April 28, 2017

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Three Japanese Silence Actors Hold Press Conference at Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Japan

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On January 13th, the three Japanese cast members in the movie, Silence held a Q and A session at Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. The three main cast members are Yosuke Kubozuka who played Kichijiro, Asano Tadanobu who played an interpreter, and Issey Ogata who played the inquisitor Masashige Inoue. Silence is a movie about the persecution of Christians in Nagasaki, Japan in the 1600’s. The two Portuguese priests, Rodriguez (Andrew Garfield) and Garrpe (Adam Driver) travel all the way to Nagasaki to hunt for their mentor, Father Ferrera(Liam Neeson), who has lost touch with them. The story is based on a highly acclaimed novel with the same title, by Shusaku Endo, who was a prominent Japanese novelist.  Endo was a Christian, and he wrote many novels about the relationships between weaklings and God.

The director, Martin Scorsese, dreamt of being a priest when he was young, and he studied a lot about faith throughout his life. He read Silence 28 years ago, and started wanting to turn it  into a movie ever since. However, there were a lot of difficulties and the project took a very long time to launch.

In the press conference, when asked what the highlight of the movie was, Kubozuka answered that in the movie, God is silent, and if you want to know what he has to say you need to go deep inside of yourself. After he said this, there was applause in the hall. Issey Ogata said that it was a good answer, and he posed a question to the audience asking,  “When did God ever speak?” In regards to the highlights, he stated that the movie portrays humans in a harsh circumstance that are very far from everyday life, but after seeing the movie, you will be left with purity that continues for the rest of your life.

When the three actors were asked what they thought the differences were between the original novel, and the movie, Kubozuka answered that in the last scene of the movie, the camera shoots a small cross, held in the hands of Rodriguez in a coffin, however, this was not depicted in the novel. Kubozuka mentioned that according to Endo’s protege, Muneya Kato, it was the kind of thing that Endo wanted to convey.

The three cast members appreciated the unique direction method by Scorsese which leaves a lot up to the actors. Ogata stated that this method let him become creative when playing Inoue, and he was able to play the role with a lot of freedom due to Scorsese’s method.

Kubozuka mentioned that Scorsese was like a king and his presence made it easier for him to act and that the director was just like a mirror that made him look two or three times a better actor than he was.

Asano also appreciated the freedom that Scorsese gave him, mentioning that Mr. Scorsese does not stop you from doing anything and for an actor this makes acting enjoyable. He mentioned when he was acting in a scene where he talked to Andrew Garfield who was in a cage. In the script, Garfield was supposed to stay in the cage, but he ran away from the cage and Asano chased him around. Asano reminisced that he had enjoyed this.

In regards to the approach to each character they play, Issey Ogata stated that the logic driving the inquisitor, Inoue was the idea that, “if you were a Christian, you have to apostatize, or give up your faith, in order to save Christians who are tormented by persecution.” For Ogata, this confronting Rodriguez with this logic is very important in their scenes together.

Also, Ogata stated that he saw being an inquisitor as materialistic while he saw Christianity as being spiritual. Ogata stated that this materialistic aspect of Inoue inspired him to speak in a high tone of voice in the movie.

Kubozuka stated that what bridged Kichijiro and him was innocence. Although Kichijiro is depicted as a cunning, dirty, pitiful character in the movie, Kubozuka saw innocence in the character which made it easier to relate to him.

The youtube video of the press conference is by tvGroove and titled ‘SILENCE’ Japanese Casts At Press Conference. 「沈黙-サイレンス-」浅野忠信、窪塚洋介、イッセー尾形が明かすマーティン・スコセッシ監督のこだわりとは?

Below is the transcript of the press conference.

Moderator: Tadanobu Asano

Moderator: Yes. Here is Yosuke Kubozuka.

Moderator: And finally Issey Ogata.

Moderator: All right we will now briefly hear little introductions from each of these  gentlemen. Let’s start again with Mr. Asano.

