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Pacific Rim - Rinko Kikuchi interview

Pacific Rim

Compiled by Jack Foley

RINKO Kikuchi talks about some of the challenges of making Pacific Rim and working with her second Mexican director, Guillermo Del Toro.

She also talks about getting into shape for the role, working with Charlie Hunnam and Idris Elba and tackling the film’s emotional challenges – as well as being touched when Guillermo sang to her.

Q. How was it working on the film?
Rinko Kikuchi: It was a precious experience. And it’s kind of a dream come true, because I’ve watched a lot of robot/monster movies since I was a kid. The role was a superhero and I loved this character.

Q. And how did you get the role?
Rinko Kikuchi: I had to audition for it. I knew that Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, who directed me on Babel, is a really good friend of Guillermo. When I heard Guillermo was looking for a Japanese actor, I asked him to put me in touch with Guillermo. I emailed him and told him I’d go anywhere to audition for him. I went to Toronto and was so nervous, because I really wanted to get this role. He sensed that, so he took me to get some ice cream, and that made me really relax.

Q. You’ve worked with two very different Mexican directors in Alejandro and Guillermo. What are the differences between them?
Rinko Kikuchi: I don’t think it’s possible to compare two such great directors. Alejandro gave me the gateway to an international career and then Guillermo has helped me even more. I’m ready to do even more international roles.

Q. How did you prepare for this role?
Rinko Kikuchi: I was training for months, going through boot camp, running on the beach, martial arts with Charlie [Hunnam]. I’ve never done that before. It was the most intensive preparation for a movie. And my trainer was really hard on me. I love him, but he was really tough. One day, he said run to the pool from the beach, and this was summer time in LA. It was so hot. I couldn’t see any pool and told him that. He replied, “Once you get there, you will see it.” Which means it was very far away! I almost cried.

Q. Was it dangerous in the Jaeger cockpit? Was it safe?
Rinko Kikuchi: No, it was not safe! Because if I lost my concentration, I would have killed someone! But I had to keep going, because I was a pilot and I had to save the world…

Q. Guillermo said you were tougher than the other actors…
Rinko Kikuchi: I think that was because I felt so lucky to get the role and because I love Guillermo. When my performance was good, I would get so happy, which made me work harder. Also, I could use that situation in my performance. At the end of the shoot I became a true pilot. Also, I ate tons of chocolate! When I was training, I couldn’t eat any. So when we were done, I ate a lot!

Q. What were some of the emotional challenges?
Rinko Kikuchi: It was especially when dealing with Idris’ character, Pentecost. He would try many different things to control my emotions. He’s so versatile. Sometimes he would switch words out and change things up.

Q. How about Charlie?
Rinko Kikuchi: Charlie is the best partner ever. He was always looking out for me, making sure I was okay, and when a scene became really intense he helped me focus on it. Before the shoot, we had two months’ training in the gym, running and fighting and that helped build the relationship. I loved the stick fighting.

Q. You’ve had some training before too, right?
Rinko Kikuchi: Yes. Also, I grew up with Japanese samurai movies, so that’s why I wanted to do some Japanese swordplay and martial arts to train.

Q. How was it shooting in the robot cockpit?
Rinko Kikuchi: It was hard. Guillermo made them almost real size in the set. And the entire head was moving. It was like an amusement park ride, the way it moved. They pumped in lots of water and sparks, so it was basically a torture machine.

Q. What did you talk to Idris about?
Rinko Kikuchi: As I said, he’s versatile and he wanted to keep a distance between him, and me because of our relationship in the film.

Q. Guillermo loves Japanese Kaiju movies. Did you get that feeling on set?
Rinko Kikuchi: I didn’t know beforehand, but when I was in his office in Toronto, I saw he had models of all these creatures from Japanese movies.

Q. What’s the most touching or memorable experience from the movie?
Rinko Kikuchi: I think it was when I was losing my concentration, Guillermo would sing the theme from Totoro in Japanese. It was a great moment, and he was so sweet.

Read our interview with Charlie Hunnam

Read our review of Pacific Rim