Koji Yakusho: Shohei Sugiyama
Tamiyo Kusakari: Mai Kishikawa
Naoto Takenaka: Tomio Aoki
Eriko Watanabe: Toyoko Takahashi
Emoto Akira: Toru Miwa
Reiko Kusamura: Tamako Tamura
Yu Tokui: Tokichi Hattori
Hiromasa Taguchi: Masahiro Tanaka
The meeting with Masayuki Suo and Koji Yakusho is now a legend!
Do you know where Koji Yakusho first met Masayuki Suo, the director of "Shall We Dance?" They met in
an elevator a few months before the film started.
Suo wanted to meet Koji Yakusho to find if he was a suitable actor for the hero, Sugiyama: he later said that
he was actually not so sure of Yakusho's suitability for the role since the director's image of Sugiyama was
that of a plain ordinary man, whereas his view of Yakusho was too good-looking and smart for Sugiyama.
Yakusho, on the other hand, had long wanted to work with Suo even in a minor role ever since he saw Suo's
previous film, "Shiko Funjatta" (1992)
Both Suo and Yakusho got into the same elevator on the day of the meeting. But Suo confessed that he had
not recognized Yakusho at all, until he was spoken to by Yakusho: he looked like quite an ordinary
middle-aged man, and not a film star!
Eriko Watanabe, Koji Yakusho and Tamiyo Kusakari
Shall we dance/dansu? (1996)
Interview with Koji Yakusho (Unofficial translation by Pymmik)
It was of course skill in dancing that was needed to perform the role of Sugiyama in "Shall
We Dance?". People cast in other roles seemed to need to practice different kinds of dancing,
but in my case, luckily only the waltz and the quick-step were needed. I think that I must have
practiced dancing for about 40 days before shooting started, practicing two hours a day.
Since it was the first time that I had done ballroom dancing, I couldn't help feeling shy and
embarrassed at first. It was lucky for me that it was the modern type of ballroom dancing.
Thirty minutes after starting the dancing practice, my awkwardness disappeared and I was
able to do it in a more relaxed manner; after all it was 'work'. If it had been Latin dancing, it
would have been much more difficult to achieve this.
It was part of my role in acting this time that I shouldn't forget my first embarrasment too
quickly. The essence of Sugiyama's role is that he gradually improves his dancing as the story
develops, so naturally he can't dance well from the first moment. In fact, like Sugiyama, I felt
irritated when I couldn't make good steps in the beginning, and I felt moved when I found my
own dancing improving little by little. As I repeated the dancing while shooting the movie, I
felt such embarrassment diminishing. Therefore I, too, tried not to forget my initial feelings,
nor the mental impact I got when I first saw Mr Takenaka (Aoki) and Ms Watanabe (Toyoko)
I enjoyed the filming of this movie very much. The marvelous thing about director Suo was
that he was able to make both the cast and the staff enjoy filming, keeping a relaxed
attitude. I had long been a fan of director Suo myself. When I first saw "Shiko Funjatta" I
was very impressed, but as both "Shiko Funjatta" and " Fancy Dancing" were for young
people, I had thought that the chances of my working with him would be very thin; then I was
asked to appear under his direction in "Shall We Dance?".
While I worked with director Suo, I was able to understand him very well. This was probably
because we were of the same generation.ration. I found that we shared the tastes in dramas
and also had a similar sense of humor. He was very flexible in mind, and his directing was
concrete and easy to understand. I think he is really a superb director. If there is a chance,
I'd like to work with him again.
Based on "Kinema Jumpo", January, 1996 issue (No. 1182)
Mai: Shall we dance?