The face of Toho Studio actress Masami Nagasawa began working in entertainment when she was twelve years old. Since then she has been in many films such as “Crying Out Love, In the Center of the World (2004)” and “Tears for You (2006),” and has held the exclusive position as an actress with innocence and purity in Japanese Cinema by playing honest and lively characters. However, she now plays a role which is different from her image in Hitoshi Ohne’s “Love Strikes!,” based on the manga written by Mitsuro Kubo, and she stepped up as an actress by showing eccentric performance.
In “Love Strikes!”, which opened in Japan in 2011, Ms. Nagasawa plays Miyuki Matsuo, a heartbreaker who leads on the protagonist Yukiyo played by Mirai Moriyama. Miyuki is a woman who is sloppy about her relationships with men; Ms. Nagasawa had never showed unguarded moments in film, so there are scenes which shock us. However, it is not strange but natural for actors to want to try various characters. The path for an actress is not a branch road but one way, and there are different types of characters along the path. We are waiting to be astonished by Ms. Nagasawa’s further transformation.
COOL interviewed Masami Nagasawa who visited New York City to attend the U.S premiere of “Love Strikes!” at the 11th New York Asian Film Festival and the 6th Japan Cuts!
Miyuki is influenced by subculture. Have you researched about it to play your character?The subculture is wide in range and, for example in the music that’s depicted in “Love Strikes!,” is most likely songs which people who are now in their 30s were listening in their adolescence. So that I did not know many songs but musical masterpieces are inherited by next generations, so there were songs that I had heard of. I didn’t research about subculture so much but tried to get into that world.
What kind of impression did you get when you met the manga writer Mitsuro Kubo?I met her for first time while working on the film. I was imagining that she was an able woman because of the female characters she created, but she had a soft atmosphere with gentle eyes. But she has a strong will and expresses her opinions about things that she likes and is interested in.
It’s been a while since you worked with Mirai Moriyama for “Crying Out Love, In the Center of the World.”I’ve been expecting to work with him because our first collaboration was wonderful. Then the opportunity to work with him came to me again after eight years. We didn’t talk much back then but we became more social and talked more this time. But we both focus on what we do at work, so it was very easy to work with him. He accepted and responded to anything that I did, so I was able to feel myself by myself with him.
There are some fearless scenes in “Love Strikes!” as if you want to strip your innocent and pure image.I’ve been aware that people had that kind of image of me, and I really felt it much more when I finished “Love Strikes!.” I’m curious and like to do things that interest me, and am always looking for something new, so I didn’t really take the role of Miyuki like, “Let’s get this done!” But I found out that people wanted me to do something like Miyuki, they expected me to break my shell.
What were the qualities that Mr. Ohne was able to extract from you?He was a loving film director who loves all the actors who worked on his film, and he created an environment that had so much freedom. That motivated me to perform better and to have a feeling like, “Why don’t I do it this way?” Basically I was able to perform what I thought was good, so in that free environment, I believe my different self was able to come out.
I read that Mr. Ohne created the character Miyuki using the phrase you said, “I have no confidence.”Because he wanted Miyuki to inhale reality. I met him while he was writing the script, and then when I was talking about myself, I said “I’m not confident about myself”, and he reflected that element into Miyuki. At first, Miyuki was just a bitchy type of a girl but she ended up having more layers by including my quality.
There are different types of girls in the film, which is the closest character to you?Well, I guess we don’t really know about ourselves more than others, so I’m not sure if I can pick one but Mr. Ohne was saying that those four girls in “Love Strikes!” are the aspects that one girl contains, so all the girls have all those qualities. For example, Motoko (Yoko Maki) scolds the protagonist Yukiyo but from her motherhood. Ai (Riisa Naka) is a realist and is looking at the present, Rumiko (Kumiko Aso) falls in love with herself being in love, and Miyuki uses the privilege of being a woman towards men. A woman is all of them, so I could be any of them.
Even though the lead character is Yukiyo, when Rumiko gets saved, it seems as if the film itself gets saved. Rumiko was depicted as a heavy woman just because she liked Yukiyo but what was Rumiko like for Miyuki who knows her well?I think Rumiko is Miyuki’s rival because Rumiko has everything Miyuki doesn’t. That’s a female thing. But because of that they can influence each other and motivate themselves and polish themselves. Men are more like they can overcome together, but women want to be somebody’s one. That’s why women are rivals to each other to live as women, not just about love but also work.
What would you like American audience to receive from this movie?This is a fun movie and I don’t really see a serious message, perhaps “Have a good experience in love.” There might be a lot of people who sympathize with Yukiyo, but they actually sympathize with the fact that he is in love, not the character itself. I thought they can relate to the film because they want to be in love like him. This is not a textbook about love at all but a movie that encourages you to fall in love with someone. Also, this film makes you realize how great you are and that you have desire to fall in love.
You’ve been working in entertainment since you were 12 and in your teens and early 20’s is generally a time to look for yourself and you must have been distressed by many aspects. If you can go back to yourself feeling that, what would you like to say?I would say “It’s OK to distress” to myself. There were many things that wouldn’t come together if I didn’t distress. I’m sometimes pessimistic and it makes me very tired, but without it I would not myself. It totally depends on you how you want things to go from there, and I believe that distressing satisfies you sometimes, not just being optimistic. When you are distressed, you look for the answer. You need to be tough enough to go over it but the answer will come to you after all.
text by Taiyo Okamoto
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