Asano Tadanobu is certainly the hippest, if not the single most important, Japanese film actor working today. He is known for his roles in such films as Ichi the Killer, Zatoichi, Last Life in the Universe, The Taste of Tea, and Mongol. Most recently, Asano appeared as Hogun in the film Thor, based on the Marvel Comics character and will currently star in the upcoming films Battleship and 47 Ronin. Beyond film, Asano is also an avid painter, poet, musician and calligrapher. With the help of my lovely editor Olivia, and translation assistance by Yoichi Shimizu, we had a chance to catch up with the iconic actor and discuss his filmwork, from his past films to his newest & upcoming features.
Why is the ﬁlm Taste of Tea so amazingly indescribable – like eating air?
Asano: It’s because each character in this film expresses their own fantasy in their real world. Most of the films try to obtain either its realty or fantasy, but characters in “Taste of Tea” are living their lives while they are embodying their own fantasy in their real world.
How much of your own personality did you involve in playing your character in Cafe Lumiere? Is it presumptive to say you pick reticent characters?
Asano: I try not to pick roles. I have always tried to live every moment of my life with the roles that picked me. I felt the character of “Cafe Lumiere” and me had many common personalities, and I also felt shooting locations in Taiwan helped me to get into the role easily. Especially, it was my normal habit that I record sound while I walk around the city. The director Hou Hsiao-Hsing is very good at using public crowds as a scene element, and he is a master of shooting in the city without being noticed by anyone and making the scene very naturalistic.
What can you tell us about the expressiveness of playing a recovering alcoholic in Wandering Home?
Asano: I usually look close at drinkers since I can drink only a very little amount. So, I got clues for acting from a friend who is actually addicted to alcohol.
What other directors speciﬁcally Asian, European and South American would you be interested in working with in the future?
Asano: I hardly feel I want to work with a certain director after I watch his/her completed work. It is my ideal if we could meet by chance when we are still not anybody (before becoming famous), we could be honest to ourselves and make our own expressions from zero, and it ends up with a good film as a result.
In Japan, television work is considered more successful then ﬁlm. What brought upon your decision to cease television employment?
Asano: Because, I love film!
How was the set on 47 Ronin? Did you enjoy working with Keanu?
Asano: This movie couldn’t be made without Keanu’s effort, and we, Japanese actors/actress, learned a lot from the shooting. It was no easy work, but that was what we were counted on for “47 Ronin”. We were hired to accomplish a difficult work. Also, I appreciate that I could act a bad guy in this film. I did my best while believing a bad guy is an important factor for the film that makes its reality come alive.
We loved seeing you play a part in Thor! Can we expect to see more United States ﬁlmwork from you in the future?
Asano: I have blood from Dutch and Norwegian. So, I feel like it was necessity that I could join the film.
Because I feel “Thor” is the beginning of finding my roots, and I found that I have family in America, I want to take my time and put effort on my future work so that foreign people get to know me better, and I also want to enjoy that process itself!
Want to keep tabs on Asano’s film works? Check out his cookie crumb trail below: