Compiled by: Jack Foley
Q. This was your Hollywood debut... Was it what you expected?
A. I was hired very close to the beginning of the shoot
and it was kind of overwhelming at the early stages of pre-production
and maybe the early stage of shooting because the budget is more
than ten times bigger than the original Japanese movie. And, of
course, the number of people involved in one scene is, again,
ten times bigger, so things were overwhelming during the early
stages, but then I became accustomed to it.
The main difference would be the shooting style. In Hollywood,
we shoot from different angles, or do coverage shots, so that
we can change editing in post-production. Post-production is very
important in Hollywood, you have to polish the movie in post-production
through test screenings and test audience opinions.
Whereas in Japan we can't do it, we can't afford to have lots
of test screenings, so instead, we would polish the movie before
the shoot, when we work on final script. I'd try and make the
final shooting script as lean as possible so that I don't have
to shoot unnecessary stuff. When I start shooting, I have a very
precise idea of how to edit each scene, whereas in Hollywood I
can't think about it during the shoot, I have to think about it
later, in post-production.
Q. Sounds a better way to me in Japan?
A. Well Hollywood movies are destined to be distributed
universally so we have to make sure a movie will be accepted universally.
So test screening is a necessary process. And you have to shoot
Q. When you came on board this sequel, you'd been involved
in The Ring for a while. Had you been thinking about ideas that
you wanted to develop, if you had the chance to re-explore the
issues? Or was it a case of coming on board and then thinking,
how can I make this different?
A. Well, when I was hired, the basic structure of the
story was already there. So I didn't think that way, because it
was a really, really short process to prepare. But when I read
the script, I felt it had a simple but strong story. The cursed
video story now becomes the mother and the child and a possession
story. I felt it was interesting enough.
Q. Did you bring any of your own mythology to the story?
A. Not really. I'd day the way I showed the ghost is
probably closer to my original version, Ringu and Ring 2, rather
than the American Ring. I don't know why. I tried to be faithful
to the first [American] movie but somehow Samara's movement, or
fear, has become kind of closer to my movie.
Q. You have an international reputation as a very successful
film-maker in this horror genre. Was it always your intention
to make an American movie?
A. No, no. I didn't think that way but before I was on
board for Ring 2 I was preparing for another movie in Hollywood.
I had been there for like two years. But that movie I was preparing
for MGM unfortunately didn't happen, so then I was thinking whether
or not I should go back to Japan, and then Dreamworks contacted
me about this movie.
It was a very interesting experience for me to work in Hollywood,
but at the same time, ideally I would love to work in both countries.
Q. Why do you think Japanese horror films have been so
successful internationally, because they're very different from
American horror films?
A. Well I would analyze this kind of trend maybe as being
that probably not only American young audience, and European young
audience, have now become more patient, or tolerant.
I would call Asian horror movies quiet horror movies. Those movies
are very quiet, in terms of soundtrack, and also much subtler
in terms of scare expectance. Sometimes in our horror movies,
the ghost can just stand behind the main character and just stare
at the main character and do nothing but still look scary.
Probably, if it were 10 years ago, American and European young
audiences wouldn't be scared by these quiet ghosts, but now they
have become more tolerant and more patient. I think they find
it more interesting because they're slightly bored with American
mainstream splatter or gore movies. That's my interpretation.
Q. When you were younger, what influenced you to make
A. When I was young, let's say it was 1970, of course
The Exorcist and The Omen were the most popular horror movies.
So those Hollywood mainstream horror movies.
I'm not sure whether they were really influences, though, as a
film-maker. But I was really scared watching those movies.
But when I first directed Ringu I watched Robert Wise's The Haunting,
the original version, again and again, because that movie is a
masterpiece, because there is no ghost in that movie, there is
none, but still he succeeded in creating an eerie, frightening
and psychological fear.
Q. How flattering did you find it when your original
was copied in America?
