Koji Yakusho in town! Newly received the Best Actor Award at Cannes International Film Festival for his latest role in Perfect Days, Yakusho was in the city for the past two days for the HKAFF Master Class, as well as greetings with audience pre- and post-screenings of Perfect Days and Cure to share about his acting career journey of 40 years.
HKAFF is honoured to organise Yakusho's "Actor in Focus Master Class", which took place on 26 Oct at PREMIERE ELEMENTS, with Yakusho in attendance and new local director-actor Chan Kin-long as guest host. The Class kicked off with Yakusho's greetings and a brief introduction to the creative origins of Perfect Days, which is "The Tokyo Toilet" project spearheaded by Koji Yanai, the CEO of Japanese garment brand Uniqlo. Yakusho said he recevied a two-day training from public toilet cleaners to prepare for his role Hirayama, which he felt flattered being praised to have talents for the job and was invited to join the toilet cleaning crew. When asked about his feelings for the performance, Yokusho stated that director Wim Wenders tend to give him a free hand as the script was sometimes quite minimalist. For example, there was a scene where the script only has one line that says "Hirayama suddenly burst into tears", but Wim Wenders only said "you can choose to cry or not cry", which made Yakusho not know how to interpret it. After discussing with the director, it was decided to film different versions, and finally it became the current one. Yakushu described Hirayama as "a person who only needs the minimum materials to live. He can go to the senton hot spring, have a drink in the evening, read his favorite books, and fall asleep with satisfaction every night." He said that his lifestyle is very different from Hirayama’s. However, He also felt that this movie "simply puts a person who values life and works hard in front of the camera, and it can become a masterpiece." He also said that he hopes everyone will feel “being soothed by a spring breeze” after watching the film, and can taste the blanks that are left in the story.
Yakusho also said that as an actor, he needs to consciously observe the people and things around him. He stated that when he first learned stage acting from his mentor Tatsuya Nakadai , his greatest lesson was “trial and error”. Yakusho said that he once imitated Nakadai, but was criticised harshly, which made him realise that "Nakadai is Nakadai", and he began to work hard to develop his own personal characteristics. At the same time, he was open to listening to other people's opinions, and his acting skills were able to grow. Yakusho said that he first experienced the charm of film at the Cannes Film Festival. In 1997, The Eel won the Best Film Award, and he realised that many movie fans were paying attention to Japanese movies. He jokingly recalled the situation at that time, "I was watching in the audience and saw every awardee will be kissed on the cheeks by the female presenter. So I thought ‘am I going to be kissed too?’, it made me so nervous.” Yakusho directed the film Toad’s Oil in 2009. When asked if he would direct again, Yakusho responded that he had the same experience as many other directors — he has proposed many directing projects, but unfortunately they were rejected as he was told the stories were not commercial enough. Even so, he still has hope, "If there is a script that nobody could direct but me, I will accept the challenge. Hope the HKAFF will invite me here again by then.” Finally, Chan Kin-long asked that if he is to direct a film in the future, he would like to invite Yakusho to perform a role, to which Yakusho delightedly agreed and said: “Thank you for the opportunity director!"
On October 27, Koji Yakusho also attended the post-screening talk of Cure at the Broadway Cinematheque and shared with the audience his experience during the filming. Cure was the first collaboration between Yakusho and director Kiyoshi Kurosawa in 1997. Yakusho recalled that when he received the script, he was asked by Kurosawa whether he wanted to play the role of the detective Takabe or the suspect Mama, and he picked the former, and the two then often discussed the script at a family restaurant. Yakusho recalled his many collaborations with Kurosawa, and said they are both of similar age, have similar interests and opinions on things. Now Kurosawa has become one of the leading directors in the Japanese film industry, which makes him very proud. Yakusho laughed and said that he actually secretly went to the cinema to watch the film alone when it was released, but was met with a near-empty theatre, which made him feel the depressiveness and horror of the story even more.
In addition to the new work Perfect Days, HKAFF has also selected many of Yakusho's past works: Shall We Dance?, The Eel, Cure, Eureka, 13 Assassins , University of Laughs, Suite Dreams and Under the Open Sky, don't miss it!
Perfect Days will also be officially released on January 25, 2024.