Carey-Hiroyuki Tagawa has finally made the move from bad guy to playboy. The actor who has made a living portraying men of action is one of only three major male characters in the new Steven Spielberg film, Memoirs of a Geisha.
“It was wonderful to not carry a gun or to scare people,” said the actor about his role as an aging player. “I’d liken him to Eddy Sakamura’s grandfather (from Rising Son), but 60 years before.”
Tagawa said the film, by Chicago director Rob Marshall, tells the story of a 14-year-old girl who becomes a geisha after she is sold by her impoverished family. She eventually becomes the top geisha in Kyoto.
“It’s certainly hard for us to have perspective on how things like this used to happen. But what was interesting when I read the book is that there is a suspension of reality in terms of the fact that this girl is 14. The way the book is written and in the film we forget that.”
Working on the $90 million movie, which is scheduled for a mid-November release, was a unique pleasure, he says. “It was really an honor to work in that company of actors. It was very different from working with American actors. They were egoless. It was like working on a foreign film in English.” The film stars Ziyi Zhang (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) and Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai).
Though he will always be tied to Los Angeles and its film industry, Tagawa says more and more of his interests lie in Hawaii. One major film a year would be just about right — adding that to his desire to develop films for broadband webcasting, helping out with his son’s football team, the Kupaa Warriors, while being a spokesman for a local telecommunications company and for Pacific Island Seafood. Then there is always his acting school.
“It’s going really good,” he says. “Many schools are into big numbers, but I’m into teaching small numbers. When you get too many people in a class they have to watch and not participate.”
The small class size allows Tagawa to easily tailor the lessons to the students.
“Instead of making a person an actor, I try to draw the actor from the person. It should feel natural. It’s like buying shoes. It’s the foot that’s important and not the shoe. You can’t shape a person’s foot to fit the shoe, you have to change the shoe.” You can learn from the cobbler by calling 216-4668.
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