A. It's not that flattering. To be honest, I hoped that
Dreamworks was going to release my movie first, even if it was
a very small release. But, of course, Dreamworks didn't do that
- they distributed the American version and then distributed my
film on DVD.
But actually I liked the movie and I predicted that it would be
really successful, because it had a very atmospheric feel. It's
kind of a quiet horror, so I liked the film. I visited the set
of Gore Verbinski's Ring and he told me that he really respected
my original version.
And he actually visited my set of The Ring 2 and he told me that
he'd borrowed my movie and was now giving it back.
Q. One of the themes of this film and another of yours
- Dark Water - is the unconditional nature of a mother's love.
And that's a sort of balance to the forces of darkness, isn't
it? What sort of point are you trying to make by reinforcing the
importance of motherhood?
A. It's almost coincidental that Ringu, Dark Water and
The Ring 2 have the same theme of motherhood - the mother who
has to protect their children from the supernatural powers. That
probably was the theme that the original author, Koji Suzuki,
wanted to have for the novels like Ringu and Dark Water.
I have my personal attachments to that kind of story, so I usually
feel very strong about the motherhood stories, especially if the
mother is a single mother and has to protect her son, or daughter.
Q. Can I also ask you about the symbolism of water in
Japanese mythology and the role that it plays? It seems particularly
important in all your films?
A. I would say when I was a boy I was always fascinated
by water and how it can change drastically when the typhoon comes
- the river gets higher and the speed of the river becomes very
high and muddy. I was always fascinated by the water somehow.
But I think we all live on an island and then we have lots of
disasters, such as the recent tsunami, typhoons, and then because
of typhoons, landslides and river floods, so I would say almost
on a sub-conscious level, we have a fear of water. Water can be
very violent. And, of course, the ocean, or water, scientifically
speaking is the mother of life, but it also takes an enormous
amount of life.
I think Japanese people all share that kind of fear, although
we don't say that clearly in our daily life, but we do have lots
of casualties. So that's a reality-based feeling towards water.
And Japanese ghosts are supposed to appear wherever the water
exists, like in the fog, or in the mist, or the riverside, or
the seaside. So there is a strong connection between water and
Q. Was Naomi Watts already
attached to the sequel when you came on board. Did you have a
good rapport with her?
A. She was attached, yes, before I arrived. She's a wonderful
actress to work with and, of course, very professional and was
very focused on her performance all the way through. I had a good
short-hand language with her on the set. For me, to draw the anxiety
and fear that the main character is feeling is the most important
thing in this kind of movie, so Naomi and I often talked about
her intensity and anxiety. It should be this high, or a little
bit lower than it should be. So draw the arc of anxiety. We collaborated
very carefully and I think it worked well.
Q. Are Hollywood actors very different from Japanese
A. No. Of course, the shooting style is different. She'd
play out the scene from the top to the bottom. With Japanese actors,
because the shooting style is different, they are accustomed to
shooting different pieces, and to me putting the camera in different
angles, and I wouldn't shoot through the entire scene. Whereas
actors like Naomi, she would be slightly confused if I shoot bits
and pieces in one scene.
But in terms of the passion as an actress, there is no difference.
They are very devoted actors.
Q. It must have been an absolute luxury to have actresses
such as Sissy Spacek and Elizabeth Perkins doing minor roles?
A. Well I felt like I was dreaming when we were shooting
Naomi and Sissy's scene. Although I'm not a huge fan of Academy
Awards, here was an Academy Award winner and an Academy Award
nominee and the performance became better and better. I really
Sissy began calling me 'maestro' because, like I said, I used
my body language to demonstrate the performance art [demonstrates
like a conductor]. And she got it almost perfectly, but because
I move my arms in this way, she would call me 'oh maestro'.
It was a really difficult scene to shoot but I think it turned
out very good.
Q. How about when you're directing a child, and there's
a responsibility on them to carry the audience through the nightmare
he experiences, how do you manage to direct a good performance
from him without traumatizing him?