Tadanobu Asano: Good evening everyone. I hope you enjoyed our film and…I’m sorry. My English is not good, but I played an interpreter. There is a very good interpreter. Sorry. I will speak in Japanese.

Asano: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us this evening. I must say that through this experience of working with Mr. Martin Scorsese I have been able to grow immensely and I also feel very lucky to have been able to work with my co-stars here, Mr. Issey Ogata and Mr. Kubozuka. I have been able to learn a lot from them as well.

Moderator: Mr. Kubozuka.

Yosuke Kubozuka: Nice to meet you. I’m Yosuke Kubozuka. I’m a fumie master as Kichijiro.

Kubozuka: So, I must say that this film there is immense power and strength in this film and  I believe that many people around the world will see it because it’s of course Mr. Martin Scorsese’s film, and I do hope that the strength of this film will serve hopefully and I believe it will serve a better tomorrow. I’m very very grateful and honored to have been able to participate in the making of this film, and the many meetings that I had with my co-stars and staff, I have been immense joy to me it has helped me open doors, but I think there is a lot that I still have to do further pry open those doors. So right now, thanks to this film, I am again in the  state of let’s say kind of being able to dream as a child is able to dream. I thank you once again joining us this evening.

Moderator: And Mr. Ogata.

Issey Ogata: Thank you once again for having this presentation for us. I’m very very honored to be able to join you this evening. While we are shooting back in Taiwan, I really had not envisioned this day finally coming. We were  so concentrated on the shoot, but it was very very inspiring being able to work with Mr. Scorsese and my fellow cast mates and also the crew of the film. I feel like I’m the luckiest, I felt I was the luckiest actor to have been able to experience this. I have done a few interviews in the United States and looking back in retrospect, sometimes my statements change, so whatever questions you have and whatever answers that I have to them, today please just make note that this is what Issey Ogata said as of January 12th.

Correspondent (Shawn): Thank you very much. I loved your performances. I’m surprised that your voice is so different than the other character. “Welcome to the swamp of Japan.” (The correspondent imitating the way theinquisitor Inoue spoke) This kind of thing.  Very interesting. Anyway I wanted to say that there is another perspective you know in the documents they say that nefarious and all the stuff notes I actually identified most strongly with the interpreter and inquisitor, and I felt that they were pretty reasonable especially by today’s standards, and I…

Moderator: Shawn…( It seems that the moderator is alluding that the correspondent should stop conveying his opinions and urging him to ask a question instead as the FCCJ has a rule that a correspondent can’t make a speech during a press conference.)

Correspondent: Yeah. I wanted to say what did the actors think having played those characters that are supposed to be nefarious but actually were not really. I mean don’t want to think about what are the actors think about those particular parts.  Do they feel lucky that…anyway go ahead.

Moderator: So this is a question to all three actors and you want to know…

I want to know as they are doing their characters,  what was their perspective, because when you play like A supposed bad character you are not really supposed to think they are bad, right? So I don’t… I did not think they were particularly bad want to particularly. I just want to hear what they have to say about it.

Interpreter: To all three actors?

Correspondent: Sure. Yeah.

Interpreter: OK.

Asano: So as you said Shawn, I also felt really emphasized with the character that I was playing and I did not see him as nefarious character. The backstory that I read into this character was that he was probably Christian, but he was no longer able to carry on his faith, and so, that is what led him to the line of work that he is in. And also having been a Christian before gave him a special insight into the Christians and the Christian belief. I don’t think that he is a simple villain let’s say because of the position that he is in. He has to work between Inoue and Rodriguez. And so for example in Japanese comedy you have these (inaudible) which we would say in Japanese, boke to tsukkomi which is a main character and you have the side kid. I played the interpreter as if it was not the side kid but the main character.

Moderator: Mr. Ogata.

