“I’m hoping that every single step I take will have
a good influence on my acting career.
Watch out for my next move!”
It was seven years ago that Chiaki Kuriyama shocked the world with her super cool depiction of a schoolgirl killer in Quentin Tarantino’s stylish and violent action movie, Kill Bill Vol.1. Though she is known in this country for her chilling and irresistibly attractive roles, her true identity is lesser known. To mark the U.S. release of her debut single, “Ryusei no Namida,” she chats with Chopsticks NY and shares her thoughts on her career and projects.
Would you tell me how you got involved in singing the theme song for the movie Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn even though you are a busy actress?
I was thirsty for a new means of expression and had always been interested in expressing myself as a singer. I have to admit that I still need to polish myself as an actress, but I thought that singing professionally would be a positive influence on my acting career.
The song “Ryusei no Namida” has a grand theme behind it. How easy or difficult is it to interpret the song and express it as the Chiaki Kuriyama version?
I had seen the Gundam series before, and this helped me to understand the theme and capture the essence of the movie. However, the song is a slow-tempo ballad, and that’s not what I was familiar with, to be honest. I had only a few chances to sing and listen to that type of music, so I would say it was difficult to adjust myself in that sense.
Through this experience, did you find anything you would like to try in the future?
Yes, definitely. Now I have a lot of things in front of me that I want to try as a singer. Also, through this experience, I was reassured that the voice is important. The importance of vocal quality is also true for my acting career, so the experience was really enlightening.
How was dubbing your voice-over in Mamoru Oshii’s animation Sky Crawlers?
Director Oshii gave me details about the character and the story’s vision first, and then I structured the character in my own way. There were some techniques that are unique to voice-over dubbing, and I had a hard time catching up with that, to be honest, but I could focus on the character beyond the boundary between the art forms of animation and live action.
Most of your fans in the U.S. think of you as a cool and tough girl like Gogo Yubari in Kill Bill Vol.1 and Chigusa in Battle Royale, the roles you played. They’ll be surprised when listening to your sweet and lovely singing voice. Would you comment to fill in the gap?
That could be said of anybody, and multiple faces can live in one person, in my opinion. The cool and tough characters that I played before of course represent a part of my personality because the character interpretations came from me. So I don’t deny I have those faces in me. However, I feel that the song that I sing this time reveals my true face in a more honest way.
Speaking of Gogo Yubari created by Quentin Tarantino, she is a shockingly cute character. Was it hard to personify such a sensational role?
I could understand very easily what he wanted me –– in other words, Gogo –– to do. I remember that I thought, “What he’d like to create might be close to what I’d like.” The hardest part was the action, but he was so kind and considerate, and that really helped me to get through it. Honestly, he is compassionate and understanding, and I appreciate that. Of course, I love his work!
You’ve recently expanded your career boundaries and have tried new things such as voice-overs, comic acting, serious roles, etc. Where can we expect you to go next as an actress?
I started acting when I was in junior high, and at that time I simply enjoyed every job that I was offered. But growing up, I began to realize the responsibilities and pressures of an actress, which never crossed my mind before. Right now, I would say I can balance both aspects: the fun aspect of acting and the tension of being a professional. I’m cool with this state of mind and enjoy what I’m doing now. In the past, I tried various things in various fields like modeling, acting, and working as an artist, and in my own opinion I might have been clumsy. I want to take advantage of what I’ve learned from my experiences during my teens and twenties for the next decade of my career.
Is there any genre film or role that you would like to try in the future?
Last year, I performed a mother role in a theatrical play for the first time in my career, and that was eye-opening. Including that, it was the year that made me realize, “Oh, there are so many things that I haven’t done yet,” and now I’m so hungry for new things.
Please give a message to your fans in the U.S.
I am now being offered new ways of expressing myself as an artist, and I am aggressive in taking these offers. About my CD release, I feel a bit strange imagining that there are audiences who are listening to my song overseas, but nothing makes me happier than that. To tell the truth, I’m nervous to know how it will be received. I’m hoping that every single step I take will have a good influence on my acting career. Watch out for my next move!
——— Interview by Noriko Komura
Chiaki Kuriyama Chiaki Kuriyama started her career as child model before acting. Her mysterious, cool appearance is sought after in horror and violent action films such as Shikoku (1999), Ju-On (2000), Battle Royale (2000), and Rokubanme no Sayoko (2000/TV series). Her breakthrough role was as Gogo Yubari, a schoolgirl yakuza bodyguard, in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003), which pushed her up to number three on the Internet Movie Database’s STARmeter. She constantly stars and appears in TV programs and films produced in Japan, and her recent projects include theater performances, voice acting, and singing. In 2010, she released a CD single, “Ryusei no Namida,” as CHiAKi KURiYAMA. http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/ryusei-no-namida-single/id359227747 Official website: www.chiakikuriyama.net
You can see Chiaki Kuriyama in two new films
Kamogawa Horumo: Kyoto Battle League (2009)
Based on Manabu Makime’s fantasy novel, this unique college fantasy-comedy movie reveals the story surrounding a group of college students engaged in a strange battle using “oni” (creatures resembling the ogres in Onmyodo, a traditional Japanese esoteric cosmology). Oni cannot be seen without a special skill, which can only be acquired through bizarre training. Kuriyama plays a geeky and taciturn mathematics major student, Kusunoki, who is a member of the group and secretly adores the protagonist/narrator of the story, Abe.
http://visual.ponycanyon.co.jp/pickup/movie/pcbp51939/ (Japanese only)
Hagetaka: The Movie (2009)
At the dawn of the world money market collapse, Japan’s biggest automobile company is at the risk of a leveraged buyout by a Chinese investment fund. A retired acquisition expert, Masahiko Washizu, a.k.a. Hagetaka (“vulture”), is begged to save the company from this crisis. How does he survive in this money war and confront the power brokers behind the money trap? In this business thriller, Kuriyama portrays Yuka Mishima, a television newscaster who lost her father due to Washizu’s hostile takeover. http://www.hagetaka-movie.jp/index.html (Japanese only)