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Hey Boys and Girls, itís summer in the city and the 2011 New York Asian Film Festival is in full swing.  We were delighted to attend the Festivalís triptastic opening night film, Milocrorze; part romance, part comedy, part samurai epic with a disco musical thrown in.  Brilliant!  LMD sat down with the star of this yearís other samurai epic, 13 Assassins, Takayuki Yamada to chat about Miike, platform shoes, Westerns and playing the three main characters of Milocrorze.

Dig it!

 Milocrorze

Takayuki Yamada

 

The Lady Miz Diva:  Iíd like to congratulate you on receiving the New York Asian Film Festivalís Star Asia Rising Star Award.  How do you feel about winning it?

Takayuki Yamada:  Iíve never been that interested in awards and things and in a way it doesnít seem like a real thing.  What I mean by that is when a single individual comes to me and says, ďI really love your work,Ē itís something that I really feel and appreciate.  But if some people get together somewhere that I donít know and make the decision to give me the award and just hand it to me, I donít quite hear their individual voices.  So, it doesnít give me great joy, necessarily, but as an actor I really want as many people as possible to see my work and so Iím very appreciative of the opportunity it gives me.

 

LMD:  What did you think when you first read the script for Milocrorze?

TY:  My first impression was that it was really interesting and Iíd never had the opportunity before to work on such an artistic film.  So it was something I really wanted to do and an opportunity I really wanted.  Having the opportunity as an actor to play three completely different roles was something I was really looking forward to, but there was a lot of pressure, as well.  Not only am I playing three completely different human beings, but there has to be cohesiveness between them so that itís a single work.  It was important to bring that cohesiveness to the entirety of the piece and I thought that would be something that would be amazing for the audience to experience, so I was very excited to do it.

 

LMD:  What was the more difficult challenge for you in Milocrorze; the long samurai swordfight or dancing in those platform shoes?

TY:  From a purely physical challenge -- the muscle work involved and breathing techniques -- definitely the swordfighting was more challenging, but Iíve had no experience with dance, and so to have to learn three different numbers and to dance in the platform shoes was really, definitely a challenge.  From a shooting perspective, definitely the swordfight scenes were more challenging, but in terms of my learning curve, the dancing was much more of a difficulty.

 

LMD:  You mentioned during the festival Q&A that it take you some time to get out of your characterís skin.  Which of the three in Milocrorze was the hardest to leave behind?

TY:  I think the shooting schedule has a lot to do with it; thatís probably why Tamon stayed with me the longest.  When we started shooting I started with the part of Ovreneli, they shot for 2 weeks and then immediately started the next day without a break, we went into the Besson scenes.  We shot those in the spring and then there was a bit of a gap until the fall when we shot the Tamon scenes and in between I actually made a different film altogether.  So I think Tamon was the one that lingered the most and also I think heís the character that has the most content.

 

LMD:  I think most people in the US might know you from 13 Assassins, which was directed by Takashi Miike.  Between Miike and Milocrorzeís Yoshimasa Ishibashi, youíve had the opportunity to work with two of Japanís most imaginative directors.  Is that kind of creativity what you look for in your roles or filmmakers youíd like to work with?

TY:  Thereís one big difference between these two directors and their work.  With Ishibashi-san, he has a very complete world built up in his mind.  He has a complete picture.  This is the impression I receive as an actor, but even with the staff that he works with, he has this complete picture: {If Ishibashi says} ďThis partís supposed to have a red line,Ē so someone will get the red paint and someone will bring the red brush and paint the section. ďThis areaís supposed to be blue, so get the blue brush and put this here.Ē He has a very complete vision that he has brought to life.  With Miike-san, of course he also has a complete picture in his head of the film, but he understands it as his ideal picture and that it doesnít have to be exactly what he has in mind.  Again, this is the impression Iíve received, but heíll let everybody do what they think they want to do first at least to see where that takes them.  As an actor these are not the direct words that he gave me, but in terms of his general direction, I felt that I was given this role, Shinrokurō Shimada, and it was my role and that out of anybody there, I was the one who understood this character the best and I thought the most about what this character was thinking about.  So between the time that he says ďactionĒ until he yells ďcutĒ even if the line is not exactly whatís written in the script, if it comes from me organically as the actor inhabiting this role, then that would be okay.

