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[FILM] Youki Kudoh (Actress in Geisha, Snow Falling, Heaven's Burning, etc.)

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  • madchinaman
    Actress - filmography http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0473802/ http://www.youkikudoh.net/ http://translate.google.com/translate?
    Message 1 of 1 , May 13, 2005
      Actress - filmography

      17 January 1971
      Hachioji, Tokyo, Japan

      Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) (post-production) .... O-Kabo (Pumpkin)

      Kaze no jûtan (2003) (as Kudou Yuuki) .... Kinue Nagai
      ... aka The Wind Carpet (International: English title)

      Blood: The Last Vampire (2000) (voice) .... Saya

      Snow Falling on Cedars (1999) .... Hatsue Imada Miyamoto
      Heaven's Burning (1997) .... Midori
      Picture Bride (1994) .... Riyo
      ... aka Bijo photo (Japan)
      Sensô to seishun (1991) (as Kudou Yuuki) .... Yukari Hanafusa/Sakiko
      ... aka War and Youth

      Mystery Train (1989) .... Mitsuko
      Hanazono no meikyu (1988) (as Kudou Yuuki) .... Fuyumi
      ... aka Labyrinth of Flower Garden
      Honba jyoshikou manual: Hatsukoi binetsu-hen (1987) (as Kudou
      Yuuki) .... Michiko Sawaki
      Shukuji (1985) (as Kudou Yuuki) .... Fusae Saotome
      ... aka Congratulatory Speech (USA)
      Taifu Club (1985) (as Kudou Yuuki) .... Rie Takami
      ... aka Typhoon Club
      Gyakufunsha kazoku (1984) (as Kudou Yuuki) .... Erika Kobayashi
      ... aka The Crazy Family


      Author C.S. Lewis created something very special in the "Chronicles
      of Narnia." The simple touch of the magical wardrobe door was also
      the quiet and devastating promise of a secret world of fantastical
      beauty, richness, intrigue, and incomparable dimension. The same can
      be said of looking into the eyes of Japanese actress Youki Kudoh.
      Her eyes are pools of hypnotic beauty that not only seem to reflect
      the unbounded blue expanse of the sky like a razor-still mountain
      lake, but are also gateways to a world of color, wonder, and

      The award-winning actress is a modern day Renaissance woman. In
      addition to her theatrical prowess, Kudoh is an accomplished singer,
      novelist, and painter. With the success of her latest Hollywood
      film, the screen adaptation of David Guterson's best-selling
      novel "Snow Falling on Cedars," Kudoh is just becoming accustomed to
      managing a trans-continental career.

      Discovered at the tender age of 12, her first film "The Crazy
      Family" was an instant classic and also jump started her music
      career. Eight years later she then was baptized as the native
      daughter of Japanese cinema after becoming the youngest actress in
      Japan to win the equivalent of the Best Actress Oscar for her
      performance in Tadashi Imai's "War and Youth." Respectfully, she
      speaks very highly of her experience with working with the renown
      veteran director Imai, and after his passing she continued to visit
      him. While Kudoh was auditioning for the role of Hatsue Miyamoto
      in "Snow Falling on Cedars," she visited Imai for spiritual guidance
      and support which to her belief helped her later secure the much
      sought after starring role.

      Often cast as the young bride in such films as "Picture
      Bride," "Heaven's Burning,"and "Snow Falling on Cedars," Kudoh
      represents the very fragile balance of female independence and
      vulnerability. However, despite the tempting moments of on-screen
      frailty, Kudoh is a creative force not to be treated lightly. She
      has written a wildly popular fantasy novel titled "Princess Silvia,"
      and hopes that one day her written vision will be realized as an
      anime movie. Furthermore, Kudoh heralds the discipline of Japanese
      anime as an art and genre. Collaborating on voiceover work for the
      very well-received anime film titled "Blood: the Last Vampire."

