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May 4, 2014
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa: This is just the beginning of my Russian career
The Russian part of the shooting
for the new drama titled The Priest-Sancompleted in Yaroslavl Region on 4 August 2013. Directed by Yegor Baranov, the film tells the story of
Japanese priest Takuro Nakamura, who flees Yakuza wars at home for the Russian
sticks. The protagonist is played by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, a Japanese actor and martial
artist known for his roles in Mortal Kombat, Showdown in Little Tokyo, and
Hachi: A Dog's Tale. Most of the rest of the cast are Russian, including Ivan Okhlobystin, Pyotr Mamonov, Igor Zhizhikin, and Lyubov Tolkalina.
the following interview, Cary-Hiroyukispeaks
about his latest role, getting to know Orthodox Christianity, and a therapeutic
system of his own invention.
Why did you decide to accept a role in a
My entire career is fairly unusual. I am
a Japanese actor working in Hollywood. Most of the projects I have worked on
differed significantly from one another. All too often I receive invitations to
play Japanese gangsters, but I have always been interested in trying something
new. So when I was approached with the role of an Orthodox Christian priest in
Russia, I did not hesitate a second. I said to myself: this is going to fit
ideally with my filmography!
And a very unusual role it is. What was the
hardest part for you in playing it?
To be honest, I had anticipated plenty
of difficulties, but the reality turned out to be somewhat simpler. I had been
afraid of a language barrier: you know, a Japanese actor conversing with the
Russian crew in English. But we quickly learnt to understand each other. After
the first filming day I knew that everything was going to work just fine. You
know, we actors have a language of our own, a language that can penetrate any
linguistic obstacles. I was very fortunate to work on The Priest-San with
extremely talented people who are truly passionate about their profession. I
think this is the most powerful film I have ever worked on.
Ivan Okhlobystin and Pyotr Mamonov are both
very religious personalities. Did they help you in any way to get to know
Russian Orthodox Christianity better?
I can identify with the spirituality of
Ivan and Pyotr, I am deeply religious myself. You cannot just grasp the essence
of the Russian Orthodox Church with its centuries of history. Getting to know
it takes time, and it's a job for the heart rather than the mind. When I had
first come to Russia I had very little time to get into the character. So I
visited a number of Russian cathedrals in Yaroslavl and Rostov. Simply being
inside had a very powerful effect on me. I am mightily impressed with Russia,
although I know that Russians themselves are not entirely impressed with their
country for some reason. (Laughs.)
Should you get invited to work on another
Russian film, will you accept?
I am absolutely confident that this was
the first of many Russian projects for me. I have a Russian manager now and we
are already discussing possible further projects.
Moviegoers mostly know you as a martial
artist. Did you get to demonstrate your skills in The Priest-San?
Perhaps not as extensively as you might be hoping for. In
fact, I am not overly disappointed with the fact. (Laughs.) The film is more about me fighting myself. My preferred
method is to heal people with martial arts. I have even developed it into a
therapy system. Soon after I started studying martial arts I realised that this
was not precisely my way. I certainly do value being respected for the roles of
Shang Tsung in Mortal Kombat or Heihachi in Tekken. I have often demonstrated
my skills and performed stunts myself. In reality though, I like healing people
much better than fighting them.
protagonist is constantly trying to help people find a way out of difficult
situations. Is there any personal message that you would like to get across
with this role?
I hope the film will help men realise that violence,
especially violence against women, is unacceptable. I have played a lot of bad
guys in my career but in this one my protagonist has to face his own demons. I
would be happy if watching The Priest-San would drive the viewers to a bit of
soul-searching. There is a huge difference between a soldier and a warrior. I
believe that the Russian men have a warrior's mentality, just like the Japanese
men do. We live in a world of soldiers but we have much in common. Dignity and
honour are the two qualities distinguishing the warrior, but they have
absolutely no currency in the world of soldiers. I respect the Russian men for
their manly qualities. Of course, they have their own problems, and I just hope
that our film will help some of them sort theirs out.
was initially published on www.kinopoisk.ru Expected release date August 2014