or he didn't. But he never made you feel bad or feel like you were disappointing him. He would just offer a suggestion in how to do the scene again. He seemed very accomplished and was a very gentle man. When we went on location we would all have dinner together, he just seemed like one of the nicest people in the whole wide world
Kong's look differs a lot from how most people were used seeing him look like in the original from 1933, where he was seen through stop motion whereas a suit was used for this movie. What did you think of Kong's look in King Kong Escapes? Does it look goofier to you now, 40 years later?
(Laughs) Yes it looks a little goofy I think but at the same time I think it was better because he was able to move more naturally. I also thought the expression he had was better and changed from when he saw an enemy that he was going to try and annihilate or when he was trying to save me from the serpent. I actually got to meet Nakajima-san when we were filming and he was in his suit. In fact I think there are some pictures of him, Rhodes, Arthur Rankin and I at that time that we met.
Some of my favorite scenes in the movie are those between you and Kong, a lot of which has to do with the beautiful music that accompany them made by one of my favorite composers, Akira Ifukube. What are your thoughts on the movies' musical score?
I hadn't seen the movie for many many years but about two or three years ago some friends came over and we watched it and I agree with you, I believe the music was so important to the movie and the mood it intended to create. I think the music was definitely first class.
Speaking of those scenes with Kong, in a lot of them you are sitting on his giant hand and I've always wondered what they made the hand out of. Could you shed some light on that?
Well, the hand was huge and it was attached to a device that raised it up and down. I was sitting in front of a blue screen as I did my scenes pretending to be talking with Kong. The hand was not very comfortable, it was kind of hard but they had lots of hair-looking material over it so I was able to be seated right in the palm of the hand. The worst part for me is that they would raise the hand up off of the floor and I'm a little bit afraid of heights, so when I was holding on to his hand in the film believe me, I was really holding on to his hand because I did not want to fall!
Did you find those scenes hard to do, having to act against a giant ape you actually didn't see? Did it ever seem humorous or surreal being in that position, sitting in a giant ape hand and shouting lines?
It felt strange sitting in his hand up in the air against the blue background pretending that somebody else was there that you were acting against. This is one area that Rhodes helped me with quite a bit. He gave me tips on how to imagine and how to play it out. The first time or two was really awkward but then I became more comfortable and more confident.
The movie looks like it was shot mostly on various sets built specifically for the movie. which I personally think look great. What were your impressions of them when working on the movie and how do you feel they hold up today where so much is shot in front of a green screen?
Yes we had a whole sound stage devoted to King Kong Escapes. We had the interior of the ship, the Tokyo Tower and some more that I can't quite remember. The exterior shot when I'd jump off the ship that was filmed on the lot but not in the sound stage. We only went on location two times. The first time is when we went to Mondo Island and you see those exterior shots are actually on location. Then the second time is at the very end when we're at the dock saying goodbye to Kong. We actually shot that on a doc outside in the Tokyo harbor somewhere. I found it much easier to act in the real environment than a pretend environment, but I think that had to do with my inexperience as an actress. Actually the ship seemed very, very real and in scale so I think they did an excellent job.
Did you get to watch any of the filming of the fight scenes between Kong and Mechani Kong? I'm sure it must have looked goofy.
Unfortunately I did not get to see any of the fight scenes at all. Those were filmed by another unit separate from what we were doing. But I was able to go to another sound stage where I saw miniatures of the jungle, I also saw the helicopter scene where Kong gets sedated and they tie him up and the helicopter is lifting him up to take him to the ship so he can help them mine out. Everything was miniature but to scale. It looked so real and I was very impressed with the skill those artists had.
How long did it take to shoot the movie and what were your feelings when shooting had wrapped? Were you exhausted from the long hours or was it not that intense?
If memory serves me we started either in May or June and we were done by August so it was around three months. Even though I had to get up super early every morning I did not find that I was exhausted. When we wrapped I was excited because I had accomplished something and I was sad because I knew that I would not see these people again. So it was bittersweet.
When did you see the movie for the first time? Was it at the premiere? What did you think of it back then?
The first time I saw the movie is when it premiered in Tokyo in Japanese. There were lots of lights and cameras and it was all very very exciting. The boys said they chose to dub me and the Japanese was perfect and I was very pleased with my voice and with Rhodes' voice. In some spots I thought the movie was a little silly but I was very proud and grateful that I had the opportunity to be part of the experience. When I saw it in the states after they had dumped my voice I was not so thrilled. If they were going to dump my voice I wish they would have used someone else.
There are two versions of the movie, the 8 minute shorter US version with some alternative footage and the original Japanese version. Which one are you most familiar with and which one do you prefer?
