Otomo Keishi×Sato Takeru Cross Talk
To Make ‘Rurouni Kenshin’
It took half a year just to film ‘Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno / the Legend Ends’. How was this huge movie created? Dir Otomo Keishi and the lead actor Sato Takeru will tell us enough of behind-the-scenes.
We both felt expectation and anxiety about making the sequels
They encountered each other in ‘Ryoma-Den’, a long-running historical drama series on NHK TV broadcast ten years ago, where Otomo Keishi worked as a chief director and Sato Takeru acted as the legendary assassin at the end of Edo Period, Okada Izo. They, who have been sworn allies and fellow soldiers since ‘Rurouni Kenshin’ in 2012, will look back on the sequels.
Otomo: Takeru-kun is already the expert of Kenshin, so I was able to trust him (in playing Kenshin). I really think he supported this huge movie. We’re glad we finished shooting safely, right?
Sato: Exactly. To be precise, we may not call it ‘safely’. (lol) I was perfectly all right but it was much harder for the staffs. Team Otomo is really awesome. They want no compromise at all in giving us the OK. Especially, concerning actions, I thought, ‘won’t you give the OK even to this performance!? I see.’ (lol) Particularly this time, they were more relentless than before. ‘The goal our action team aims at has come this far’, I thought, ‘After all, it’s special’.
Otomo: All of them have a strong desire for the chance to do their work as much as they please. All the staffs that gathered wanted to make a serious effort, so we were more and more driven into a corner. (lol)
Sato: Few sites and films allow us to make a serious effort like this. (Action Director) Tanigaki (Kenji)-san was one of those who were itching for a chance, I guess.
Otomo: More than half of the director’s work is done before starting shooting. What matters is whether I can make a container to fill with what all of us are imagining, like ‘I want to do it this way’. The invisible exciting struggle and preparation is my big job and once we start shooting, the game is ours. If I can offer a proper environment, everyone will rush in a good sense. The major point this time was how to make the container to accept it. But including the preparation, I managed to complete it decisively, I feel. We’ve got an enthusiastic response at this stage.
Were Otomo and Sato already talking about sequels when the last film was released? When I asked the question, an unexpected but convincing response came back.
Sato: We didn’t talk about the sequel so much. It was made just as a result, I should say. Of course I had a desire to make it, say, ‘If I do it at all, I want to reach Shishio (Makoto)’, I thought. But we made the first film without expecting the sequels in particular. Thankfully, however, many people saw the last film and valued it, and then it was decided to make the sequel, I suppose.
Otomo: Also, part of me wanted it, but somehow, part of me didn’t want it, you know. (lol)
Sato: I understand you. (lol) It would require quite a lot of preparation and resolution, right?
Otomo: When I do that out, I’ll have to do a hard task. As for this sequel, Shishio’s visual was the first thing to challenge. ‘Wow! The sword is on fire!’, for example. (lol) In the frame of Japanese cinema now, how far I could do was the problem. I had both feelings: ‘I want to do it’ and ‘I’m not sure I can do it’. So I think both Takeru-kun and I were testing each other’s feelings.
Sato: Wondering how he will move.
Otomo: I was just happy many people saw the first film and enjoyed it.
Sato: Very happy indeed.
Otomo: Hearing what viewers had to say, and given a supportive push little by little, I said, ‘Takeru-kun agreed to do it, right? He nodded his head, right? OK, let’s do it!!’ Then immediately I called to the staffs, but I was afraid to make a move before I got the OK one by one and the stage was set for the next step.
Sato: As things turned out, it was good we did it. But we had really not been sure. Some sequels make you feel it would have been better if it had not been made, right? Ours might have been one of them. So we had been really nervous until we started shooting. During the period when even Shishio’s visual had been taking a long time to decide, there was nothing but anxiety. This might turn out to be a crap, I thought. But everything went well and I can say it was good we made it. It’s a miracle.
Otomo: Just like a role playing game, a variety of troubles and problems came out one after another, you know. No, is it easier to understand if I call it a whack-a-mole game? (lol) We cleared them away one by one. The most awful thing is to make it at the same level as the last one. Since it is the sequel, the battles were scaled up and the character of Kenshin became more complicated than the last one, as well. So what I required of everyone was a little higher level. The problem was how we could create something improved. I didn’t want to regret what I created, I mean. Only I had a sense of having taken terrific scenes I had never seen before.
Sato: It was substantial, wasn’t it?
Otomo: Amount of heat was terrific. Every day I actually felt we had taken something terrific. These days we can watch rushes on iPad, so (while we were on location) the staffs remaining in Tokyo saw them and got excited, you know. We got kind of stuporous at the shooting site, but what we had taken was surely something that could make those who saw it objectively, away from the shooting site, think it to be ‘terrific’, I realized.