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Holy cats and dogs, babies, this might be the end of your dear old LMD.  Eight years since he first blessed my retinas, starring in the unforgettable Japanese gun opera, Versus, I finally managed to be in the presence of actor, director, fight choreographer and screenwriter, Tak Sakaguchi.  Tak is the guest of honour at this yearís New York Asian Film Festival premiering two films he directed, Be a Man!  Samurai School , and Yoroi, Samurai Zombie

Be proud of me, kids, I only fainted twice.

Dig it!

 

Tak Sakaguchi

 

The Lady Miz Diva:  Youíre at the New York Asian Film Festival appearing in a number of films, and youíve directed two of them.  How do you feel about your films playing in New York audience? 

Tak Sakaguchi:  Happy! {Laughs}

 

LMD:  What made you decide to bring these films to the festival?

TS:  Mark {- Walkow, NYAFF director invited Tak} has been a friend of mine for a while, so thatís one of the reasons.  And of course New York City is something that I feel a real draw to; Broadway and the lure of the city.

 

LMD:  Are you nervous?

TS:  Just a little, yeah. {Laughs}

 

LMD:  When did you realise you wanted to make movies?

TS:  When I was 23, but when I was a child, my mother would share a lot of movies with me, such as the Exorcist.  I always thought that I wanted to be part of the movies.

 

LMD:  How did you get your start?

TS:  Because of {director Ryuhei} Kitamura, when he was working on Versus, he asked me if I wanted to participate and thatís how I got involved.  At the time in that town, I was the most well-known street-fighter.

 

LMD:  Action is a big part of all your films.  How do you talk your stunt team, Zeroís, into doing those dangerous stunts like being hit by moving cars? 

TS:  Isao Karasawa, who I work with, is a top-notch stuntman in Japan, and so I just say, ďPlease try it.  Letís do it,Ē and thatís all I say.  I was at an amusement park and there was a big water slide and I saw people just shooting down the water slide and I called over Karasawa-san, and said, ďYeah, letís try that. Letís do that,Ē and we did that on Japanese television.

 

LMD:  How much rehearsal time do you have to plan out the crazy stunts and fight sequences in your films?

TS:  Well, we always create the action sequences on set when weíre actually on location.  So, I think about it for five minutes and then say, ďLetís do it this way,Ē then do a little rehearsal, and then go ahead and shoot it and thatís it.  When we do the screening for Be a Man! Samurai School, weíll do a little demonstration.  I think weíre gonna do a little bit of swordfighting, but whatever we show then thatíll be on the spot, as well.

I think in America, people have a lot more time to rehearse and plan out these sequences and Iím always jealous of that.  We donít really have that luxury of time to actually do them; I think if we were able to, we could maybe do even more amazing choreography.

 

LMD:  You must always have to keep yourself in shape.  How much time do you spend training?

TS:  Two hours every day.  I donít do any weight training just to build up muscle; itís really just the muscle groups that are necessary to hit people and kick people, so every day I do punch people and kick people, so thatís what I do every day.

 

LMD:  Who volunteers to be punched and kicked?

TS:  The members of Zeroís, thatís why I have them.  The crazy members of Zeroís

 

LMD:  There is a lot of humour in your films, is that important to you as a director and screenwriter?

TS:  Yes, in all situations I think itís important not to forget your sense of humour.

 

LMD:  Can you ever be too silly and end up missing what you want to say to the audience?  How do you balance humour in your films?

TS:  I think the important point there is that even when it looks like weíre goofing off, weíre doing it very seriously with all of our passion.  So, weíre not screwing around, even though it looks like weíre screwing around and goofing off, weíre doing it with all of our heart and all of our energy and I think thatís a very important point.

 

LMD:  You have many talents; youíve directed, youíre a screenwriter, action director and actor.  Which aspect of filmmaking appeals to you most?

TS:  Directing.  I think because you start from zero as a director.  As an actor, you have the opportunity to start from one and work up to one hundred.  As a director, itís the only way you get to start from point zero and really get to build everything up, so I think thatís why itís most meaningful to me.

 

LMD:  Who are you inspired by as a filmmaker? Who do you admire?

TS:  Akira Kurosawa and Mamoru Oshii, those are my favourites.

 

LMD:  Is there anything else in the arts youíd like to try that you havenít, like singing?

TS:  Not particularly.  I did sing a little bit in Battlefield Baseball, but it didnít go over that well.

 

LMD:  You have a character in Be a Man! Samurai School called Hidemaro, who is a small guy with a prolific pompadour, I wondered if he was meant to look like the guitarist hide from X-Japan?

TS:  Wow, thatís the first Iíve thought of it, but yeah, he does look like hide!

 

LMD:  In the West, movie directors try very hard to capture that comic book or manga feel in their films, yet you manage it and make it look easy.  How do you do that?

TS:  I think the most important thing is that you have love for the original manga in the original form and you have respect for it, as well.

 

LMD:  Are you inspired at all by manga, or do you storyboard like a comic?

TS:  When I storyboard for a film, itís actually more like a film storyboard, it doesnít really veer towards manga, but because I love manga so much that I think my natural tendency is to go towards a similar vein.  I think if I didnít like it, I would just continue to diverge from it, but because I love it I tend to go towards that vein.

 

LMD:  Which manga are you reading now?

TS:  One Piece!  But if I was going to do a movie based on a manga, I would love to do Zero.

 

LMD:  Do you have any desire to make a film in America?

TS:  Itís a funny story; I do a lot of action work, but Iím really not very strong physically, so going overseas is a real strain on me, so I donít have this desire to particularly work in America.  Of course, if the opportunity arises for me to work in America, I would love to do it.

 

LMD:  Your collaboration with Ryuhei Kitamura is very well known.  What was the most important thing you learned from him?

TS:  Kitamura-san, when heís working on site, on set, in order to pursue what he really wants, heís like a monster.  That sort of feeling that he has, the sort of spirit that he pours into filmmaking is something that I try to emulate.

 

LMD:  Your Versus costar Hideo Sakaki, has a cameo in your film, Be a Man! Samurai School, and there are others from your previous films in your latest projects.  Is it intentional to use the same people often?  Does it make you more comfortable as a filmmaker?

TS:  Yes, weíre all good friends, those people Iíve been working with, so I think it just sort of happened naturally that we do work together.

 

LMD:  What is coming up for Tak Sakaguchi in the future?

TS:  Iím thinking about working on a final masterpiece of an action film and Iíd love to bring it to New York, but I want to make it a period piece from the Sengoku jidai and show a totally revolutionary way of swordfighting.  What does it really mean to punch people with a sword?  Something that no oneís ever seen before, thatís what Iím working on next.  I think as an action star, that will be my ultimate achievement.

 

LMD:  Are you going to see other films in the Festival?

TS:  Yes, Iíd like to see the Donnie Yen film, Ip Man.

 

LMD:  Will you please give our readers a message?

TS:  Iíll do my best from now on to create more and more films that you guys can love.  I want to make better and better action films, so please continue to support me and I really appreciate the support so far.

 

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

June 26th, 2009

 

 

 

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Photos

Exclusive photos by LMD

Film stills courtesy of Shueisha, napalm Films & Tak Sakguchi's Zero's Stunt Team

 

 

 

 

 

 

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