      There are more exciting landmarks ahead for the young actress. The
      latest news involve the DVD/VHS nationwide release of "Snow Falling
      on Cedars" and the upcoming release of the off beat and frantic
      film "Heaven's Burning" in Japan. For the latter film, which co-
      stars Oscar-nominated gladiator actor Russell Crowe, Youki brings a
      haunting, surprising inner strength and resilience to her character
      Midori, a young, timid and introverted Japanese wife. With "Snow
      Falling on Cedars" she co-stars opposite Ethan Hawke as the wife of
      the accused (Rick Yune), and displays a startling, yet understated,
      emotional range remaining true to her character in each of her scene-
      stealing appearences.

      ASTYLE sat down with the creative muse and found out about more of
      her life with Einstein, the possibility of vampires among us, and an
      budding curiosity in the Internet machine. Amazingly humble, Youki
      possessed a genuine personality that radiated friendliness and
      positive energy. When we asked her to introduce herself to her fans,
      she cheerfully stated: "Hi my name is Youki. I love to make good
      films, I love to singing, I love living, I love my life, I love
      being human being, having fun and being healthy. I would like to
      make lots of films in the future, trying many different kinds of
      possibility. So keep an eye on me, because I need you guys.

      Now how much more refreshing can a person ever be? And now, let's
      step inside the world of Youki

      ASTYLE: Hello Youki!

      Youki: Hi! How are you?

      ASTYLE: Great! It a pleasure to be speaking with you!

      Youki: Thank you. I feel the same way.

      ASTYLE: I was speaking to several people insiders who caught a
      special premiere of your recent movie "Blood: the Last Vampire" and
      they were extremely impressed. Can you tell me about it?

      Youki: I thought it was a great honor to be in a voice-over for this
      Japanese animation. I was very proud and I think that it was a good
      role in that I got to speak both Japanese and English.

      ASTYLE: What do you think about anime?

      Youki: I think that Japanese animation are made with very very
      special quality and that they are very original. I also believe that
      in the future Japanese animation will be even more popular.

      ASTYLE: Yes! Especially with the cross-over of Hayao
      Miyazaki's "Princess Mononoke" getting so much attention in the
      press and the growing popularity of anime in video stores.

      Youki: Yes, I really believe that because we have a very special
      quality in making Japanese animation. We have a very strong culture.
      Very disciplined about animation. Since I was very, very small I've
      been watching cartoons for a long time and I see that we have a very
      special sense to making animation. I really believe in the
      originality of animation, so I think it was a great honor for me to
      be involved in a Japanese animation because I love Japanese

      ASTYLE: Well in the movie "Blood" and you were cast as a vampire. Do
      you believe that vampires exist?

      Youki: Oh yeah of course! Why not? (Laughs) Yeah, I do believe in
      all the fairies and all the ghosts. And all the spirits, and of
      course monsters and vampires. Why? If they did not exist, why do
      people create those kind of things? I think there are people who can
      see those things, and I want to see it so it is more exciting. I
      really believe in those things, monsters, fairies, or spirits... If
      they did not exist why would anyone create those characters? The
      people that created those things I believe they can see them. I tend
      to think that a few people can see those things even though most
      people cannot see. But some people can certainly see them. I think
      it's really exciting to believe in those things.

      ASTYLE: Speaking of fantasy, you also have written a fantasy novel
      called "Princess Silvia"

      Youki: Ahh… "Princess Silvia."

      ASTYLE: What was that one actually about?

      Youki: It's about this one princess who was cursed by this witch.
      Both she and her mother were cursed by this witch, but she had a
      really bad burn on her face and body and because of it had to wear a
      mask since she was very, very small. It's a fairy tale basically,
      but it's a very exciting story. Actually, the story began when one
      king, once upon a time had three wives - three queens. Those queens
      were pregnant all at the same time and they all gave birth at the
      same time beginning this curse. One queen was an extremely nice
      person and beautiful. Beautiful inside and out. One queen was a very
      passionate character that also talked a lot. She had red hair like
      burning fire and she too was very, very beautiful as well with green
      eyes. And the third queen, she was the evil one and also was a
      witch. In the story, it was only after the king had the babies, did
      he realize who he loved the most and who he cared the most about.
      Well, when the witch queen found out it was not her, she got so
      JEALOUS about it she cursed both queens and their new-born children.
      The witch queen then killed the queen and her baby - that is Silvia.
      Silvia survived, because her mother protected her, but she got a
      really bad burn and a result wore a mask...

