[FILM] Youki Kudoh (Actress in Geisha, Snow Falling, Heaven's Burning, etc.)
- 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-
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
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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
By YOUKI KUDOH
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
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
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
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.