To mark the 6th anniversary of the live-action Space Battleship Yamato feature film directed by Takashi Yamazaki, here is a collection of cast interviews that were published in three separate magazines at the time, November and December of 2010.
Tsutomo Yamazaki (Captain Okita)
From Cinema Square Vol. 34
November 25, 2010
Anyway, I did not want to make Okita a “hero”
To tell the truth, I entered the site without knowing about the original work. Director Yamazaki said, “There’s nothing you don’t know about being strong.” (Laughs) When I got there, I was really surprised by the passion of the “Yamato freaks” on the crew. The cast as well. The poster image with Kimura was the first thing that caught my eye, with the wreckage of the Battleship Yamato. Some may judge my Okita to be “different.” This is the director and me…Yamazaki and I. (Laughs) We discussed it and decided on that expression. Anyway, I did not want to make Okita a “hero”. If it was shot like a Hollywood movie, the character would be a hero. I deliberately didn’t want to make him too good. Okita is always thoughtful. Yamato launches into space by his willpower. I think there is a sad, painful human theme there. Therefore, I thought Okita would have to be expressed as a “life-size human being.”
Kimura is an attractive young man. So the relationship of Kodai and Okita is intended to have the nature of a parent and child. It was fun co-starring with him. Director Yamazaki was also wonderful. He always keeps an open mind and listens with an open heart. He says what he means properly. Anyway, a charming man. Of course, I was in shots with greenscreen, and there was a monitor next to the director. There was a prototype CG image representing space that had been pre-made. I looked at it every so often, and it gave very good results. I asked the director, “Is that good enough for the finished film?” and was told, “The finished film will look 1,000 times better than this.” But later I learned that I misheard and it was actually, “Not 1,000 times, but three times.” (Laughs) But I was surprised when I watched the finished product that even three times better was a great thing. I was impressed that such a tremendous effort had been made in such a short period of time.
Tsutomu Yamazaki’s Q&A
Q1: How do you define leadership?
A1: I’m an on-site director, but I don’t usually trust people who act like a leader. (Laughs) A director who does not lead properly causes a lot of trouble, and it must be a person with a lot of charm. As for me, I’m not a very good “leader.” I don’t have a lot of faith in myself. I always learn by trial and error, and make my way in the dark. Therefore, I’m not the type of man who says, “There! Go over there!” and I don’t trust people who say such things. (Laughs) I don’t particularly like people who act like leaders, because they don’t understand human beings. I’ll be 74 years old soon, but there are still a lot of things I don’t understand yet. Everything is full of “first times.” There is no conclusive evidence for how to deal with things because every day is new. Even if I have some knowledge, there are always things I haven’t experienced, so I’m always working on myself. But that’s more interesting. In other words, “Man = constant first experiences” and someone who frivolously directs others around can no longer feel those “first times.” I think an actor like that should resign. But when that time comes, maybe you get senile and don’t notice it. (Laughs)
Q2: Is there a work that gave you inspiration?
A2: I got a lot of inspiration from a work I saw as a teenager. However, the title was…I shouldn’t say it. (Laughs) It’s better not to say it. I was a scatterbrain when I was around 16-18 years old, and I wanted to become bad. (Laughs) But I was unfamiliar with courage, and I couldn’t help being weak. It may sound far-fetched, but that’s why I became an actor. Because I watched such movies at the time. I wanted to be a character who was a delinquent, like me, to be bad…but there was a Koumoto movie that portrayed a guy who didn’t become like that. For me at that time, who had smoldering thoughts like that, it gave me strength. Well, essentially, I think an actor’s job is to be a delinquent. If you keep on doing it, even if you seem to fail every day, you gain fictional experience for yourself through fictional characters…that’s delinquent. So I longed to be bad. Perhaps it was natural that I progressed toward being an actor.
Q3: Which Yamato character are you most attracted to?
A3: It begins with women and ends with women. The most amazing part of this movie is Meisa Kuroki as Yuki Mori. These days, it really is “the age of women.” As it was in the past, so it is now, so it will be. The movie begins with a closeup of Meisa’s eyes and ends with a shot of Meisa as well. In the end, a woman saves the Earth. The director planned all of that. The wonderful thing about this movie is the line drawn by Director Yamazaki, starting with a woman and ending with a woman. I’d like you to see that by all means. Her Yuki Mori is very attractive and cool. She doesn’t say much, but what she does is so blunt and to the point, just BAM! I thought that feeling was expressed beautifully. In the second half, there’s a shot that practically tastes Meisa’s body. (Laughs) Those proportions…a director worships that. Even when a man is oblivious, there are also good things about being oblivious, aren’t there? So even if Kimura and I and Hashizume [General Todo] and Toshiyuki Nishida [Tokugawa] do our best, it’s still useless. (Laughs) None of us can measure up to a woman.