      ASTYLE: Wow that sounds very intriguing...

      Youki: Growing up her father the king never really wanted to see her
      because it reminded him of the tragedy so she was always sort of
      feeling sad about not being loved by her father. Up until she was 16
      years old, the king had never met her because he was still hurt
      after he had lost his most loved person. However they began
      preparing to have a big party for the princesses when they turned
      16. And they decided to invite a prince to come over to the kingdom
      so one of them can get married to the him. When the party began, the
      prince didn't show up. Actually, he was disguised and had hidden in
      the castle for a month before the party finding which person had the
      most beautiful heart to which he would choose to become his wife.
      Silvia was raised far away from the castle, surrounded by lots of
      animals. She was raised far from the castle surrounded by an old
      nanny, the nanny's son, and surrounded by very kind heart people.
      The other two princesses spent much of their time always trying to
      look good, like grooming and making dresses, and treating people
      very bad. Behaving like a bad princess. Silvia wasn't interested in
      the prince at all because she never thought she was going to marry a
      prince. She was never interested Well I can say that much. This was
      a best seller at one point. I'm thinking about making it into an
      animation in America, which I can. This is like my dream because I
      LOVE animation.

      ASTYLE: That would be a beautiful story.

      Youki: Thank you! This is a really good story and it's been a really
      big hit in Japan and some people wanted to make a musical out of the
      story, but I'm more interested in making animation instead.

      ASTYLE: Now you've been primarily an actress, at least for all the
      North American fans, but you've also been very active in all the
      artistic fields. You've had seven albums and you were dubbed an
      alternative music pop star, and you also have that fantasy novel,
      and you were also painting at one point. But what actually gives you
      the greatest artistic satisfaction?

      Youki: I would say everything gives me great artistic satisfaction
      because I just love being creative. I love creating things, I love
      being part of the creative process. So I do enjoy painting, taking
      pictures, doing volunteer work, singing, or acting. It's always very
      satisfying being an actress or being the voice over for the
      animation character because I can be ANYTHING. If I want to be a
      witch I can be the witch, if I want to be a guy, I can be a guy. If
      I want to be a dog, I can be like a DOG! I can be living as a dog or
      living as a cat, whatever. That really makes me really excited.

      ASTYLE: Now you actually have many photos with your dogs. Are dogs
      your favorite pet?

      Youki: Oh yes, dogs are my soul mate ... sort of. (Starts laughing)
      They give me a great unconditional love even when I travel all
      around the world. I don't have a domestic life because my career is
      happening in both Japan and America at the same time, but my dog can
      be with me all the times. He gives me like 100% unconditional love.
      I'm always with him all the time. He's my great mental supporter.

      ASTYLE: I know exactly how you feel, because I feel the same about
      my dog. What type of dog do you have?

      Youki: I have a Labrador Retriever, he's a golden lab.

      ASTYLE: What's his name?

      Youki: Einstein.

      ASTYLE: Is there any reason for that name?

      Youki: Oh yes, I wanted to have a smart dog so I named him Einstein
      and he became a very complicated dog. (Laughs) Do you know that name
      fortune telling? If you got the right name you are going to be in
      numerology. I believe in numerology and I believe I picked the wrong
      name for Einstein, so he became a pretty complicated dog. He's like
      human almost (laughs).

      ASTYLE: Well that's good, at least you have a very human pet.

      Youki: Oh yes, he totally understands what I'm saying. He really
      understands when I am leaving him or like when I am trying to pack
      up my suitcase. If I have another person in the house and if they're
      packing up, he doesn't care. But once I start packing up, he knows!
      He really knows that I am packing. Somehow he understands!