A. Well he's a really smart child actor and I didn't
treat him as a child actor. He's almost an adult actor. Again,
David Dorfman and I used shorthand language but this time we called
it Samara's level, or Samara's meter. It's a simple term, but
ok, Samara's meter is now 25% and becomes 50, 75, 100... That's
a basic conversation we'd have. And I worked with him very carefully
and whenever I felt something was a little bit off, that's what
I said. But somehow we communicated very well; sometimes he understood
me just by staring at me. Like Naomi, Sissy and David, they all
have a very good instinct. There was, of course, a language barrier
but they all understood me and all good actors, I think, are like
Q. You mentioned the water in your films as representing
the fear that people have. Do you think horror films allow people
to deal with their fears safely, because it seems to me that at
the American box office, horror is really big just now, at a time
when the whole country is terrified in the wake of 9/11? So is
it a way for them to deal with fear in a safe environment?
A. To me, I wouldn't look upon myself as a horror film
maker somehow. But whenever I make horror movies, ideally I would
like my audience to be really scared and to keep the scariness
inside them at least for a few hours, or possibly a day or so.
That happened for Ringu, or the American version. Lots of audience
told me that after they watched the first one they became really
scared by the black screen of their TV. That sounds, to me, very
unusual, or a little bit unrealistic to me, but somehow it worked.
Usually, I like my audience to be scared of my movie and to carry
that scared feeling into their own lives.
But this movie wouldn't be like that; they would feel safe once
they have finished watching this movie.
Q. If you don't see yourself as a horror film maker,
how do you see yourself?
A. I just make movies. To me, it's purely coincidence
that I'm making five or six horror movies. But as a person I could
be really insecure for certain things, or really apprehensive
for certain things, so my personality has helped me to make these
kind of movies.
And, of course, Hitchcock, I admire his works. And I learned a
lot from his works. So although the genre looks different, I think
I'm using his theory when he made suspense movies.
Q. You talked about the test screenings earlier. Did
you have to change things?
A. The major concern would be where each scene is boring,
or which parts feel slow. The audience would indicate this scene,
or this scene, and then we're kind of almost forced to change
the scene. Sometimes it works and sometimes I felt like it may
be a mistake.
The test audience would fill out a questionnaire which contain
questions like the most favourite scene, the scariest scene, or
the least favourite scene. So we would attack, or change, the
least favourite scene, or almost eliminate it.
Q. Did you lose much?
A. Not really. We actually did just two test screenings.
We just lost a few minutes.
Q. You spent a year and a half working in Britain early
in your career. How much credit can we take for your success?
A. [Laughs] Well actually I came here in 1992 and spent
a year. I was on a scholarship by Japanese government as an artist,
and began shooting a documentary on Joseph Losey. I finished it
a few years later, but when I first was shooting, after the shoot
there was no money anymore, so I went back to Japan to raise some
money for post-production.
But I just worked for straight to video movies and I actually
wrote the original story of my first feature films and made some
money as a director and then I came back later, when I finished
the post-production in 1996, which was one year before I directed
To finish that documentary film, I made my first feature film,
which was a horror movie, because I thought the horror movie would
be easier to be accepted as a product. So, actually, my experience
here and my decision to make a documentary film helped me a lot
to start my career as a feature film director.
Q. Would you like to come back and work again?
A. Yes I would if there was some work [laughs]. Right
now, I cannot find the project for me, personally. If someone
asks me to make a movie here, I'd love to.
Q. What scares you?
A. Wild animals [laughs]. I love mountain climbing and
several years ago, when I was climbing mountains, I think I saw
a deer and even though it wouldn't attack me, I just screamed
and ran away, and it, of course, was scared and ran away too.
We also have bear in Japanese mountains, so bears, snakes, of
course, but even animals like deer can scare me because I can't
communicate with them.
Q. It says on the internet that you might be directing
a remake of The Eye. Is that true?
A. Yes. The remake of The Eye will be the next one.