Feature by: Jack Foley
TAKESHI Kaneshiro has followed an unlikely path to becoming one
of the most sought-after actors of his generation in Asia.
The star of Zhang Yimou's breathtaking House of Flying Daggers
confesses to never having set out to become a celebrity while
at school - only really deciding to 'give it a try' when someone
suggested it to him.
"I just started because someone asked me to," he told
me, during a recent interview at London's Dorchester Hotel.
"They said, 'you want to be a singer', and then I thought
'yeah, I'll try'. I don't know what this is. I'll just open the
box and jump in."
Since 'jumping in', however, Takeshi has barely had time to look
"I think the very beginning was, I did some commercials
as a model, and then started as a pop singer and then started
acting," he laughed, turning to his translator to check that
his English made sense.
His singing career encompassed some fairly sizeable pop hits
but rather than pursuing a career within the music industry, he
found himself becoming increasingly interested in films and the
process of film-making.
"As I became attracted to the whole of the movie-making
process, like acting and how it was all done, there seemed to
be more and more opportunities for me," he continued. "So
I haven't gone back to music."
Takeshi has appeared in several movies since making the switch,
including several romantic leading man roles, but nothing prepared
him for House of Flying Daggers, particularly given the talent
The actor admits to being very nervous about working with Zhang
Yimou in case he did something wrong, or disappointed him - but
quickly grew in confidence under the director's assured tutorlage.
"I think Zhang Yimou is very
patient and passionate in his movie about what he wants to tell.
"He would be the first one to wake up in the morning and
look at the weather and worry about his movie and he would be
the last one to sleep because he might think about what he did
that day and think again about what he wants.
"Every day was like that. He's always sitting in a corner
thinking about his movie and when he talks he's always talking
about his movie. He's great."
Working on the movie also enabled Takeshi to work with several
of his film idols, including Hero
and Crouching Tiger,
Hidden Dragon co-star, Ziyi Zhang, and Andy Lau - and he admits
to learning just as much from them as Yimou.
"She and Andy were both very strict with themselves,"
he observed. "They keep wanting to do better than the last
take and always aim for perfection."
The success of House of Flying Daggers has obviously placed the
international spotlight on Kaneshiro, yet he remains amazingly
modest about what it means for his future career.
Asked whether he might follow Zhang into Hollywood, or whether
doors had been opened, he replied, almost nervously: "As
a performer, as someone who's in the entertainment field, I want
my movies to be popular and I want people to watch my movies -
and if people like my acting, then maybe I'll have better opportunities
for the next role. House of Flying Daggers is no exception.
"But I'd like to emphasise that I want to concentrate on
acting and this film because of the reputation of Zhang Yimou
and Zhang Ziyi, maybe it's gone more international.
"It's a good thing, but I don't want to over-emphasise that
aspect. I will still care even if doesn't become an international
hit and act as usual."