Ogata: So In approaching my character, playing Inoue the inquisitor, well, first I must say that it’s all in the script. Everything is in the script. And you can’t veer away from that. There was the certain scene that I had to for the video audition. This is where the inquisitor is trying to get Rodriguez  to apostatize and he talked about the four concubines. What I brought to the scene was that we were talking about Christianity, faith and God in this film. If those were the heavenly aspects of the film. I think the character of Inoue is more grounded is not the right word, but more kind of earthly, unheavenly character let’s say, and that is where you get that voice which he just so wonderfully imitated for us.

Moderator: Mr. Kubozuka, even though you don’t play an evil character.

Kubozuka: So in the original work the character that I played Kichijiro is depicted as a so called let’s say a weakling, someone who is ugly, cunning, dirty, and just weak. But he doesn’t fail to step on the fumie again and again and again which makes me wonder whether he is really weak, because he seems to be quite determined. So I think it’s kind of the two sides of  the same coin. The word that comes to me right now is innocence. I think this is a trait that both myself as an actor and the character I played. I was not able to rationalize this or put it into words while we were doing the shoot. But looking back in retrospect, I think this character is about innocence. Also another point that I would like to make is when I went to the United States on January 5th, there were many questions about the fumie, and many questions about whether Americans would step onto fumie in this day and age, and a lot of people say probably. So I think by having this character, Kichijiro in the film it’s something that is also relevant to…well I hope it is something that is relevant to the modern age as well.

Correspondent: I very much enjoyed the film. Briefly I was wondering whether if you have read the book. If you had, what you thought about the connection between the book and the film and book. If you hadn’t  whether it that was the conscious decision to avoid reading it.

Moderator: This is to all three?

Correspondent: Yes.

Moderator: OK.

Ogata: So as for the original novel by Endo, I had tried reading it back when I was very young and I did not, was not able to read through to the very end. I had to give up midway. But this time around since this part, I landed this part again very much with on my character Inoue in mind, but the character that I was most drawn to was Kichijiro. I think Kichijiro is the character that I was most close to who I am as a human being. I won’t to make any comments about the film or the role of Kichijiro here, but let me just say that the character of Inoue as depicted in the film is there is a lot that it is in the film that is not in the original work and that is thanks to Mr. Scorsese’s imagination. He has really helped kind of of inflate let’s say the role for me. So, that left me a lot of room to act it in a very free style.

Moderator: Mr. Kubozuka.

Kubozuka: So I have read the original novel and in comparison with the original novel the  place where I saw the starkest difference was in the very final scene where Rodriguez has the cross, he bears this cross that Mokichi had given him in the final scene in his tomb and I think that this was probably I read it in this way. This was probably um this scene came because of the position that Mr. Scorsese was in. Because of probably the fact that this was a key to, he felt that this scene was a key to him in bringing the story to the world. It is the scene that is not depicted in the original novel, so in bringing this message to the world by the way I understand that this was shown in the Vatican as well. It got a wonderful reception over there, but I think he felt probably that this scene was necessary in order to bring the strength and the power that the original novel has to the world. Tonight after meeting up again with Mr. Ogata here we were discussing this final scene and he mentioned to me that there is a gentleman by the name of Mr. Kato who was a protege of Mr. Shusaku Endo, and he applauded at this final scene. He really liked it, so, that kind of now makes me want to revisit that scene again and maybe try to think about it again.  

Moderator: Mr. Asano.

Asano: So the way I approached the script and the original novel was I really… it was mostly about the script and I read my scenes over and over and over again and then I would read the scenes that preceded it, and the scenes came after it over and over and over again. Then I would go back to my own scenes would read it several times, and through that process I concocted is not the right word, but I created a backstory to my own character, and whenever I would get lost I would try reading the original novel. I discovered however that this backstory that I had in my mind was very different from the original novel, so I decided actually because it was so starkly different I decided to not rely on the original novel so much.

