Actress, writer and artist Ayako Fujitani became famous at a young age for her starring role in the celebrated Gamera Kaiju movie series. In 2009, Ayako greatly expanded her international following with a lead role in Michel Gondry’s Tokyo! as a woman who magically turns into a chair. She is currently starring in ‘Man From Reno’. In a small town south of San Francisco, Sheriff Paul Del Moral (Pepe Serna) is driving home through the fog one night when he accidentally strikes a pedestrian, a lone Japanese man. However, before an investigation can take place the man disappears from the hospital without a trace. At the same time, Japanese mystery author Aki Akahori (Ayako Fujitani) takes a trip to San Francisco in order to escape the press tour for her latest book–a potboiler in her world-famous “Inspector Takabe” series. Feeling lonely and vulnerable, she begins a romantic affair with a mysterious Japanese traveler from Reno who is staying in the same hotel. Click below for the full Q&A…
How did you become involved in the film, Man From Reno? Were you a friend of the director?
Ayako: I once acted in his previous movie Daylight Savings, so we knew each other. And one day he called and asked me if I was interested in reading his new mystery script. And I said “yes!”
It is also his first film doing this particular genre as well as doing a bi-lingual film. What challenges did this present to you as an actress?
Ayako: This particular genre was also first for me, as well as acting in a bi-lingual speaking movie. It is always challenging to play a new character no matter what, but because these things were so new to me, those parts were especially challenging.
With that said, you greatly expanded your international following with a lead role in Michel Gondry’s Tokyo! How important to you as an actress is it to participate in films both domestic and international?
Ayako: It is very important for me to be borderless as much as possible including working domestically. I would love to work in as many countries as possible. If there’s any interesting project in another country that would allow me to work, I will be there. That would be my policy.
Your character of Aki Akahori is a writer who lives in California. Living in L.A. at one point and being a writer yourself, is this character a close influence of who you are as a person as well?
Ayako: My character Aki is a writer who lives in Tokyo. She visits San Francisco. But, in the movie, you will be able to tell that she used to live in San Francisco for college. It is true that I know what it is like to live in the U.S. – and what it’s like being a writer also. But, she is a mystery writer which I have never written – and she writes a lot, which is opposite from me. [Laughs] So, I will say that she might be close to me in some sense. But, very different from me in many detailed ways.
Your father is legendary Steven Seagal! What have you learned from him by observing his career in terms of selecting roles for yourself as an actress?
Ayako: Well, since I have developed a very, very different career through these years, I would say I don’t resemble my father all that much. I wouldn’t be able to play the characters that he is playing,
therefore, unfortunately there’s not so many things I can learn from his style of selecting roles.
You also directed a short film earlier this year. Is directing something you’d like to do more of in the future?
Ayako: If there’s a chance, yes I would love to direct again. But, there’s no comparison between acting and directing to me. It is very different. but, they are both “filmmaking” to me.
What are some of your own personal favorite Asian films?
Ayako: Hmmm, there are so many… I like Pale Flower, Face, ONIMASA, Uncle Boonmee, People’s Hero, The God Of Cookery, Park Chan-wook’s The Vengeance Trilogy, and Mother. Okay, I should stop now. I can go on for a long time.
Man From Reno right now is currently undergoing a Kickstarter process to gain funding. What are your thoughts on this method to obtain funding? Do you see it as forward thinkings and the way funding will be captured in the future for films?
Ayako: In the future, more people will have the chance to make movies along with having more ways to fund their projects. And I would say it’s a good thing. Everybody has to be creative now in every possible way. I think Kickstarter is one way. Also, it is based on the people’s “want to support this project” or simply “wanna see this one!” It’s an amazing thing to become a part of those good thoughts towards your project. And welcoming them to be part of your project.
You also appeared in Dave Boyles previous film in a cameo role. What was it like acting in front of his camera for the second time versus your time in the previous film Daylight Savings. Did you encounter any growth toward him as a director?
Ayako: I was very excited to work with him again. Daylight Savings had a shooting style that was very natural, with a lot of improvisations. But, with Man From Reno he wanted to try more detailed and very specific camera work, acting, and directing. They are both challenging. But, I feel lucky to experience both of those styles with Dave.
Lastly, any advice for any budding actresses out there?
Ayako: Oh I always feel that I am the budding actress myself!
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