Kazuki Namioka (Saburo Katoh) and Takumi Saitoh (Akira Yamamoto)
From Cinema Cinema No. 28
November 1, 2010
”It’s satisfying to participate in a magnificent drama about protecting the earth”
Born in Osaka Prefecture, August 28, 1978. Blood type A. He first earned attention for Pachigi! In 2004, and played the lead role in Lion Maru G in 2006. Afterward, he starred in Drop, 13 Assassins, and continues on such blockbusters as SP Ambition, Bad Boys, and Nintama Rantaro.
”It was a wonderful experience with a new work of entertainment”
Born in Kyoto, August 22, 1981. Blood type A. Made his acting debut in 2001’s Fragrance of Time ~ Remember Me and has been active in TV, film, and stage ever since. He also appeared in the TBS drama Kurohyo: Ryu ga Gotoku Shinto and the NHK historical drama Go: Hime-tachi no Sengoku.
Two close friends always play Black Tiger fighter pilots. Yamato soldiers bound together by firm friendship is exactly the right depiction. Talk about preparation for the movie is just as enthusiastic as you expect!
Life on location was charged with “Yamato energy”!
Namioka: Is this the first time we’ve both been interviewed together?
Saitoh: That’s right, just the two of us.
Namioka: Is that so? (Adjusts Saito’s bangs)
Saitoh: What are you doing, fixing my hair like that? We’re not going out anywhere. (Laughs)
Namioka: But we’ve been together a lot lately. Haven’t we seen each other every day?
Saitoh: They could put us on sale as a set. (Laughs)
Namioka: The set is really innovative, different from an office, isn’t it?
Saitoh: In this case, maybe it’s better that we’re not in the so-called “Yamato generation.”
Namioka: That’s right. People in the “Yamato generation” are about 40 years old.
Saitoh: I think it was better not to have preconceptions. Also, we’ve made new everyday relationships. And we were in the same hotel room as Takahiro Miura [another actor who portrayed a pilot], weren’t we?
Namioka: That was fun. It became a Japanese-style room with three people sleeping radially. Three guys with their feet pointed toward the middle.
Saitoh: The space in the middle was either a symbol of freedom or storage for luggage. (Laughs) It was a lot of fun. I felt a camaraderie with the crew as a result.
Namioka: And I think that sense of unity comes through on the screen. Because we were charged with “Yamato energy.”
Toshiro Yanagiba in the role of Sanada, hot tears of the Yamato generation
Saitoh: Until recently I’ve been doing NHK morning dramas…
Namioka: Like GeGeGe no Kitaro!
Saitoh: No, The Wife. (Laughs) Shigeru Mizuki is of the [postwar] generation that experienced defeat, so it is said that the work has something like a sense of duty. Yamato has such a thing, doesn’t it? The hardship of war and a sense of responsibility.
Namioka: I say that’s a good thing. Wonderful. We even think the same way! (Laughs)
Saitoh: Since there are also ground battles, we did some military-type training. Him more than me.
Namioka: I did. Raising and lowering guns.
Saitoh: It’s a work in which you’re certain to die. I risked my life to protect the cargo ship. I really liked that part. If it was just me, I’d definitely run away. (Laughs) Or go over to the enemy side.
Namioka: Lame! (Laughs)
Saitoh: Hey, it’s Gamilas. I can’t beat them. Now, if this were pachinko…
Namioka: If this were pachinko, what?
Saitoh: …I can’t really put it into words. (Laughs)
Namioka: Ya can’t even play pachinko, can ya? (Laughs)
Saitoh: You could say that Yamato isn’t just entertainment. It depicts a real mental state of being cornered. What do you do when your family and country are ruined? It’s very tense. I thought I shouldn’t appear too excited. The feeling was of going to war.
Namioka: There were a lot of pinches. If the warp failed, space would be broken. Of course, we had to be prepared for death. I’ve never had a role before where we lived from moment to moment and death could be instantaneous. But wasn’t it Mr. Yanagiba who was really the most excited this time? He’d keep staring at me, going [mimicking his voice] “Like you can win?!”
