Interview with Koji Yakusho about "SILK"
             (Mainichi Weekly, January 26, 2008)

Global Stage

Yakusho Koji, who acts in the internationally produced film Silk,
says he wants to create Japanese movies that people throughout
the world can appreciate.

"Basically, I want to place myself in the Japanese film industry
and produce the kind of works that will allow people all over the
world to enjoy Japanese films," he told the Mainichi Weekly in
an exclusive interview.When asked about the highlights of Silk,
which portrays a love affair that spans East and West, Yakusho,
52, praised the elegant music by Academy Awardwinning
musician Sakamoto Ryuichi. He recommended that people see
the film on a big screen.

Silk is set in 19th century France. After disease threatens to wipe
out a village's silkworm colony, the central character, Herve
Joncour, played by Michael Pitt, travels to Japan seeking
silkworms that produce the world's most beautiful silk. There, his
heart is captured by a beautiful woman, played by Ashina Sei,
altering his destiny. The woman happens to be the concubine of
an influential figure, Hara Jubei, who is portrayed by Yakusho.

"He is a man who speaks English during a period in which illicit
trade with foreign countries was forbidden, but he doesn't
necessarily think it's good for a foreign culture to enter Japan. In
one sense I played the part as a man who was looking hard at the
future of Japan," Yakusho says, describing his role.

When choosing the setting and characters of the film, Yakusho
says he repeatedly held discussions with director Francois Girard
to bring reality to his role as a Japanese person living in that age
and to the relations between the Japanese actors.

The actor has appeared in several films by foreign directors,
including Babel, which was nominated for a best picture
Academy Award, and "Memoirs of A Geishia." But apparently
he believes that Japanese films form the axis of his work.

"From the perspective of my own life, I've got to make films that
enable people to feel something," he says. "Japanese films are
now trying hard and succeeding commercially, but it's got to go
farther than that; we've got to make films that people will also be
able to enjoy several years later. If we don't do this, audiences
will thin out, which could lead to the re-emergence of an age
when there aren't enough viewers."

Yakusho believes that the value of Japanese films lies in their
resourcefulness under limited cast numbers and constrained
budgets. He appears keen to play his own part in the
development of Japanese cinema.

When asked for tips on how to work with foreign actors and
directors, Yakusho said it was important to interact with the aim
of achieving a common goal.

"Even if the other person is a foreigner, greeting them as a fellow
human being is a fundamental approach," he said. "It's
important to interact as a friend working toward a common goal,
creating a single thing. If you do that, your communication will
go deeper. When it comes to English, I work to familiarize myself
with the lines I have been given."

When asked what drove him on as an actor, Yakusho replied,
"To pour your whole heart into it. If you don't have your whole
heart in it at each and every moment, I'm sure you won't have
the energy to go on. If you don't think carefully and become
'desperate,' you probably won't be able to produce anything
Created on January 30, 2008