Japanese Correspondent: I have a question to Inoue sama, Mr.Ogata. Sorry. Inoue sama in the movie is a fascinating character I think. Can I ask you again how did you prepare for acting Inoue sama in that movie? Did you have any role model to play that character because today I enjoy the movie?  Ironically today’s movie Chinmoku reminds me of not Christian, but  that reminds me of the young Japanese communist party members in the 1930’s. Because in the 1930’s…

Moderator: OK. OK. Thank you. Do you want to also ask in Japanese?

Japanese Correspondent: Japanese?

Moderator: Yes.

The Japanese Correspondent asks Issey Ogata the same question in Japanese.

Ogata: The way I approached the character of Inoue, the inquisitor is again  it’s all in the script and I would say there are…it is said that the character of Inoue might have been a Christian in the past and this is very evident in the very first scene where he meets up with Rodriguez and he tells them that if you are a true Christian, if you are a true priest, then you would have to… you would come to the decision to apostatize for all of these Japanese Christians that are suffering for you. And I think this is a line that he would not  say unless he had the an experience of having been a Christian in the past. And  he also thinks that it is a very powerful logic. In order to defeat this young priest because he has done this before he has done this with father Ferrara, and Rodriguez is kind of a younger, the number two let’s say version of Ferrara. So he thinks that it’s supposed to work.

Interpreter: So, let me translate this first.

Another Japanese Correspondent: To any one of you the question is for those who have not read the original novel, what are the highlights do you think of the film and also on the pamphlet,  the brochure, there is a lot of talk about Academy Award buzz and your comments on that as well please.

Kubozuka: If I may answer as my two senpai sitting beside me have allowed to take this question I would say that the ultimate message of this film is really the silence of God and if you were to find an answer, it’s really about introspection. You have to go back to into yourself to find that answer.

Ogata: Actually as to the first question, actually  I’m inclined to throw that question right back at the audience. If anybody can answer the question we were talking about how it’s about the silence of God. When did he ever speak and if anyone has an answer to that I would really like to hear. Also as for how to see this film, the highlights of this film I really looked at it as it  doesn’t really depict everyday life. It’s not real let’s say in that sense. I looked at it as more picture scroll in which we find these characters suffering  to the utmost just unbearable suffering. Strangely no matter how painful it is I find after watching it I feel this notion of purity that resonates and that continues to resonate and I think this will continue for as long as I live. It’s a film that has that kind of sustenance. As for Academy Award buzz, we will have Mr. Asano answer.

Asano: As for Academy Award buzz, I’m pretty sure that it will be nominated if it is not nominated I fathom that maybe God said something that he should not have said to the Academy Award members.

Interpreter: Shall I translate or would you like to?

The Foreign Correspondent: Just a…. OK. It’s a very universal film but stay things in the content is very Japanese, but the film itself was shot in Taiwan, so I just would like to know if the actors felt anything strange about acting in a movie about Japan shot in Taiwan or that sort of thing. Thank you.

Ogata: Nothing.

Asano: I personally would like to have shot this film in Japan. Of course Taiwan is a wonderful country such good food and all the cast and crew were wonderful, and  since this is a story about  ancient times, you really don’t know what it was like in the first place. So that other worldly experience that I got from the shoot was wonderful and it was very easy to shoot, but I really do wonder sometimes if we had shot in Japan maybe the results would have been a bit different.

Kubozuka: Whenever I think of those days back in Taiwan, I think xiaolongbao, dumplings. They were wonderful dumplings. But, the shoot, there were a lot of crew that are Kyoto crew that are specialists in the jidaigeki period pieces in Japan and I was also able to meet up again with… I have had shot a film in Kyoto. I was able to meet up again with the same crew. The one complaint that they had was we built this little village up in the mountains. And the doors to the hut were doors that opened like western doors did , but back then in Japan we only had sliding doors of course, so they were complaining about that. But that was all fixed as we were ready to shoot. And the one thing that I must say is Mr. Scorsese had the utmost respect for Mr. Endo and for us and for the Japanese culture, and when he did find out if anything was off or wrong he would immediately fix that make sure that it was fixed. Because he wanted to stay very true to the Japanese culture, so there was a lot of research that went into the making of this film. History wise and culture wise as well and that is why I think it really does pass off as Japan although  we shot in Taiwan.