 

LMD:  Do you think your understanding of Miikeís technique is one of the reasons why youíve now worked with him on three films? {Previously on Crows ZERO (2007), Crows ZERO 2 (2009)}

TY:  I think, again as my impression as an actor in terms of working with directors who have very different styles, at the stage where weíre looking at the script, if I said to Miike-san, ďThis line in this situation doesnít really make sense to me.Ē  Heíd say, ďOkay, then you donít have to say that line, but you have to say something to make the conversation stand up and hold together.Ē  Then Iíd say, ďOkay, what should I say instead?Ē  And Miike-san would say, ďWell, you choose.  You make it up.Ē  So as an actor, itís a lot of fun, but thereís so much pressure because all the responsibility falls to you.  Iím sure if I said something really terrible, the director would correct it, but it is definitely a whole different level of pressure that you experience as an actor working with Miike-san, but of course thereís a thrill component to that, so itís something Iíve really enjoyed and hopefully Iíll be regularly working with him.  In contrast, thereís something very rewarding with working a director like Ishibashi-san, who has something very complete in his mind and the challenge as an actor is to deliver something as perfectly close to possible to what he has envisioned.  Thatís a different kind of challenge thatís also very rewarding and interesting.  Thereís a type of stress that builds up when I canít do exactly how I feel I want to do the part, which when I work with a director like Miike-san, just really flies away.  Iím able to learn a lot from that experience, which I can then take into the work I do with other directors, so itís a back and forth.  Itís not that I get to pick and choose directors that often, but the script is the most important part in choosing projects.

 

LMD:  Are you interested in making films in the west?  I know you have a film coming up called Oba: The Last Samurai that features a mixed cast of Asian and American stars.

TY:  I love acting and so in Japan, I work in contemporary settings or period pieces as well as things that take place in the close future or in science fiction.  As an actor, I think the larger environment I have to play in, the better; so I would love an opportunity to work in different cultures as they have different things to offer, Iím sure.  I feel like if itís comedy I can really do anything, and I would also love to do parts that arenít necessarily written as a Japanese character.  If itís at all possible, Iíd love to be in a Western.

 

LMD:  Between the New York Asian Film Festival and Japan Cuts, you have six films screening that were produced in the last couple of years. Youíre very busy and I wondered whatís coming up next for you?

TY:  Iím not sure that the concept really translates well, but Iím playing the boss of a loan shark company.  It was originally a late night TV drama thatís actually now getting a movie adaptation called Yamikin Ushijima-kun.

You made a comment about me being busy, but all Japanese actors are very busy.

 

LMD:  Some actors are not busy at all.

TY:  Of course, youíre right, but you canít ever have a life like a Hollywood actor.  The scale that we work in is completely different.

 

LMD:  You seem to learn so much from your directors, are you thinking about becoming a filmmaker yourself?

TY:  At the moment, not at all.  I donít think I have that type of talent and thereís also something that I fear a little bit about this ability, because I feel that if I have experience as a director, and I understand where a director is coming from and their stance on what they have to deal with Ö Right now I have the freedom to be ignorant of what the director has to deal with and I can be as willful and self-centered as I want. But then if I understand what they have to go through, then I feel that I will have to be a little bit more thoughtful about that.  But of course in the future I do want to try everything, and Iím sure if thereís some material that I came across that I really felt very passionate about and really wanted to be the director of, I would do it.

 

LMD:  Would you please give a message to The Diva Review readers?

TY:  As fans you probably know this, but thereís a lot of great and interesting actors and directors in Japan, but thereís even more and more.  Thereís even more depth to that world, so I hope that you will all take the time to learn about this and get more into Japanese culture.

But Ö on the other hand, thereís also as many people who are totally uninteresting, who are worthless. {Laughs}

 

LMD:  I donít think your fans feel that about you.

TY:  Yeah, no, Iím pretty useless too!

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

July 2nd, 2011

 

Click here for our exclusive interview with Milocrorze director, Yoshimasa Ishibashi, the man also behind the Japanese sketch show and its surreal spinoff, The Fuccons.

 

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Photos

Exclusive photos by LMD

(Stills courtesy of Milocrorze Seisaku Iinkai)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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