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Ring 2 - Hideo Nakata Q&A



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 a lot.

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 these films?
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 the supernatural.

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 actors?
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 enjoyed it.
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 that.

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 Ringu.
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.

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