06/29, Cinema Today.
Strongest Action Star Tak Sakaguchi!
Debuts His Works as Actor and Director in New York!
His fateful meeting with director Kitamura Ryûhei seems to have brought a big change to his life. “11 years ago, when I was 23 years old, I met Kitamura for the first time. I was told, ‘I’ve been looking for a crazy guy like you.’ When I was 24 I had my first production in the film Versus,” said Sakaguchi of his entry into the world of film.
Beginning with his ten years of acting, this time with Sakigake!! Otokojuku (Be a Man! Samurai School) he thought he’d try directing. He had this to say about the sequence of events: “Honestly, I had the ambition of being a director from the time I met Kitamura. But I became an actor who could also do action. Up till then, I had directed independent films, so as far as I’m concerned there’s a sense that I became a director naturally.” In Sakegake!! Otokojuku he handles the job of acting fully loaded with action, the job of directing and action direction, as well as swordsmanship, among other things.
Sakaguchi, who has challenged himself to various martial arts, said, “From karate to shaolin, boxing and kickboxing, I’ve done all of them together in a martial arts synthesis. Of course, I’ve been to each gym, but right from the start I’ve had a free expression. I’ve been in every kind of competition without being a member or demonstrating any particular kind of form. I don’t have a pro license, but I’ve done boxing and kickboxing sparring with world champions. I’ve been asked by the members of professional gyms to go pro, but I have no interest in anything but taking action to the extreme and so I haven’t gone pro.” Apparently, he’s also been told by practicing champions that they’ve never seen a guy so strong.
On the subject of his many martial tales, he causally noted, “I like Jackie Chan, but I think his productions are just a bit of show. When I aspired to real action and thought that I wanted to cause an evolution, I took on and finished off my own team of more than 20 guys by myself. That is, I investigated the real until the bitter end, until I wasn’t sure I could still win. I couldn’t tell you what kinds of things are written on Wikipedia and so forth, but that much is true.”
And is he thinking of branching into the overseas markets because of not being satisfied? On this subject Sakaguchi gave his reasons for not stepping out into foreign markets, saying, “Lately, I think ‘action’ films aren’t really being made in Japan. And action stars, like Chiba-san, Sanada-san, and Kurata-san, have disappeared. Currently, even if action productions are made there aren’t enough people coming out to handle the roles. Therefore, I think that right now the place for me to direct and to move my body is in Japanese action.”
On the subject of his daily training, he said, “My training hall is in Shimo-Kitazawa and there in the evening I do jujutsu, boxing, and kickboxing. But I don’t do any weight training. I only use my muscles for hitting and kicking people.” He also explained his use of practical training rather than regular acting. “The action that I do, like my productions and what I teach with Team Zeros, is popular in martial arts. There are people who have now debuted in the pro boxing world who came from my productions.”
In Sakigake!! Otokojuku Sakaguchi has sketched a sense of chivalry, but what is chivalry for Sakaguchi? “Simply put, it’s honesty, isn’t it?” he answered, in a very Sakaguchi-like fashion. “I follow my own thoughts right to the very end, and as far as I’m concerned that’s the movie. I want to shoot the film honestly, with directness. That’s me showing people what chivalry is.”
Sakaguchi spoke to us while gratefully seeing his two directorial works open to the public in New York. From here on out, we very much hope that he piles on the Japanese action films. Sakigake!! Otokojuku and Yoroi: Samurai Zombie are currently playing at the New York Asian Film Festival.
Coverage and text: Hosoki Nobuhiro.
Chiba-san, Sanada-san, and Kurata-san are the action stars Chiba Shinichi (otherwise known as Sonny Chiba), Sanada Hiroyuki, and Kurata Yasuaki, respectively. They all have Wikipedia pages for those who are interested in learning more about them.