Continuing our observance of the fifth anniversary of the live-action Space Battleship Yamato movie’s premiere, here are two interviews that were not translated at the time of publication. They are both conversations with Director Takashi Yamazaki and the lead actor Takuya [Kimtak] Kimura.
Cross Talk Special: Takuya Kimura X Takashi Yamazaki
From Cinema Cinema No. 28
November 1, 2010
The childhood drama of the space battleship that stood up for Earth in a crisis, and the men who love it. Now, they are the main actor and the director of the movie. Two people who achieved the dream of making the film happily revive passionate memories from their hearts!?
During shooting, I was excited during the scene of firing the Wave-Motion Gun
Yamazaki: (Looking at the original Yamato movie program book) The good old days.
Kimura: I bought this a long time ago, too. I don’t have it any more.
Yamazaki: Yamato was different from previous animation, wasn’t it? It was a tight story, and quite exciting. I liked things like Star Wars and Close Encounters when I got into this industry, but Yamato was deeply rooted before that, and might possibly be the work I wanted to make most. I think I would have really regretted it if I didn’t direct it, and I’m glad I got to make it in live-action.
Kimura: When I was in kindergarten, I was challenged to draw my favorite thing from my head, and it was Yamato traveling through space, trailing smoke. It’s not a physical molecule, but Yamato was an element that formed me. But there’s no way I ever thought I could be Susumu Kodai. No matter how much appeal I thought I had, I never thought I’d be qualified to board Yamato.
Yamazaki: Maybe so.
Kimura: However, I certainly was excited when we shot the firing of the Wave-Motion Gun. It’s fired within Earth’s atmosphere, but it was the first time the Wave-Motion Gun is seen on the screen. It was good that we pushed that forward so I could relax afterward. (Laughs)
Yamazaki: Me too. From when it’s fired until it hits the target with a big bang, I was unconsciously counting it off. If we went on shooting for too long, you wouldn’t have your firing voice at the end. (Laughs) I was intoxicated with it, too. The situation Kodai was facing when firing the Wave-Motion Gun had a lot of reality for me, and I thought, “the dream finally came true!” I plunged you into it by making the sound effect with my mouth. (Laughs)
Kimura: I don’t actually mind it when you imitate the sounds with your mouth. (Laughs)
Yamazaki: Speaking of the filming, did you say on the radio that “it felt like a club activity”?
Kimura: Yes. (Laughs) With Mr. Yanagiba [Sanada] sitting behind me, there was an immeasurable aura of Yamato love. (Laughs) It had a great feeling of “the excitement of the journey with the crew” all the way through the shoot. I was excited the first time I saw the full-scale set for the bridge, and when I sat in Susumu Kodai’s seat I somehow felt a great responsibility.
Yamazaki: When we were standing by on set, when we’d consider Yamato’s CG, you’d drop in looking really interested and said stuff like, “Didn’t the engine open up like this?” When I heard that, I thought, “Mr. Kimura has really watched Yamato.”
Kimura: I wanted to know about the CG since there was no information other than the bridge set. (Laughs) That reminds me, when I took a break with Tsutomu Yamazaki [Okita] in the smoking room, he told me, “This is a really good director, he gives us the ‘mood’.” Up until then I was sort of selfish about the work, but when I started to notice the “mood” of everyone around me I felt like it straightened me out. It got to be a lot of fun from there. Since the content was so deep, shooting really seemed to fly by.
This movie is an expression of love in the form of a cover
Yamazaki: We didn’t talk very much before we started shooting, did we?
Kimura: No, we didn’t. (Laughs)
Yamazaki: Because I had the feeling that you grasped it properly. I wanted Kodai to have the persuasive power of a man you could entrust the Earth to, and that’s the feeling of trust I had in you.
Kimura: When I played Kodai, I was playing a person who occupies a major part in the lives of a lot of people. In some blog posting, there was a dig at me like, “Kimtak is playing the teenage Susumu Kodai?” And I thought, “Yeah, they’re right.” But then I thought, “Aren’t I also one of these people who willfuly pushes a “Susumu Kodai is supposed to be like this!” line? If I were to put it in a sort of cowardly way, I was the avatar for the presence of Susumu Kodai in Yamato. (Laughs) But actually, I felt that the image of Kodai for this movie was formed by the whole.
Yamazaki: The Susumu Kodai in this movie is a man who knows terrible pain, so in that sense he’s an adult Kodai. It isn’t a “combat” drama, and he’s a soldier who knows that the fighting is really just a joke, so there is darkness in his heart. Therefore, I wanted to make Kodai a man who knows all about war. If you played him…I knew it was one image of Susumu Kodai that would come out if you played him.
Kimura: When the workers were trapped in that cave-in in Chile, they were rescued after ten days by the “Phoenix” capsule. Their families welcomed them back to the surface, hugging and kissing them without hesitation…I cried when I saw that. I thought, “If that’s true, that’s just an ordinary rescue operation.” We can just wipe from some cooking corner being broadcast to that, where the media of the world is picking it up. Since that’s the age we’re living in, I’ll say I’m glad I was able to do Yamato now.
Lately, I think I’ve somehow stayed calm. If I can say this without fear of misunderstanding, I think it’s an expression of love in the form of a “cover.” Once I thought a particular Eric Clapton song was really good, but then I was surprised when I heard that it was a song by Bob Dylan. It would be technically impossible to make this movie without VFX, so VFX is something like a phoenix, and I think that I was able to become Susumu Kodai thanks to that.
