By: Izumi Hasegawa February 3, 2017
Allow me to get this out of the way, I really liked Slilence for two reasons. One, because no matter what religion or faith you practice, Director Martin Scorsese makes you dive deep and re-evaluate your belief system. Secondly, because he took the time to seek and hire talented Japanese actors for the Japanese characters versus Asian actors. Because of this, I was introduced to actor Yosuke Kubozuka who played the very complex Kichijiro.
Trust me when I tell you, once you see this film, anyone who ever questioned the acting ability of Yosuke, will be silenced.
I had an opportunity to speak with him on the red carpet during the Silence premiere and found him to be very unique and engaging with a multitude of ways he views life in general.
Q: What kind of person do you think Kichijiro is?
Kichijiro in the book is very ugly, cunning and filthy, representing the weak one.
As I play him, I thought about how I can build the bridge between us and then the word “innocent” came to me. It is the innocence that makes someone betray another or is weak… But in reality that might be based on the pureness of the heart.
This pureness is of someone who cannot become a grown man or is childish. This can be said as “the weakness to tread on the tablet of Jesus’s image” (Fumi-e).” At the same time, it can be replaced with “the strength to step on the plate of Jesus” in that atmosphere.
When that happens, I thought it rises above the strength or weakness.
Since it was the role which can express the feelings on top of that, it was a very exciting and challenging role for me.
Q: This film makes us think and question about our beliefs, faith, and religion. What did you ask yourself about your religious outlook and personal beliefs through this film?
I grew up in a normal Japanese family. I like Shinto Shrines so I usually visit the local Shinto Shrines whenever I perform reggae in the country (Japan). In my opinion, religion and faith are different. Religions have the doctrine, like “you shouldn’t do this” or “you have to do it like this.” I think faith is going back to origin, and is something based on respecting feelings like, “The sunrise is beautiful today,” and/or “I’m so glad I survived,” and/or “Oh, I am blessed.” This makes us join our hands in the appreciation of nature. This leads to Kichijiro’s thoughts of “I trod on, but I believe.” I think he believed in God for his entire life, and it is not the end when he trod on the tablet once. Maybe he just didn’t have the guilt for that behavior, because he was weak, young, and immature. I think God may remain silent, but the people believe what they believe or are loyal to their own belief. Somehow it may help us, like help from somewhere above. Since I myself have been feeling that too, playing Kichijiro helps me connect and strengthen myself. I feel more appreciative and I am more comfortable walking on my own path. That is the valuable experience I got from working with Martin Scorsese.
Q: Being a director and actor, did you expand your knowledge in either while working with Scorsese?
I’m only a director for the things like music videos…
One of the things I have learned from Scorsese is that to not chop up scenes too much. Do not put together something short shots like trend of nowadays films, but focus on the subtlety of the human mind. He does it in superb prescription. The film expresses the fluctuation of the human mind and fire in our hearts under Japanese nature. It is that nature of Goto Islands, even though we filmed in Taiwan. Looking at him like that, as I said earlier, it is important to keep what you believe and to be honest to your heart. About nature, in Shinto, we see mountains and rocks as objects of worship. Returning to our original roots makes the people in the world ready to listen to those things these days. It is such an era, and I hope that the film will be a bridge for a better tomorrow.
Q: Tell me about how you landed this role.
The first audition was seven years ago. At that time, the room I was escorted to as a waiting room was actually the room for audition by mistake of the staff. I was chewing gum then, and I got scolded for that. Although Scorsese wasn’t there yet, the casting producer scolded me with a serious face. The casting producer asked me “are you really going to take the video audition?”, so I said “yeah, sure” and this made the real silence, tense and the atmosphere menacing. I thought this is going to be bad and sure enough, I couldn’t do my best. Then I had the phone call very next day saying “you’re out”.
Two years after that, I heard there will be an audition for the same role again. I was really surprised not only that they were still looking for the actor for the character but also me being called for that. There was the same casting producer but the casting producer said “nice to meet you”, so I replied “nice to meet you, too” pretending that I had met the casting producer for the first time. I thought “this is lucky!” and took the audition which seemed to be favorable.
The casting producer said to me “I will contact you soon so come to the video audition.” So I went for the next audition, and at that time, it seemed that Martin had already seen my audition tape and he liked it very much. I could see that from the casting producer who was in good mood. They were suggesting “Why don’t you try it like this?” and “how about that?” to me. When I acted, they praised me and said “next time, you will be seeing Martin”.
Then in the third video audition, which was actually forth for me [laughs], Martin was in Japan and I met him in the banquet room of the Ritz-Carlton. He already liked me so as soon as we met, he said “Roll the camera! This guy is ready for the character. Shoot now!” He was joking (of course). The audition had 5 scenes, and he complimented me after each scenes. The flatteries were nauseating. After all scenes, he said “see you in Taiwan” but I was not contacted for the next two months. I was really confident though.
Q: Personally, I think your performance of Kichijiro was exactly what Scorsese was looking for.
Actually not. He said “unexpected” to me. He also said “I did not know there also is this Kichijiro as well” and “Oh, this is the Kichijiro.”
Q: What was your first impression of Scorsese?
It might be cheeky to say this but it was like seeing one of my relatives because he was calm and did not make others strain. So on the set; he created the environment that gave me more power than usually I have.
Silence is currently playing in theatres nationwide.
Interview by Izumi Hasegawa – @HNW_Izumi
Interview Translated by Shogo Okishio
Edited by: Jody Taylor – @RealJodyTaylor
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