      ASTYLE: They are definitely a family member!

      Youki: Oh yes! (Laughs)

      ASTYLE: Now in several of your movies, "The Picture
      Bride," "Heaven's Burning," "Snow Falling on Cedars," they always
      cast you as a young bride. Why do you think that is?

      Youki: I don't know, I must be a young bride then. (Laughs) I don't
      know, ummm… yeah it's a good question and I want to know! (pauses) I
      want to know why. But I never really thought about it.

      ASTYLE: Well it seems like you have a very delicate balance of
      independence and vulnerability in most of your roles. Do you think
      that's exactly how you are in real life and so that's what they see

      Youki: I think so. It does totally reflect my personality. It's a
      good point. I have some sort of vulnerability and also I have some
      sort of complex personality as well, because I've been working for a
      long time. Probably that's what people see inside of me I guess.

      ASTYLE: Well what kind of roles do you want to play that are
      contrary to that?

      Youki: I did play a really funny part for "Mystery Train" it was
      directed by Jim Jarmusch. When I was just 17... Yeah I like that
      kind of comedic role as well.

      ASTYLE: Well you were discovered at age 12 in a mall in Tokyo by
      talent agent. Well looking back at it today, do you think it was
      fate that you entered this industry?

      Youki: Yeah! Definitely it was fate. I can't believe, I can't really
      think anything else other than being an actress. I think this is my
      (pauses) I think this is my life. I really believe in my career. I
      really love my career. I can't think of anything else, or doing
      anything else.

      ASTYLE: Well your debut film "The Crazy Family"

      Youki: Wow! Thank you so much for researching my background!

      ASTYLE: It was my pleasure. You have so much talent and we hope that
      everyone else can witness it as much as we have.

      Youki: Thank you so much. . . that is so encouraging!

      ASTYLE: Well your debut film "The Crazy Family" was an instant cult
      classic in Japan and it also launched your singing career. And then
      you had the film "War and Youth" and you were only 20 years old and
      were the youngest actress to ever win an award in Japan. How did you
      feel at that time, winning such an award at such a young age?

      Youki: Well it was almost an impressed accident. I never thought I
      could win an award since I was never interested in winning awards.
      But working with Tadashi Imai, the director was a great, great
      experience for me. And it was a very treasured moment for me and
      that was his last film in his life. He was a very well respected
      director for a long time. He's the same age as Kurosawa. He made
      great, great movies in his early age but that was his last film. He
      was a great person. It was great honor to work with him. He has a
      very serious disease that he didn't tell anyone about. Plus, he was
      very old because he was like 79, almost 80. But he was the first
      person to be on the set and the last person to be on the set.
      Everybody was so encouraged by him, because he worked so hard.
      EVERYBODY was so encouraged because he worked MUCH harder than
      anybody else. At that time, even the younger people didn't pay
      attention to me when I was soaking wet in rain. He was the only one
      that noticed that I was so wet because of the rain. He was just a
      great human being. It was a fully inspirational movie for me and
      since when I was twenty when I worked with Tadashi Imai I never made
      any Japanese films since then. It was a great memory for me. It was
      so wonderful working with him and I still feel that I'm protected by
      him somehow. And before he died, he was saying that he didn't have
      to win any awards. But he tried so hard so I wanted to give him some
      kind of praise. But he was telling everybody that he wanted ME to
      win something instead of him winning something. And then he died and
      I won like 4 or 5 best actress awards in that year. I believe maybe
      his will supported me, his spirit supported me and I still feel he's
      supporting me. I feel very close to him still. I will pray for him
      every single day and almost think about him every single day because
      my spirit is very close to him.

      ASTYLE: That's a very touching story...

      Youki: Yeah it was a very, very great feeling. Before I got this
      role for "Snow Falling on Cedars," I really wanted to get this role
      so bad, so I went to his grave to ask for him to support me and I
      won. I got the role.

