EXCLUSIVE!!! Hiroyuki Sanada talks about how he had to withdraw from Chapter 3 and how he comes back from his lowest point.

By: Izumi Hasegawa   April 22, 2023

One of Japan’s treasures, Hiroyuki Sanada, makes another display of impressive swordsmanship in “John Wick: Chapter 4.” After he had to give up the role in Chapter 3 due to injury, he was asked to join the team again and we can’t get enough of watching his beautiful smooth katana action as well as dramatic acting. Life is continually ups and downs, but how does this movie star crawl out from the valley and climb the cliff back to the peak? He gave us honest advice on the subject.

Photo by Murray Close © 2021 Lionsgate

Q: How did you get to join the team John Wick?

Actually, I was cast in “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum”, but I was injured just before we started shooting. I went on location, but I unfortunately was not able to recover in time, so I told Keanu and the director Chad (Stahelski), “I’m sorry. I got injured and I cannot work with you.” I had no choice but to regretfully withdraw. I talked with Keanu on the phone at that time. He was worried so he called me. So that was the last time we talked.

Photo by Murray Close © 2021 Lionsgate

I recovered from the injury soon afterwards, so I thought that I had maybe done something inexcusable by pulling out. This time though, the director for “John Wick: Chapter 4” called me and said, “I made this role just for you, so please say ‘yes’.” Additionally, he said that the character is an “old friend of John Wick”. I knew I had to say “yes” no matter what because even though I caused trouble for him last time, he still asked me to play this role. I was also thrilled that I would be playing the role of a “long-time friend”. I quickly replied with, “I’ll do it. Let’s meet on location.”




Q: What kind of injury was it and how did it happen?

Photo by Izumi Hasegawa / Hollywood News Wire Inc.

I was injured during self-training. After I was cast in “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum,” I made my own strength training program. So in the middle of saying, “Bring it on Keanu!” I go “Oops”… I felt truly awful that I was hurt while doing my own training… I ruptured my Achilles tendon. I had time to heal before filming started, but I decided to make sure to take care of myself.


Q: What kind of training routine do you normally have?


I don’t have a routine training schedule; it varies on a case-by-case basis. My everyday routine is walking, light jogging, and stretching, so on the contrary, I keep it plain these days. When I get a project to work on, the routine will change depending on what kind of movement is required or how much strength is necessary. I don’t always do the same things in my training schedule or routine.


For walking, I try to walk at least 7000 steps daily. A while ago, I kept to 10,000 steps a day, but lately, depending on how tired I am at the time, I try to get pretty close to that total. So it’s not about how many hours you walk in a day. I try to come up with ways to achieve that total even when I am busy. For example, when I am traveling by car, I’ll get out of the car to walk back. Jackie Chan often did that too. While we were filming, when we went to train together, he always walked on the way back, 20 to 30 minutes. His stunt team joined him in walking back.
Q: In this film, you play a father who has a daughter. In real life you have two sons. Please tell us how you have changed since becoming a parent and what you have learned from them.


I was able to discover, “Oh, this generation thinks this way” by looking back at my own childhood. From my sons I was able to really understand things about a different generation than my own.  This time, the role of my daughter is played by Rina Sawayama. I planned to create a father-daughter relationship with her as much as possible before filming began, especially because this was her acting debut. So during and after training, I made time for reading together at least once a day, and making performance plans while walking with her.

Photo by Murray Close © 2021 Lionsgate

While working together I learned about things different from my generation, experiences she in particular was sensitive to, and I became aware of different ways to take in the script. Because there were many chances for me to learn, I thought about how I could best apply these new skills. And on the other hand, I also taught her various things, like showing her how to move, or about the camera angles, or what was the most efficient way to look. In that way, by sharing as much time together as we could, we were able to form a close, father-daughter-like relationship.


When we worked on set together on the first day, it really felt like we were father and daughter. Because she also came to the set with that confidence, even if it was only for a short time, if we had a good amount of time together, we knew we could say that we had come this far. I witnessed the speed and merit of her response, and the magnificence of that intuition at play.


Q: In life we have peaks and valleys. When you fall into a valley, what do you do to pull yourself back up? Please give us some advice.


When I fall, with the feeling that I should fall as far as I should, I leave myself alone. From there, at the bottom of the bottom, when I am truly at my lowest point, I ask myself, in which direction should I crawl? I listen to my inner voice. Don’t push your problems aside, listen from the very depths of your being, to your inner voice. That way, now, you are able to see the things you should be doing, and the things you want to do in the future. If the direction you were taking up until now was different, you have received a good chance to change course. Now, I think that you can pull yourself up in the direction that you believe is best, and start from one again.

Photo by Izumi Hasegawa / Hollywood News Wire Inc.

So, I think you might wonder, why now, why did this happen, with this timing? To me, I feel like I am being watched and tested on how I can overcome the hurdles I’ve been given. It’s like another me is watching, with his chin resting in his hands, thinking, “How will this guy get back on his feet?” When I get back on my feet, I vow to myself that I’ll go this far next time, and I will fly even farther than I fell.

In that way, I think that I am being tested based on the positive idea that there aren’t any hurdles that can’t be overcome. It’s as if that other me is watching the process of me rebounding and getting back on my feet with amusement. If you possess that sort of objective viewpoint, I feel you won’t just suffer in the dark, but you will probably see a bright light very quickly.


Interview English translation by Nora Rowan / Hollywood News Wire Inc.