Death Trance: a unique action period piece in which the pilgrimage of a coffin that is said to grant any wish develops into flashy sword and gun battles between robust warriors and merciless fists fly. Already, in countries all over the world, like America and France, there are plans to show the film and it is acknowledged as the “definitive Japanese action masterpiece.”
An Interview with Sakaguchi Taku and Suga Takamasa
—the Popular Stars of Death Trance
Starring in the lead roles of this film are Sakaguchi Taku and Suga Takamasa. Sakaguchi has hitherto brought his strong arms as weapons to the role of action star; on the other hand Suga comes off as a man of gentle manners—an impression taken from performances in the drama Yaoh (Night King) and the film Waters, in which he played the host. The careers of these two are complete polar opposites. However, in private life the two are very close friends and in this interview they show us their exquisite collaboration.
Generally speaking, the really surprising things are your action scenes, Mr. Sakaguchi. You also served as the action director for this film, were there serious hardships during the shooting?
Mr. Suga, this is your first time in a full-blown action film, isn’t it? How was it participating in this film?
Sakaguchi: Well, in addition to everything, the director, Shimomura Yûji, was like a “demon.” (Laughs). There’s a lot of action in this film, and so I became really exhausted. But “yeah, yeah, get up, get up” was all he’d say… he wouldn’t let me have any tea, and I got practically no rest.
Suga: Well, I really wasn’t thinking about it like “this is an action film.” I was just filming a movie. So, I was absorbed in the drama of it.
When this film was only halfway through production, there were already plans to show it overseas. Were you aware that you were “making Japan-specific action”?
Sakaguchi: There was that sense, yes, but there was no pressure. So, I put in a lot of my own flavor with a feeling of speed. Overseas, I’ve been given the nickname “Speed Master,” but when it comes to women I’m called a “slow-starter.” (Laughs).
Suga: Nobody calls you that! (Laughs). Well, in this film whether Sakaguchi’s a “speed master” or a “slow-starter” is a conclusion I’ll leave to you, okay?
Mr. Suga, from your perspective what is “Sakaguchi Taku, actor” like?
Suga: It’s something like, “I’m seeing this actor for the very first time,” you know? During the take, Sakaguchi seems like he’s looking in the camera lens right away. And when you ask yourself, “Why is he looking at the camera?” you realize, “ah, he’s grabbing the audience’s attention!” No matter how far away he is from the camera, you shift your attention to him right away.
Sakaguchi: When I was making independent films with Yamaguchi Yûdai (of Battlefield Baseball), on the first production we undertook, I was told, “Look at the camera and wink.” That habit’s unintentional now. That is to say, I probably look at the camera whenever I’m performing in a film!
In Death Trance there are parts like that included, but personally I think it’s a film that will be well received in Kansai. Action and humor are both fairly strongly represented.
Sakaguchi: Well, that’s because, of course, we were aware of the new comedy. (Laughs). It’s funny when you aren’t sure what happened, but there are also prescribed scenes as well. There’s scenes where we’re doing action while running, and there’s a point where the protagonist gets hit in the head by an enemy character—and it obstinately makes a hollow sound. That kind of action is probably good (for Kansai fans).
Suga: Yes, that’s true. It really suits the Kansai fans. There are things that are easy to understand, but it’s also fully loaded with deep moments. And also, Kentaro Seagal, who’s well known in Kansai, appears in the film.
Sakaguchi: Kentaro has a really wonderful voice.
Suga: Boy, it puts me right to sleep!
Sakaguchi: I was seriously in awe of how good his performance was. By all means, please enjoy his scenes!
Text: Tanabe Yûki