      ASTYLE: So what did you feel about the role? I know you took great
      pride in this role because you said, "The role is certainly not
      stereotypical, like a geisha or some Japanese tourist with a camera
      around her neck and a shopping bag in her hand. It's a role I was
      proud to have as a Japanese, since the movie treats the character I
      play with great respect."

      Youki: Yes, I have always felt that way. I was so happy to find out
      that they were going to make this kind film. It's not the Geisha
      story, it's not like a typical Japanese stereotype. I'm not hanging
      the camera around my neck. I was a very, very impressed with the
      book. I went camping at the time. To be honest, I didn't know about
      the book at all until I found out that I was going to have an
      audition for "Snow Falling on Cedars." But then my manager forced me
      to read that book, and I was so mad because I was just ready to go
      camping for summer vacation and I never really wanted to do any kind
      of homework while camping so I was so mad at him. But since I
      started reading the book, I was totally trapped with the book
      completely and I couldn't stop reading because I loved the story.
      And I got great inspiration. It's going to be a great film. It's
      going to be the film I can be proud of my whole entire life. I can
      show it to my grandson, my grandchild. I wanted to be part of the
      film. That's what I felt when I read the book. So I was very, very

      ASTYLE: Yes. Both the film and book were excellent I thought. Some
      of the scenes of the snow and fog in the movie were visually so
      beautiful. The way Scott Hicks captured the setting, it was

      Youki: Yeah, it was a magical film. And I think people will discover
      this film much, much later. It's like the film "It's a Wonderful
      Life." People after 10 or 15 years, a new generation of people
      growing up will probably discover this film and realize that it is a
      magical film.

      ASTYLE: What do you think is the best thing about being actress? And
      what is the worst thing?

      Youki: I can't find anything bad about being an actress, because I
      love my work, I can spend my lifetime being an actress. As I
      mentioned earlier, I can be any kind of human. I can be a dog, I can
      be a cat, I can be anything. Also, I can impress people. I can
      entertain people, I can make people cry, I can make people get
      influenced by the movie. I can stop killing people themselves, I can
      save people from committing suicide. That's what happened once and I
      still remember that letter and I'm still keeping that letter because
      it encourages me very much when I feel very depressed or when I'm
      depressed about my career. People can be depressed once in awhile
      and I can be depressed sometimes. I can be totally happy too, it all
      comes and goes, but I still keep that letter. I have lots of time to
      think about my life, so I can do many different kinds of things. I
      can be appreciated by people.

      ASTYLE: You're right. You're still very young so you still have lots
      of time to do anything you want.

      Youki: Yeah, I think I am very, very lucky. I can meet many people,
      I can work with many very talented people. I can't find any bad
      parts about being an actress, and I think it's one of the greatest
      jobs of the world. And I think I'm very lucky to be an actress,
      because it's my whole interest, and it's my life work. I'm so glad
      that I found my life's work

      ASTYLE: Well as movie viewers, I think we are very lucky to see you
      on screen!

      Youki: Thank you so much!

      ASTYLE: You lived in both Japan and the US. What is the difference
      between being famous in both areas?

      Youki: Well, I'm not very famous in the United States anyway
      (laughs), so I have so much freedom in the United States, since
      people are never going to recognize me. People giving me hard times.
      In Japan, people are very, very nice to me because I've been a
      recognized actress for a long time now. So I discovered many things
      in good ways. I feel like I have a true life now being an actress in
      Japan and being a human in America. Because I'm not a film person in
      the United States it is very, very wonderful. I've been supported by
      many people since I've been a kid. I've been taken care of by
      manager, my assistants, I have everybody right around me, but right
      now most of the time I'm very self-sufficient. I go to auditions
      without my manager, I go to auditions without assistants. I drive
      myself to my auditions. I prepare by myself without anyone helping,
      which is good experience for me and it makes me a better human.

      ASTYLE: Well that is definitely the best of both worlds then.

      Youki: Yes I think so too (laughs)!