I know this sounds hard to believe but I wasn't aware that the Japanese movie was 8 minutes longer. I really can't answer that question because I haven't seen the Japanese version in a long time and I'm not sure what they left in compared to what the Americans took out. But I have such a high regard for the artistry of the Japanese that I probably would prefer their version.
Linda Miller tillsammans med Haruo Nakajima och Akira Takarada
When released, King Kong Escapes was a great success, especially in Japan but also in the US. Was the success so big that you'd get recognized on the streets of Japan, the US or anywhere else you went?
I wish I could say yes but the answer is no. In Japan before King Kong Escapes
I did get recognized because of the modeling work I had done and the TV-show I did. The TV-show was piped into the junior high schools as an English lesson so when I would go anywhere in Tokyo and there would be junior high school students they would recognize me and asked for my autograph. King Kong Escapes
came out I think in September 1967 in Japan and I left Japan in February 1968, so I was not able to experience the full impact that the film made.
It's interesting because when I returned to the states I did not experience anybody recognizing me. In fact I did some work here in the states after I returned, one of them being an episode on a TV show called My Three Sons. It was a very popular show and I've had people tell me I look so different in that that nobody would connect the Linda Miller from King Kong Escapes
and the Linda Miller that was in My Three Sons
. In fact I did not use the name Linda Miller when I did My Three Sons
because there already was a Linda Miller who was a member of The Screen Actors Guild. When I went to get my union card I had to find another name and my agent came up with Leslie Michaels. A name which today does not feel right.
Toho Studios are one of the giant film companies in Japan, having been involved in everything imaginable from Godzilla to Akira Kurosawa. Do you have any recollections of your time working with Toho Studios that you'd like to share?
Walking through the gates of Toho Studios
at that time was like a fairytale. I remember seeing many faces that I recognized from billboards and movies and many of them very famous. I never ran into the director Kurosawa but I did see Toshirô Mifune. I was in the commissary one afternoon having lunch and he walked into the commissary and I have to tell you he was as impressive and powerful looking in real life as he was in the films. That was a big thrill for me You followed up King Kong Escapes with a part in The Green Slime. How did you get to be in that movie?
King Kong Escapes
wrapped in about August and then I did The Green Slime
very shortly thereafter. My girlfriend had a very small part in the film and asked me to come with her and when I showed up they asked me to be in the film as well, so I just did it to have something to do.
Back in the US you had your final acting part in My Three Sons. Why did you decide to stop acting so early in your career? I'm sure you would have been a welcome addition for Toho when they needed parts for American characters in their movies.
When I came back to the States pretty quickly I got the spot on My Three Sons
which I enjoyed doing very much. However I was not a big fan of the Hollywood system and felt that it was not for me. I enjoyed acting very much and I would have continued but I did not like how business was done. It was disappointing but it was the right decision for me to make.Up until recently, Kaiju and Kong fans had been looking for you, seemingly in vain, for many years to hear your story. Not really knowing anyone had been searching for you, you were finally found, alive and well. Did you have any idea King Kong Escapes had such a huge cult following among fans?
I was extremely surprised when I got the phone call from Brett Homenic saying that he had been looking for me. I had absolutely no idea that there was a Kaiju Fan Club out there. in fact, I never really mentioned to anybody that I was in King Kong Escapes
because my life had changed so much it just didn't seem to be relevant. Since Brett got a hold of me there's been a whole new world that's opened up and it's been a lot of fun. I've met some very interesting people and had some wonderful experiences, but no one was more surprised than me to find out the people had been looking for me.
Since being rediscovered, you've been appearing on conventions, meeting fans and signing things for them. Do you enjoy this new part of your life?
Boy do I ever enjoy it. I'm always excited when I get invited to a convention because it gives me an opportunity to meet with the fans. Fans have been very nice and I enjoy meeting them almost more than they enjoy meeting me. Sometimes I see some of the same fans and sometimes I get to meet new ones so it's always something I look forward to. I appreciate the fans so very much.
King Kong Escapes celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. What do you think of it all these years later?
When me and my friends watched it two or three years ago I was able to really enjoy it. Typically in the past I was so critical of my acting that I didn't really enjoy it. But now that I'm older I can appreciate what a wonderful opportunity it was to be a part of the film and so I was able to really, really enjoy it.
King Kong Escapes cast & crew
Finally, do you have any message to your fans and lovers of Kong and the Kaiju genre who will be reading this?
My message to my fans is thank you for your love and your support after all these many years. I realize that none of these wonderful experiences that I've had recently would be possible without the fans. I appreciate you and I love you all and I hope we have the opportunity to meet and talk in person sometime in the near future. I wish all of you as much joy as you have given me..
Dōmo arigatō, Linda Miller!