Correspondent (Rob): Since Don asked my question My question. I am going to ask a rather difficult question now. Of course it is to all three actors. It is a very tragic period in Japanese history, and of course our sympathies are with the people who suffered through this, but if you were in the position historically as you play your characters. How would you approach this issue of Christianity spreading in Japan? Is it something you would allow or not allow?

Interpreter: As their characters, Rob? Or as themselves.

Rob: As themselves.

Interpreter: Thank you.  To all three, Rob? Thank you.

Ogata: I think even if I was born in the Edo period, I still would have become an actor. And I would have probably played the same character of Inoue at demanding these Christians who trample on the fumie.

Kubozuka: It is indeed a very difficult question to grapple with isn’t it?. I think it really depends on whether your mother and father, whether your family was a Christian family or whether you were born with the choice of which religion to follow or as many people in Japan today whether you were Buddhist. I think if I were born back in those days in that age I think I would have been a fumie master like Kichijiro was.

Kubozuka: Excuse me.

Kubozuka: But if I were to add a word or two about the character that I played again Kichijiro. One thing that you must be aware of is that so of course he tramples on the fumie, but he as the interpreter says in the film “korobu.” He tramples on it, but it’s not the same as apostatizing which is kikyo. They are not the same things, so Kichijiro kind of goes back and forth. He tramples and  then he is a Christian again, and Mr. Endo says that this is very much about himself. This is really myself that I am depicting here. So as I said regardless of whether you are Buddhist, or whether you are Christian, or whether you follow any other religion I think it’s really all about kind of following your own belief. In Japan, I think it’s more about not religion, but this kind of when we say arigato (arigato is a Japanese word that means thank you), it’s kind of A true belief that we have. It really comes from the depths of our heart. And It’s about following that I think. And Kichijiro is very much like that in the way he is very greedy in a sense I would say, because he tramples and tramples yet he claims his belief in God. He is very very human in that respect I think. A very human character.

Asano: If I were born in the Edo period, I think I would not really like that situation and kind of try to stay away from all of that as much as possible.

Correspondent (probably Siegfield Knittel): Kichijiro.This figure, is he really a Christian or is he a Japanese people who believes in senpai? Everytime you watch him he keeps away from Rodriguez.  Rodriguez is perhaps his senpai. So is he really a Christian or is this  a Japanese thinking of senpai and kohai?

Moderator: And this is about the character of Kichijiro? Senpai? The senpai is Rodriguez he’s saying OK.

Kubozuka: So going back to what I said before the role of Kichijiro I think the kind of connecting theme between myself and the role of Kichijiro is the sense of innocence and that is what I brought to the shoot. Mr. Scorsese never really gave me any specific directions or he was never didactic in a sense of explaining to me what the character was about or what kind of person he was supposed to be he was supposed to be. And I think this goes for the other cast members as well, he really leaves a lot of it up to you.  He really leaves a lot of it up to you. way I see the character is I think he really doesn’t truly understand Christianity, but he does understand he is adamant about his belief. In that sense he is a greedy character.

Correspondent: So a bit of technical question. How was working with Mr. Scorsese compared to working with other film directors?

Kubozuka: So going back to what I said before the role of Kichijiro I think the kind of connecting theme between myself and the role of Kichijiro is the sense of innocence and that is what I brought to the shoot. Mr. Scorsese never really gave me any specific directions or he was never didactic in a sense of explaining to me what the character was about or what kind of person he was supposed to be. And I think this goes for the other cast members as well, he really leaves a lot of it up to you. But I was surprised when I saw the film for the first time without subtitles during the L.A. premier on January 5th. The performances where I was more emotional where I was more pure. Let’s say they were all cut and edited. And what you see up on the screen in the completed film is the more kind of flippant, light, stupid, for lack of a better word. side of Kichijiro. He really is a pitiful character in the film, and so I suppose Mr. Scorsese’s answer is in there. But the way I see the character is I think he really doesn’t truly understand Christianity, but he does understand he is adamant about his belief. So In that sense he is a greedy character.

