Legendary actor Denden is a man that needs no introduction. Starring in legendary Japanese films such as Uzumaki, Cold Fish and the newly released Himizu, Denden is one of the most prolific and exciting actors working today. For an actor with so many accolades and positive critical reception, Denden remains gracious and incredibly modest. Japan Cinema caught up with him during the U.K premiere of Himizu
Could you please tell us a little bit about your role in Himizu?
Denden: I play the role of Kaneko, the managing director of a Money Lenders company. On the surface I am an ordinary business man though secretly my business is actually run by the Yakuza. I work for a company that is run by the mafia.
The characters you portray in the likes of Himizu and Coldfish have these incredible dramatic arcs; could you explain to us the process of preparing for these kinds of roles?
Denden: In the case of Himizu, believe it or not, I didn’t really know how to do Kaneko’s Machine Gun talk, the way he speaks is really very fast. I had to learn to talk in a whole new way; at first I was not very good at it. As a loan shark, you have to know how to swindle people; Loan Sharks in Japan often speak very fast, like a machine gun. This is a person that does not listen to other people and also tries not to have any questions asked about them. The reason why is because if they are telling lots of lies and then asked a question they might accidentally tell you something they shouldn’t have. They have to answer the question back with lots and lots of lies. There is a risk though that they might let something out that you they would not want you to know. That’s why I wanted my character of Kaneko to talk non stop. In Cold Fish, To begin with I was Denden. I started as this simple person that worked in a simple store. Over time, this Character grew until I became Murataso, in the end I wasn’t Denden anymore.
Your last film Cold Fish was greeted with a fantastic reception globally, Critics have cited you as one of Japan’s international breakout stars, how did you feel about this new found success?
Denden: Very happy! I’m so so happy!, One of the best things about playing the character of Yukio Murata was that it was one of the few roles I had always wanted to play. For the longest time I had felt like I had done every role I possibly could. In the past, when I had tried to prepare for a role I had found myself picking up so many characteristics of the people I knew in everyday life, I would then put them together when creating my character. Eventually though, I began to feel like I had done everything. When preparing for the role of Yukio Murata however, I had a chance to create this perverted psychopath, someone who was complicated with many layers. It was very exciting.
When did you decide to become an actor? Can you tell us a little about how you came into this type of work?
Denden: When I was really young and in school I really only wanted to be in the Movies and not Television. When I went to high school though I lost interest in acting, by the time I had finished school however, I decided that I really wanted to become an actor. I began working towards this goal but had this long period of time where everything was blank and I did not get any work. I even approached famous actors and asked to be there assistants but they would not hire me. I struggled as an actor up until the age of thirty when I entered a Japanese television program about Stand Up comedy. I was very successful. Working on that show I learnt how to win over an audience and how to win over people. Since then I have slowly become the performer I wanted to be. My debut movie role was in Yoshimitsu Morita’s “Something Like It”. [He pauses for a moment…] hmmm, because I started as a comedy actor I really wanted to say something funny now, but I cant come up with anything [laughs].
Can you tell us about some of the films that inspired you to become an actor over the years?
Denden: My favourite Movie is definitely the Great Escape. It is probably my all time favourite. As for Japanese films though, My favourite would have to be Kaneto Shindo’s The Naked Island. I also very much enjoyed the detective films of the 1950’s. If I could, the role I would really want to play would be that of a detective, that would be the film I would really want to star in.