      ASTYLE: Well what are the major differences in the Hollywood
      filmmaking process as opposed to a Japanese production?

      Youki: I would think the biggest difference between the Japanese
      film industry and Hollywood film industry is money (laughs). The
      only thing is money. Because everyone wants to make a great movie
      but they cannot afford to make good films because they do not have
      the budget. Hollywood people have the most talented people, because
      they can afford them. And everybody wants to work in Hollywood
      because the money always comes through Hollywood. They can afford
      all kind of things. They just about can afford people… human life
      almost. Money is so powerful, and sometimes it makes me feel very
      sad because sometimes the money, the fame and this big industry can
      sometimes destroy everybody's personality. We need many different
      kinds of people in there.

      ASTYLE: Well too many people may be seduced by all the glitz and
      glamour and not be strong enough to retain their individuality.

      Youki: Yeah, I think the human beings are very frail. Its like one
      of those films telling about the Devil's advocate or something. I
      really think that people are very weak for getting fame and money
      and all those glamourous things. Which is not what interests me even
      by being an actress, I love this work, but sometimes I feel that
      still I can be careless, because I don't work that much because I
      don't like that kind of thing. I just want to do what I am
      interested in. Also I feel I only want to spend my life for some
      kind of project only because I love it. Its not because 'Oh, if I
      work with this director probably I can have better credit.' That
      does not interest me so much, so I'm always looking forward to
      finding interesting projects then fame and money.

      ASTYLE: Who some of your favorite actors or actresses?

      Youki: I really loved working with Max von Sydow. I really liked
      him, I liked his performance, and I liked his personality. He was a
      very, very nice person. Also I like Meryl Streep. I like Susan
      Sarandon, Jimmy Stewart… I like Jack Nicholson. I love many people,
      but most important I like good actors.

      ASTYLE: What is the most attractive quality an actor should have?

      Youki: The ability of expressing and how much they can make me
      believe that that's the person. If you watch a movie, sometimes I
      feel that this actress is acting like herself and not really the
      character. They want to be very glamorous person, and the person can
      be always the same. Always the same face. It doesn't interest me. If
      I can believe that is the person who lives in the movie is real,
      that is good. That really attracts me and I think that is a very
      important quality.

      ASTYLE: In "Snow Falling on Cedars" your character was honored as
      the "Strawberry Princess." If you were to be honored in real life as
      a princess, what kind of princess would you want to be?

      Youki: Hmmmm? I don't know. (Laughs) Any kind of princess I want to
      be! (Laughs) It would be nice to be a princess I think. (Laughs)

      ASTYLE: Well outside of strawberries, what is your favorite type of

      Youki: I like Japanese cherry. I like Japanese peach. They are so
      sweet and so different. I think that fruit in Japan is so amazing,
      it is expensive, but it is really great.

      ASTYLE: I think that Japanese pears are so juicy!

      Youki: Oh yeah! Very very tasty, but I like American pears too. They
      are pretty good. I love the smell too (smile).

      ASTYLE: What advice would you give to others that want to follow
      your footsteps?

      Youki: Oh I'm not that great to say anything like that.

      ASTYLE: Well to some I believe you are a role model.

      Youki: Well, I would say be a good human instead of just being a
      good actress. I think it is the most important thing for anybody.
      I've met many talented people who are jerks or very bad people. I
      think that if you are born a human, then you have to be a good human
      being. I don't want to be a priest or something, or like a teacher,
      but I've been working a long time and I think that the most
      important thing is being a good human being. That is also the most
      important thing to make a film. Because this job is touching the
      people's heart, and changes humans, and changes generations, changes
      culture, changes human philosophy and thought. It is a very
      important and responsible job. So if people can create really great
      films, we can create very wonderful people in the future. And we can
      make a better world. You know I'm not one of those spiritual leaders
      or anything. But I believe that this kind of job can change people,
      because if you are a kid and you only watch very violent or racist
      films. What kind of kid are you going to be in the future? So I
      think our job is very responsible. I think that being a great star
      and a bad human is kind of old style. I think that people have to be
      great humans before being a great actor and then you can have talent
      also. I think that is going to be better in both ways.

