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Dragonball: Evolution – Justin Chatwin interview

in Dragonball: Evolution

Interview by Rob Carnevale

JUSTIN Chatwin shot to prominence playing Tom Cruise’s son in War of the Worlds. He’s now landed the lead role of Goku in Dragonball: Evolution, a new film based on the popular manga comics.

He talks to us about getting into shape for Dragonball, rapping with co-star Chow Yun Fat and what he learned from his War of the Worlds experience.

Q. How aware of Dragonball were you before being cast?
Justin Chatwin: I’d seen a little bit on the Cartoon Network. But I was part of the GI Joe and Ninja Turtle era as a kid. Dragonball was the generation after me. My friend’s little brothers and sisters introduced me to it and they were crazy about it. They’d tell me stories about what went on. So, when I got the script, I was like: “Really? They’re going to make a movie of it? How?” So, I really became a fan and started liking the manga after I’d got the part.

Q. And then I believe you took it really seriously and started swatting up on all things Dragonball…
Justin Chatwin: I took it really seriously… as serious as any actor could take a movie [laughs]. I had so much fun doing this movie. But I take any part I do seriously because I feel a sense of responsibility to the young kids who have saved their money to go and see a movie. I feel it’s my responsibility to make it the best I can, because I don’t want to let anyone down.

Q. How physically demanding was playing Goku?
Justin Chatwin: Pretty demanding… that was the one thing I didn’t think about at first. When James Marsters and I were approached, once we’d got the part we went into training pretty much the next day. They put us on diets where we had to eat six meals a day – chicken or steak and vegetables, cheese. There was no sugar and no carbs literally for four months. We also had a crash course in basic fighting. I’m not a fighter. I’m more of a snowboarder and skateboarder kind of guy, so it was about finding what I loved about that and bringing that level of energy to the fighting.

Q. How much do you have in common with Goku? Is it the adrenaline enjoyment that comes from snowboarding, as opposed to the sense of excitement he gets from fighting?
Justin Chatwin: There’s something with fighting where you’re bouncing on the edge of a lot of danger and it’s about life and death. But it’s also like a dance and an expression of authenticity. This is a story about a young man finding the beat of his own drum. And for me, that was what boarding represented to me when growing up. Who am I and how do I express myself? Some people do it through fighting, some through sports – and some through individual sports and others through team sport.

Q. From talking to your co-star Emmy Rossum, this sounded like a team effort. Everyone bonded, everyone had fun and Chow Yun Fat emerged as a bit of a prankster?
Justin Chatwin: She told you that? Did she tell you about conning her that was a vegetarian?

Q. Yes, but did he play any pranks on you?
Justin Chatwin: He did a few things that were pretty funny. But I’m not sure I should talk about them here. They’re not really for kids! He’s a bit of a deviant [laughs].

Q. But I gather you got him back by pretending you’d formed a pop group and making him sing and dance?
Justin Chatwin: [Laughs] Yeah, I was the only non-singer in the movie. All these actors had a rock band of their own. James Marsters is famous in Germany for a death metal rock ‘n’ roll act, Emmy [Rossum] is a really great singer and Joon Park is a speed rapper in Korea. So, I was working with all these singers and when the days would get tedious and boring, we’d all be sitting around, singing. I’d start rapping, Joon would rap, Emmy would sing and Chow jumped in and rapped too. So, before we knew it we were shooting a music video. It was four dancing fools.

Q. How did you cope with the expectation from fans?
Justin Chatwin: I was like: “Oh man, you can’t do these cartoons justice!” You can do more with these stories on TV because there’s more time, but a movie is only two hours and you have to be so precise. When I was reading the mangas, I did wonder which story they were going to tell? But the point of this film was to introduce Dragonball to everoyne and, if it does well, they can then go deeper into the sagas and the different worlds that each character came form, as well as other dimensions. But this movie is a hero’s journey and it’s a story that’s been around for thousands of years – just with this fresh slant on it. What it does is introduce all the characters, where they come from, and it’s a story of vengeance. It’s Goku and Lord Piccolo’s story and along the way they meet these goofy, crazy characters.