Correspondent: So a bit of technical question. How is it working with Mr. Scorsese compared to working with other film directors?

Ogata: So working with Mr. Scorsese is…. so this is how he approaches directing his actors. He never really instructs you to act in a certain way, he never really explains a lot. He lets you bring what you have to the table. You play from there. And he never ever says anything negative about what you have to provide for him. So when an actor is allowed to approach of a character in that way. It is really inspiring and it leads to many other ideas. Let me give you an example. So I was playing predominantly against Andrew Garfield who plays Rodriguez. And I was able to kind of receive whatever he had to bring to the table, to  catch it. Mr. Scorsese really leaves a lot of room for that. So for example, towards the very end of the film where you have Rodriguez he’s already trampled on the fumie and you know his  beard is already all shaved off and for someone who had such will power up until then he’s  really kind of a shell of a person towards the very end of the film. And This leaves Inoue with a sense of guilt. He thinks what I have done to this person. And that is why he slides the hibachi, the charcoal,  ajar,  aside because he wants to approach him. If it weren’t for Mr. Scorsese creating that scene. I don’t think I would have reacted in that way. It was something quite unexpected happened and that went for all of the other scenes that we did as well, he just leaves room for things to happen like that.

Asada: So working with Mr. Scorsese as Mr. Ogata had just said, even in the audition process he really enjoys what you have to bring to that part. And he  really watches you. He sees you. And that does… and so he never puts pressure on you. He never tries stop you from doing anything. Tries to stops you from doing anything. And so as an actor it’s A really enjoyable process. And You also really do feel that responsibility that you really do have to bring something to the table. And this is something that I hadn’t seen in a lot of other directors. Some directors will treat actors. Some actors in that way. And other actors they will not treat in that way. For Mr Scorsese, he treats every actor like that. And so the shoot was very very enjoyable, fun,inspiring.  And I will give you an example. When we were  shooting one of the scenes with Andrew Garfield, he suddenly tried to escape from this trap.This cage that he was put in and that was not written. And I kind of had to dive into the scene with him, react to him. I was chasing him around. That was a lot of fun. Stuff like that happens with Mr. Scorsese.

Kubozuka: So I would agree with Mr. Ogata and Mr. Asano said. I would also say that Mr. Scorsese, he is really unsaid. He is really like a king, but he is just there. And his being there makes acting so much more easier. It’s amazing how much easier it becomes when him just being there. It’s like he puts a mirror to you. Which kind of helps inflate your acting. Let’s say two times triple, and so. You kind of trick yourself into thinking you are a wonderful actor. He is that kind of a director. He said to me. He was very kind when he said to me “ Whenever in New York, come to my place.” and I was in New York, I asked his manager and I did not receive a reply though.

Ogata: And in answer to your previous question, if I were born in the Edo period, I said I would again play the character of Inoue, but that would not be possible without someone like Mr. Scorsese. I must say.

Moderator: This has been just a real joy. We would like to thank Kadokawa again for allowing us to do this. Such a treat. We would also like to thank these three gentlemen so much. Not only for tonight. But also for their marvelous performances in this film. If no nominations are forthcoming, God is really not  listening. We have one year honorary memberships for them to FCCJ, so we hope that they will be coming back. Those of you who are writing about the film, please  mention that it opens on January 21st at over 300 theaters across Japan including TOHO Scalaza, here in Tokyo. Also please say this, all Japanese should see this film. They will be so proud of these three gentlemen and the other many Japanese actors who are in the film. They are wonderful. Thank you again so much.

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