      ASTYLE: Based on what you said I think you are a great role model

      Youki: Well I hope so! (Laughs) I don't want to be a boring person,
      but I think that this is important.

      ASTYLE: Well you definitely are not a boring person!

      Youki: (Laughs) Well thanks! I hope so! (Laughs) I try to be not
      boring! It's a difficult combination though isn't it? Like some
      people if you become a good human, you can be pretty boring...

      ASTYLE: ...because then you are lecturing people all the time...

      Youki: Yeah. It's always like scales. You are always trying to
      balance both sides. What is most important to you? People cannot
      stop scaling things. And for me it is very important to be a good
      human and being healthy and taking care of your family... AND taking
      care of dogs for me (laughs). Domestic life for me.

      ASTYLE: Do you ever surf the Internet?

      Youki: Yeah I do.

      ASTYLE: What do you think about it? Is it fun for you?

      Youki: Well the Internet has great ability to make people become
      like become "borderless," because you can go to and search
      Switzerland, France or Sweden, Denmark, China, Korea, or Taiwan. All
      kinds of worlds you can access right away, which is wonderful I
      think. But there is another side effect, for example bad business
      stuff (laughs), it's like a magical world. How you use it is very
      important. If you use it the best way, better way, people can do
      many good things. But then again people can use it to do many bad
      things too. So it is still on the edge. We have to find out because
      it's a new field. It's a frontier situation right now, like starting
      to be a pioneer in the new world. I hope we can make things better
      then make things worse. But I overall think the Internet has a great
      possibility to make a better future for sure.

      ASTYLE: Is there anything that you want to share with the viewers so
      we can keep up with what you are doing?

      Youki: I have a homepage! (smiles) [ www.youkikudoh.net ]

      ASTYLE: Anything else like to say to your fans?

      Youki: Just come say hi to me (laughs) if anyone see me on the
      streets! I'd love to chat with you!


      Who Killed Our Culture? We Did
      A Japanese actress mourns her country's obsession with American

      I belong to the generation of Japanese whose parents are the
      children of those who grew up during and after the war, suffering
      from hunger and poverty. It was our grandparents who really
      experienced the long and agonizing war.

      Afterward, the people of Japan could gather the strength to get on
      their feet again only by directing all the frustration they had
      built up in their minds--grudges, remorse, negative feelings--toward
      the state. They even refused to sing the national anthem. The result
      was that we of the younger generation were taught that patriotism is
      bad. If you express your love for the country, you are called "pro-
      war," you are considered a right-winger.

      The Americans, meanwhile, had Coca-Cola, chocolate, family life,
      music and dance--all the pleasures we lacked. The goal of post-war
      Japan was to catch up with America by every means available. The
      economy took off; we ran up the ladder and became a first-class
      economic power, pretending all the while not to see the huge hole in
      the mind, the distrust of our own country.

      Most of today's young people grew up in the absence of some
      important values. They aren't positive about being Japanese, nor
      about their own identity. They are losing their integrity because
      they always pretend to be like someone else. Whatever becomes
      popular, they want to follow. When girls put on the platform shoes
      that are fashionable now, it is as if they are trying to step up to
      another level, to be someone they are not. These girls want long
      legs, big breasts and Caucasian features. The sense of beauty has
      changed. Young women don't recognize what is good about themselves.

      It is good to be flexible and open to other cultures; that is a
      quality young Japanese have that their parents did not. But at the
      same time we have to hold on to our own culture. We have become
      polluted by American culture, contaminated by materialism. We don't
      love our country, don't respect it. We are negative about our
      culture: traditional things are seen as old-fashioned, and
      everything new is good. Social order and moral standards have
      disappeared. Some people are even obsessed with denying their
      Japaneseness. Many girls dye their hair and tan their skin. The
      streets and towns of Japan are made to look like France or America.
      Our cities were destroyed and re-created to resemble a foreign
      country. Traditional culture is not even accessible to most of us;
      it is disappearing into oblivion. This makes me very sad.

