Takashi Miike talks '13 ASSASSINS' and More...
UPDATE - NOW WITH MORE ANSWERS! I am indebted to Christian Storms, Miike's translator, for he did not have technical difficulties, thus he had the full recording. And you have all the answers now.
We got the opportunity to talk to Takashi Miike for half and hour and the world has looked different ever since. I am smelling aromas, feeling textures and seeing colors of the spectrum that I never knew were possible until now. That's what happens after you've talked with Miike.
I started by asking Miike about Japan's love affair with the Samurai genre. Here in North America I thought that perhaps the Western or the Gangster genres were the closest that we had. They certainly had their hay day but we simply do not churn out those types of films in the same numbers as Japan does.
When you talk about what is a real samurai movie, or a real period chanbara film, where men are fighting essentially, fighting and fighting for their lives I'd say that 13 Assassins yes is very true to that genre but many of these other movies that are being made they're really not samurai or period movies. They're period movies, they wear the right costumes, and they have the background that makes it look like its the background of the times. But what they do is they insert a modern day love story or they take modern day conceptions of how men and women should get along and that becomes the story. What we wanted to say, and our point in making this movie, is that this is essentially what a real samurai movie is. There is no love story. The samurai have their way of thinking because thats the way they think. We didn't want to implement any sort of modern day way of thoughts for them. Seppeku [Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai] is a little bit different. There is not as much fighting as 13 Assassins.
I went on to ask him a simple question like what was the biggest challenge when making 13 Assassins.
The overall goal was to say if you try you can do it. To not be afraid and something can happen. The reason for the movie was the fact there was so much strength in the former Japan studio system, the fact that they owned action horse, or they taught, trained, their actors to fight these kind of battle scenes. They invested in people, they invested in man power. We have none of that today, anymore. Not only is it important to have good people that can learn to cut and slice with a sword but you also need people who are good at taking the damage of being cut as well. So much of that is gone today so the intention of the movie was to try to restore and get back as much as we would. When we started off, we started off with no horses, we realized there were no horses in Japan, how can we get horses. That led to us getting them but then now we're helping people to raise more horses or to see that there's a future in doing this. Actors learning a new craft that they have never learned before. In fact, over half of our cast, of the main thirteen, had never used a sword before in their life of acting. It was a good impact on them. So we're hoping to bring back what we originally had in Japanese film making.
I asked him about the casting of the film and the approach he took to filling the roles of his assassins. He has vetern actors like Koji Yakusho and Koshiro Matsumoto of 47 Ronin. Then he has young talent like Sousuke Takaoka and Takayuki Yamada, both from Miike's Crows Zero films.
I've always wanted to work with Yakusho Koji and had always admired his acting for a long time. Also Matsumoto-san and some of the Kabuki actors like Mister Ichimura. As far as the young cast I just looked at, well, who is young and who can play their role. Basically I said to myself who do I want to see in this movie and that's who we went after. The hard thing is a lot of the people in the movie could all easily play, all the actors can play leading roles, and do play leading roles in other movies, so we had to change the pyramid system of casting that you normally have where you have your big actor up on top and you have your up and coming guy here and your so-so guy here in the middle. We had to bounce around to the point where even if it was a small role we wanted to have the biggest person we could get to play it.
I asked him about his other upcoming Samurai film Seppeku, his remake of Masaki Kobayashi's 1962 film Harakiri, especially because it was going to be in 3D.
Of course its quite different from what when you say 3D like sort of Avatar 3D. It's not 3D made for a ride attraction or stuff's going to be jumping out at you or to show the depth of field in your beautiful backgrounds and stuff. It's more of an unorthodox approach to 2D that becomes 3D and showing Japanese environment. It's the kind of movie that we hope even old people and older fans of samurai, Jidaigeki period movies, can watch and enjoy even though it is in 3D. If you're a hardcore 3D fan you may watch this movie and say what was the point in shooting this in 3D. But, there is something interesting about 3D where it seems that this short of humanity in this scene, or the humanity in whatever the setting is does seem to come out to you more. So we're hoping that will happen.
What was tat moment in the film Miike was most proud of? What was that moment in 13 Assassins when he knew that he hit it out of the park...
"When you're shooting a movie it's pretty hard to recognize what is that great moment. But I guess for me it's got to be towards the end when [name withheld b/c of spoiler] is left alone. He's the only person left alive, and he kind of figures he has to go somewhere, and he starts to walk. He has no goal and he has no destination. And he tries to throw away his sword but something inside him tells him he needs it, and that he must keep it wherever he goes."
At this point in the interview I moved on and started to ask him about his other projects. Starting with Nintama Rantaro. Ninja Kids!
"It's unfortunate that we made this in Japan because I can't believe I'm saying this but this is the top contender for the Raspberry Award in America. We should have made it in America so we could get the Raspberry Award."
I dug a little deeper and I brought up that some of his long time and loyal fans have a hard time accepting this new trend of filmmaking from Miike. They wonder where the God of VCinema has gone. Where is the Miike that made Ichi the Killer and Full Metal Yakuza. What did he think of that?
"For me i really don't like the way people want to say oh this director is this kind, he directs this kind of genre, or he's this kind of filmmaker, there are plenty of horror directors, they love horror and they become a horror director and that's all they want to direct. in japan we have a pretty great culture for cuisine and food. you ate a steak yesterday, tomorrow you might eat sushi or have some soba noodles. so for me, making 13 assassins, and then make Ninja Kids! leads me to something I'm doing now, which is a really low budget, late night show, about juvenile delinquents which leads me back to doing something like Imprint or Ichi the Killer. All in all, whatever can allow me to be free in making my movies.
Maybe for me to make cult movies again it is also that I have been spending my time getting new tools to make cult movies again. It's not that I won't make cult movies any more it is just that I have been doing other things that will hopefully be applied to cult movies again.
So maybe we'll do this. We'll make a movie that is so shocking that everyone will leave the theatre and we will take it to the Toronto Film Festival but the only people left in the theatre will be me, and you, and Colin [Geddes, tiff Midnight Madness Programmer. Earlier in the interview I listed all of Miike's films that I have seen at festivals and he didn't show up...] and we can watch the movie until the end."
Finally, I had just a little time left to ask him about another project that he is linked to, Takeru, based on the manga by Buichi Terasawa.
"It's such a huge budget, massive project, we realize it's something that can't completely be realized in Japan so we've been looking for financing outside of Japan. Hoping that it can be realized outside throughout Asia. For the moment, progress on Takeru has been stopped."