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-San completed 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.

In the following interview, Cary-Hiroyuki speaks about his latest role, getting to know Orthodox Christianity, and a therapeutic system of his own invention.

Date: August 9, 2013

Why did you decide to accept a role in a Russian film?
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.

Your 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.

This article was initially published on
Expected release date August 2014



William Manning said...

When is the release date? Subtitled?

William Manning said...

Couldn't find any mention of a release date. Subtitled?

Chris said...

At this stage information is limited. OFA will endeavor to reveal more details as they come to hand.

Orthodox Christian Mission of Potsdam said...

Any news regarding a release date? It is now September and we are looking forward to seeing this film.