      We are following America, in good ways and bad. The good thing is
      that people are becoming more independent. It used to be impossible
      for people to get promoted in a company unless they were the right
      age, now matter how talented they were. Now that's changing. It's
      more competitive. Someone with the right skills can advance. But the
      bad thing is that we are losing all respect for older people. We are
      copying everything about America just because it is American.

      I was lucky enough to start working in the U.S. when I was 17. By
      getting an external view of Japan, I have learned how important it
      is to hold on to your identity while accepting other cultures. In
      American film, Asian women usually are cast as either prostitutes or
      bitchy dragon ladies. This bothers me. An American director offered
      me a typical Asian role, as a bitchy type. I told him I didn't want
      to be laughed at. I want to play a character I can sympathize with.
      He decided to go the "traditional" way, so I didn't take the part.

      Usually, we compromise too much of ourselves. What is missing in
      young people, I think, is the ability to establish a relationship
      with somebody without trying to copy that person, or comparing
      whether you are richer or poorer, or better or worse. We need to
      love ourselves, take pride in our homeland and establish fair and
      equal relationships with people from all over the world. You can
      accept someone without losing your own identity. We need the
      confidence with which to see the good qualities hidden in our
      history and tell the world about them. We need a flexible mind with
      which we can learn about mistakes in our history and turn them into
      positive lessons.

      I want Japan to prosper as a peace-loving superpower, a great nation
      that can love itself and other nations, too. As a young Japanese, I
      hope I can help our country to reach that goal. I came to America
      because there is more opportunity here in film. But I don't think it
      always has to be that way. I am just working here. I haven't
      abandoned my identity. My heart is in Japan.


      Zhang taking 'Geisha' turn; Watanabe set
      By Liza Foreman

      Zhang Ziyi, who co-starred in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," is
      in final negotiations to play the title character in the film
      adaptation of "Memoirs of a Geisha," while the Oscar-nominated Ken
      Watanabe has signed on to play the male lead.

      Gong Li, Michelle Yeoh, Youki Kudoh and Koji Yakusho also are in
      final negotiations to join the cast of the Columbia
      Pictures/DreamWorks/Spyglass Entertainment feature, which Rob
      Marshall is directing.

      Watanabe, who received an Academy Award nomination as best
      supporting actor for "The Last Samurai," will portray the Chairman,
      a high-powered executive with whom the young geisha, Sayuri, falls
      in love.

      The Chinese-born Zhang will play Sayuri, the young orphan from a
      remote fishing village whose life changes when she is sent to the
      city to learn the ways of the geisha.

      Yeoh would portray Mameha, the experienced geisha who becomes
      Sayuri's mentor, while Gong is wanted for the role of Sayuri's
      treacherous rival Hatsumomo.

      Based on Arthur Golden's best-selling novel, the film is scheduled
      to begin production next month in Los Angeles and Japan. "Geisha"
      was adapted by Ron Bass, Akiva Goldsman and Robin Swicord. The
      producers are Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher of Red Wagon and Steven
      Spielberg. Spyglass' Roger Birnbaum and Gary Barber are executive

      "We could not be more excited about the extraordinary cast that we
      have in place for 'Memoirs of a Geisha,' " Marshall said. "We are
      adapting a beloved piece of literature that has become a worldwide
      sensation, which made it important to me to assemble a cast with a
      prestigious international profile. I cannot wait to begin production
      this fall."

      Added Wick and Fisher: "We are thrilled to be using this beautiful
      piece of literature as an opportunity to bring together some of the
      greatest actors in the world and certainly the most distinguished
      team of Asian actors ever assembled for an American movie."

      Watanabe and Yeoh are repped by Endeavor. Zhang is repped by WMA.
      Gong is repped by ICM.
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