The thing is, while I think that the major meaning of this Yamato is the theme that “life is connected,” the sad thing was that when I called up friends to see the screening, there wasn’t a single lady there, though they were vital to that theme. (Laughs) There were 11 guys, clustered in the middle of this huge screening room, watching it stone-faced. Still, the Yamato I saw there was exceptional. (Laughs)
Yamazaki: Now that you mention it, that did happen. Why did we watch it so stone-faced, I wonder?
Kimura: Indeed. (Laughs)
A place full of “Yamato Love” with a club activity mood!?
From Cinema Square Vol. 34
November 25, 2010
The shaping of Yamato by two people on the shooting set
Interviewer: First, please tell me what the shooting set was like.
Yamazaki: A club-like atmosphere?
Yamazaki: Of course we had to keep it tight because it was work, but at the same time there was the feeling that everyone had gathered to do an interesting thing. I wanted to share the images with as many people as possible, so I brought in the previz (rough CG images), or when there was a lot of spare time I brought in the CG equipment to work on the shape of battleship Yamato. Then Mr. Kimura was happy to come by. (Laughs) I decided various things like “would the engine nozzle open this much?” while talking on-site. I like Yamato, but I also got the feeling that “Mr. Kimura really likes it, too!” (Laughs) I understand that passion.
Kimura: The art staff made a great set that gave me an uplifting feeling. It was exciting to see Yamato’s interior at full scale in font of me. When I put on my costume and threw myself into that set for the first time, I felt like I’d won a great prize. There’s the captain, and Shima’s next to me, and when I set down with Toshiro Yanagiba [Sanada] behind me, there was an immeasurable aura of love for Yamato. (Laughs) It sounds like an exaggeration, but I went on a journey with that crew to the end of shooting.
The excitement at the beginning was wonderful. There was so much human emotion on the set, it was surprising to look outside and see the greenscreen. (Laughs) At that time, for example, without trying to cause trouble, I asked the director “How far are we from Earth now, and what’s the position of Jupiter?” because I thought everyone needed that information. He quickly pulled out a laser pointer and pointed it and said, “It’s that way.” (Laughs)
Kimura: I thought, “The picture is already perfectly completed in his head.” But…in this live-action film, Susumu Kodai’s Cosmo Zero can transform. I liked that, so I just quickly answered, “I see.” I was excited and thought, “I wonder what shape it will have in the previz–?” and asked him…please show me with your right hand!
Yamazaki: Ahaha! Oh, yeah.
Kimura: (Holding up his right hand) The explanation was, “Vooom! It comes flying in and catches Yuki Mori, Goom! Bang! Like that.” I like sound effects, too… (Laughs)
Interviewer: The Wave-Motion Gun is in the picture, too…!
Yamazaki: Mr. Kimura teased me when he was sitting on the catapult and lights flashed before he had time to reach the other side. Therefore, the shot didn’t work. (Laughs)
Yamazaki: It was like being intoxicated. It was photography, but at the same time it went beyond photography with a feeling of [hearty voice] “I’ve arrived at last!” It was the happy moment when a dream came true.
Kimura: The only thing that bugged me was that when a situation was spreading out in front of me, I wanted to be inside the director’s mind. But I was still excited during the production.
The captain who sees all ~ the words of Tsutomu Yamazaki
Kimura: Between takes, the captain said something that surprised me. “This director is really good, he gives us the ‘mood’.” I thought about that word, and when I reconsidered it I said, “it really is true.” Rather than just feeling my own mood, I felt for the first time that I was feeling the ‘mood’ of everyone around me. That straightened me out.
Yamazaki: Mr. Yamazaki [Captain Okita] has a wonderful outlook. He taught me a few things, too. After the first private screening was over, he was bobbing his head and looked happy. (Laughs)
Kimura: The gas tank was completely full when the captain spoke that word, and it all became more fun. It was a really solid, enriching time. However, after the shooting ended and I met the director again after a while, it was strange that I couldn’t think of anything to say. (Laughs) At the time the shooting ended, I had the feeling of being an alumnus. We can giggle and embarrass each other.
Yamazaki: (Laughs) This Kodai is a man who knows a great deal of pain. Compared with the original, there is the sense that Mr. Kimura portrays an “adult Kodai.” He’s a persona who has passed through some serious things, and has gained a lot of depth as a human being.
Kimura: In some blog posting, there was some kind of dig at me, like “Kimtak is playing Kodai, who was 18 years old in the original!” Still, even while thinking that, at the same time I was also thinking that I have to just lay that aside. Anyway, this may be a cowardly way to put it, but I’m an “avatar” for Susumu Kodai to exist in this Yamato.
Takashi Yamazaki Q&A
Is there a work that gives you courage?
“Works that say, ‘Even if the world falls, people can live’!”
I saw Mad Max 2 [The Road Warrior] when I was a junior high student. I remember it produced a strange rush of vitality in me, and moved me to ride my bicycle really hard. I thought, “Even if the world falls, people can live!” (Laughs)
Which Yamato character are you most attracted to?
“The great sorrow shown at a glance by Kodai is really good.”
In the end, it’s Susumu Kodai. By his own decision and will, he takes heroic action, and the sadness that comes through him at a glance is really good. The feeling from Kodai, too, from what Shima says to him. I’m glad there’s that human kindness to him. I really wanted to see Kodai’s face during the end credits, so I decided to put it there. As I see this image of Kodai, with his weaknesses as a human showing on his face and yet he keeps moving forward, I think all over again, “This guy is really something!”
Special thanks to Neil Nadelman for translation support.