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"The Last Samurai" Premiere: Interviews with Ken Watanabe and Shin Koyamada

Father and Son Warriors in "The Last Samurai"

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Shin Koyamada Last Samurai

Shin Koyadama at the U.S. Premiere of "The Last Samurai."

Photo By Rebecca Murray
In "The Last Samurai," Ken Watanabe plays Katsumoto, the leader of the samurai who first captures then befriends Tom Cruise's character, Captain Nathan Algren. Shin Koyamada co-stars as Katsumoto's son, Nobutada, a skilled young samurai who takes an immediate liking to Algren and teaches him the ways of Japan.

Catching up with the two stars at the US Premiere of "The Last Samurai," I had an opportunity to ask each about their work on this big budget American film.

KEN WATANABE ('Katsumoto'):

How difficult was the language barrier when you were working?
At first it was so difficult. The dialogue [took much] practice, and [much] practice of pronunciation. I understood the meaning, so it was it was very comfortable. But conversation, I want to more deep feeling and more deep stories. I want to talk with Ed [Zwick] and Tom [Cruise] and it’s so difficult. It was step by step.

Did you have a translator on the set when you were working?
Yes. In very sensitive scenes, I had to have correct meaning. I used a translator to understand and act.

What was your most difficult scene to film?
The cherry blossoms. Three days of shooting and oh my God! It’s a terrible schedule.

SHIN KOYAMADA ('Nobutada'):

Can you tell me a little about your role in "The Last Samurai?"
I play the young samurai Nobutada who befriends captured American soldier, played by Tom Cruise. My father, the leader samurai, advises me to teach Tom’s character in the Japanese way – Japanese culture and Japanese language.

Your character’s also an expert with bow and arrows. Did you train or were you already familiar with archery?
I had to spend most of my time training Japanese archery and horseback riding since the movie was starting. I even paid to practice on my days off (laughing).

How difficult was it to learn the bow?
Japanese archery is not actually a sport. Martial arts, it is kind of like mediation. So you had to learn mentally and it took me awhile to understand Japanese archery itself.

What do you think about the way the samurai lifestyle is portrayed?
This is THE movie where you can learn about samurai (laughing).

You had a lot of action in this movie. What was the most difficult stunt for you to do?
I had to shoot the arrows on horseback. It takes usually 10 years to do that. I had to it for seven months to learn it. I killed myself learning [so as] not to be embarrassed to show Japanese people, respectfully.

More interviews from the U.S. Premiere of "The Last Samurai:"
Tom Cruise, Masato Harada and Timothy Spall, Tony Goldwyn and Ngila Dickson, and Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:
"The Last Samurai" Premiere Photos
"The Last Samurai" Production Photos
"The Last Samurai" Trailer, Credits, Costumes, and Movie News

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