Keanu & The Samurai Sword
KEANU REEVES ON PLAYING AN 18TH CENTURY SAMURAI IN 47 RONIN
What was it about 47 Ronin that made you want to be a part of it?
I loved the themes of honour, revenge and sacrifice in the script as well as the tragic love story. I also liked my character (Kai), who was an outsider trying to regain honour.
I watched 47 Ronin evolve and change with Carl Rinsch (the director), who paid a lot of respect to all the elements that were inspired by Japanese folklore. Being on this journey and collaborating with Carl on the story has been a great experience.
Speaking of Japanese folklore, were you familiar with the legend of the 47 Ronin before working on the film?
I was not familiar with the legend, but as soon as I knew about the project, I did my research and read as much as I could about it. This movie is one of those rare examples of something that comes your way and is just so exciting from the beginning.
What is Carl Rinsch like as a director?
Carl is very collaborative and passionate. He is amazing with story, but he is also a visionary with great energy and enthusiasm.
You play Kai. How do you see him?
I think of him as an outsider who yearns to be accepted, like an immigrant. He is honourable and a man of nature, which helps ground him. Kai is also a bit cursed, and he is aware of that.
How did you prepare for this role?
Looking at the bigger picture, I basically tried to familiarise myself with the source material and thinking about my character’s place in the story. I always thought the tale of the outsider and these Ronin becoming samurai outsiders was universal because all cities and towns and places have these kinds of events and integration problems that happen. I tried to get in touch with who Kai is and how this affected him. I wanted my character to have a dignity and respect towards the world around him and others. I also wanted him to be capable, to be a hunter and a tracker that is connected to nature.
What training did you undergo?
I was excited to work with the Katana, the Japanese long sword. I trained a lot with the expert Tsuyoshi Abe and worked with the stunt teams. Hiroyuki Sanada, who plays Oishi, also gave me some tips. I did a lot of exercises with the sword. And some dieting as well.
47 Ronin is an action adventure that also has a beautiful love story...
The relationship between Kai and Mika (played by Kou Shibasaki) is in the great tradition of impossible romantic love stories. That pure love and yearning for something that cannot be is, in a way, a sweet pain. It hits a soft spot.
Did you enjoy the martial arts and action side of the shoot?
I love shooting action and was very excited to be in a samurai film. The fights were tough but fun to do.
Were there any bumps and bruises along the way?
As I was working with great professionals, I didn’t get beat up much, although I did hit Hiroyuki Sanada (who plays Oishi) a couple of times by mistake!
You have worked on a number of movies with groundbreaking special effects. 47 Ronin combines CGI with practical effects harboured by the detailed sets that were created for the film.
Yes, they built such remarkable sets that made you feel you actually were in that world. There was so much that was there! Then, the work they did with the special effects and the creature creation was awesome.
In this case, what will 3D add to it all?
The filmmakers knew they were making a 3D film from the beginning and everything was considered in that regard. I appreciated that they took the time and effort to work on it specifically. It was great to see the care they took with the story and the storytelling.
What should the audience expect from 47 Ronin? The audience should expect a big movie with great themes. I think it is a film that is entertaining but also has an intimacy to the story and the acting that I hope people will enjoy as well. There is action, drama, love and suspense. It has it all!