Q. So how did you cope with the pressure? Do you block it out?
Justin Chatwin: It’s ridiculous if you go into this movie and come out saying: “That’s not the Dragonball I remember!” If you started a movie with a kid running around in orange suits kicking people you’d lose half the audience straight away. You have to start the story with the kid who’s alienated in high school and who isn’t clicking with anything. So, I concentrated on making Goku someone believable and someone you could believe in.

Q. How was the Japanese premiere?
Justin Chatwin: It was pretty crazy. They came up to us and said: “You’re going to explode out of a giant ball…” And I was like: “Are you kidding me? This is kind of retarded!” But then I said: “Wait, I take that back! When am I going to explode out of a giant orange ball ever again? So, let’s do it.” And we exploded out of smoke and lasers. There were people all dressed up as the character. And everyone was pretty excited to have us, and we were excited to be there. And then when we screened it, it’s a very respectful culture – people didn’t go to the toilet or even move during the screening. It’s actually been interesting watching the different reactions from different countries.

We were in Mexico recently and showed it to some poor kids who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford to go and see it and they were just screaming and completely reacting to the movie, whereas in Japan nobody flinched while it was on. At first I thought: “Oh no, they don’t like it.” But then I was like, OK, it’s a culture that’s more respectful and they don’t say word until the movie is done. When it was finished, they gave it a round of applause.

Q. What does appearing in something as big as Dragonball mean for your career now?
Justin Chatwin: It’s opened me up to more people in different countries. I really haven’t had anything since War Of The Worlds and that was a supporting character [he played Tom Cruise’s son]. So, I guess, it’s opened me up to more people watching my movies. It’s a hard time in every business with the current economic situation, so being an actor where you’re seen in different parts of the world is gold because it means that people in other countries will hopefully see your movies and like them, which means more money to make other movies. It’s a hard time in movie making.

There’s so many hoops to jump through just to get a film made. Dragonball was a $120 million film and it took two years of work by the filmmakers. I didn’t do the hard work. I was on it for four months and the challenging work comes now in getting people to come out and see what we’ve spent two years trying to make.

Q. How was playing Tom Cruise’s son on War Of The Worlds?
Justin Chatwin: That was crazy. I’d literally been acting for four years. So, for me that was a fish out of water experience. I felt like an amateur baseball player getting to the majors pretty quickly. I mean, I wasn’t doing Schindler’s List, but an alien invasion movie about a lot of paranoia. It was a fun, crazy experience. But with Tom and the publicity and all, I felt like I was getting a crash course… or the most extreme version of movie promotion and celebrity through Tom. It was really interesting seeing Tom handle everything. He’s not just an actor, he’s a movie star and there’s so much extra that comes along with that. So, for me it was a fascinating experience and a huge learning opportunity.

Q. What are you doing next?
Justin Chatwin: I’m developing two movies… one that I’ve written with a playwright from New York, called Wrench, and a modern Western film called The Last Rustler. I’m playing the lead and the producers of Little Miss Sunshine are producing it. I’ve been working on the script for about a year. It’s hard as an actor living in LA and trying to get work. You can’t just base it on your song and dance routine, or on the fact I have a good smile, etc.

For me, I’d rather build houses on an island than sit around waiting for the next project to come in. But I also love movies and telling stories so much that I asked myself how could I help out and find cool movies and stories to tell people. So, I went out and found some and hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to continue doing that. We’ll see…

Read our interview with Emmy Rossum

  1. Pshh! This idiot basically laughs off the complaints, and now his movie is the laughingstock.

    Chatwin, you don’t have to make a movie about the high school underdog, especially when it’s about someone who never went to school.

    Your terms of ‘believable’ means making the character the exact opposite of himself.

    Trunks    Apr 9    #