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House of Flying Daggers - 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



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 back.

"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 involved.

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."

 

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