Saitoh: You went and said it, huh?!
Namioka: I cried during the launch. “Hey, do your best!”
Saitoh: I was deeply moved. It’s the first time I’ve been involved with something of this scale. It was a wonderful experience with a new work of entertainment.
Namioka: It’s satisfying to participate in a magnificent drama about protecting the earth.
Saitoh: I’m glad I could participate.
Namioka: Of course! When it opens, we need to go to the theater every day. (Laughs)
The movie world I’d like to visit
Saitoh: It would be director Yasujiro Ozu’s Ohayou. I’d like to try and go into that “Ozu angle” just once.
Namioka: Lupin III, Cagliostro Castle. Could I go into that movie?
Saitoh: You could go into Yamato because it became a live-action film.
Namioka: Then you’d be Goemon.
Saitoh: And you’d be Jigen Daisuke?
Namioka: Just keep the count’s assassins away from me, please. At the very least, I’d say hi to Inspector Zenigata!
Questions about Yamato
Q: What if you were to board Yamato yourself?
Namioka: As you’d expect, I’d join the battle group. Maybe I should say that it suits me; the yellow arrow mark is the one for me. Kato’s position would be just right.
Saitoh: I would want to run the entertainment group in the theater room. Wouldn’t that be vital? I’d show things like The Goonies.
Q: What do you think is most necessary for the Yamato crew?
Namioka: Wouldn’t it be the feeling that you can face whatever comes up? It’s like a samurai game, because Yamato could be suddenly attacked in space.
Saitoh: Since you’re most likely going to fight under difficult circumstances, you have to just be ready to accept that you may die. Isn’t that what you’d call a sense of responsibility?
Q: When do you feel a global crisis?
Namioka: I don’t feel a global crisis because I became a father. It’s troublesome that there have been many recent cases involving children. But I think that this “crisis of people” is due to the times.
Saitoh: I thought the intense heat wave this year was bad. I think the Earth covered in radiation in Yamato may be an analogy for the unusual weather we have now.
”It was a work with the feeling of a great love for humanity”
The job of navigation crewmember Aihara is communication when searching for the enemy. Yamato’s battle scenes suddenly take on a fever pitch when she shouts, “Enemy discovered!” The earnestness of Aihara came from the impassioned performance of Maiko!
The shooting was unprecedented, and I was nervous every day. It was great working with such wonderful seniors and the set was so real. You can’t see it in the movie, but I wear dog tags. Prior to shooting, I trained to do several things, like the military salute. And sometimes I slumped when there was too much strain on the set.
Aihara’s job is to help find enemies on the radar and inform everyone. It was very difficult. I had lines that I’d never experienced before, and I stammered when the tension was high. Also, I had to convey the situation precisely, so I had to pay close attention to pronunciation. It was said that we had to properly speak everyday Japanese, and it became a very good study.
Both the sets and the props were built meticulously, and there were even anchor marks on the coffee machine in the dining room. I started to want it, so I borrowed just one. (Laughs) The set for the first bridge was really small. Because I’m performing desperately, I hit my foot hard against the radar stand and got a blue bruise on my knee.
Also, the special effects of the explosions are great. There was an explosion right above my seat. Gas came out with a PSHUUU, and it blew away my line, too. (Laughs) It was tough, but everyone was very friendly, including Takuya Kimura, and we feel like we somehow finished a fight together.
I think Yamato has the feeling of a great love for humanity. Times may change, but that’s where we always end up.
When I watched the finished product, the whole audience was leaning forward. In particular, I cried at the scene where Saito (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi) stands tall to protect Shiro Sanada (Toshiro Yanagiba). Isn’t it the ultimate to sacrifice yourself to protect an important person? I think women will surely be moved to tears.
The movie world I want to visit
My Neighbor Totoro. I have a longing for the old days. When I was in elementary school, I looked at photo collections from the Showa age (mid to late 20th century). (Laughs) I love the Showa world. Totoro is special above all.
Questions about Yamato
Q: What if you boarded Yamato yourself?
If I could contribute, I guess it would be something like Aihara’s role. It would be too heavy for me to shoot the Wave-Motion Gun. (Laughs) Aihara may be a unique role for a woman because of the attention to detail.
Q: What do you think is most necessary for Yamato’s crew?
Strong spiritual strength. I think the feeling of strength is important.
Q: When do you feel a global crisis?
After all, it’s when abnormal weather appears. I wonder what will happen if it keeps going this way. I feel like taking good care of the Earth.