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Josh Hartnett, Kevin McKidd and Guy Moshe Discuss 'Bunraku'

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Josh Hartnett, Guy Moshe, Kevin McKidd Bunraku Interviews

Josh Hartnett, Guy Moshe, and Kevin McKidd at the 2010 Fantastic Fest.

© Fantastic Fest
Bunraku - you probably haven't heard of this film yet, but it's got an interesting concept and quite a few recognizable faces in its large cast. Written and directed by Guy Moshe, Bunraku's an action/fantasy/drama set in a world where guns have been outlawed after too many wars, so people either fight with swords or their fists. Josh Hartnett plays a stranger who drifts into town and teams up with a samurai (Gackt) to fight the evil warlord, Nicola the Woodcutter (Ron Perlman). Kevin McKidd (Rome, Grey's Anatomy) co-stars as Killer #2, his righthand man.

On the red carpet at the 2010 Fantastic Fest, Hartnett, McKidd and Moshe talked about the costumes, the fight training, and working on Bunraku.

Josh Hartnett Interview

What was it like working with this great cast?

Josh Hartnett: "A great cast. Kevin McKidd’s amazing in this. Obviously, Ron Perlman is a cool guy to work with. Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson... Who doesn’t want to work with Woody? Just great. I think everybody was fantastic. We just got along very well. We were in Romania for the entire filming for five months."

What is it like to be at Fantastic Fest?

Josh Hartnett: "It’s great. I love Austin. I’ve been to Austin a few times. I shot The Faculty back in '98 and came back for Sin City, two scenes. I love being here. I have a lot of friends who are Austin-based."

Were you looking for a physically intense role?

Josh Hartnett: "No, actually, I wasn’t looking for a film like this. This film just found me. I saw Guy coming at me with great ideas and I thought he had the wherewithal and the intelligence to pull it all off. So I basically took the film because I was sure the guy could make a really good film. The fact that I had to get into good physical condition was secondary. All the stunts were secondary but ended up being kind of my life for a good six months. So the happy extra bonus feature of this film for me was that I got to get in good shape and try all these new stunts, learn some MMA stuff. But it wasn’t something I’d been looking to do."

It doesn’t sound like an indie film. Was it more like a studio movie?

Josh Hartnett: "No. I think there are big independent films. I’ve worked on big independent films before. I think the difference between independent films and studio films is just everyone who’s making decisions on an independent film are on set. The producer/financier Keith Calder’s seen this the whole way through, and he was on set every day. Guy was there, Ran Bergman came by quite a bit, so we had all the decision-makers there. I think that’s the spirit of independent film. Studio films are just different. There’s much bigger business involved."

How did you feel wearing the costume?

Josh Hartnett: "It took us so long to create that costume. I don't know, we wanted like an alley cat sort of feel to it so everything was very texturized, very gray. I loved it. It was kind of fun. I got into it and I felt like I could kick a little ass."

Do you want to do more action movies?

Josh Hartnett: "I don't know, it depends on what comes along. It’s always about the script and about the people involved so if there’s something new and interesting, yeah, absolutely."

Could this be a character you play again?

Josh Hartnett: "Hey, if the movie does really well I’d love to come back, because I love working with these guys. But that’s up to you guys. That’s up to the audience."

What will surprise people about this?

Josh Hartnett: "I think a lot will surprise people. I think it has great physical style. All the actors are fantastic. Guy, I think, shows incredible creativity and wit with his work. It’s visually new and it borrows from a lot of different genres. You don’t see that many American, or I don't know if you call this American but it has a lot of American actors, semi-American samurai films. So it’s pretty cool."

Kevin McKidd Interview

Did you do this movie during hiatus?

Kevin McKidd: "Funnily enough, I did this just after - this is how long ago we did this movie - I did this movie just after we wrapped Journeyman. This was two and a half years ago. It was pre-Grey’s Anatomy. In fact, I got the phone call about Grey’s Anatomy while we were in Bucharest and I asked Guy, 'What do you think?' I was asking all these guys whether I should do it or not. So that’s when it dates from."

How much time did you have to train?

Kevin McKidd: "I would say I started pre-training because I had to learn not only the martial arts side of it. A lot of my stuff is to do with manipulating the cane and the sword that my character uses. So I had to learn a lot of cane work and that kind of martial arts cane work, but also Guy had the idea of Killer #2 of being this kind of Fred Astaire, almost this dancer who can sort of tap dance his way through killing people. So I had to take dance class for a month before we even went to Bucharest, just to kind of make myself less flat footed than I actually am. Then once we got there, we probably had another two or three weeks and then during the filming, when we weren’t actually on the stages doing scenes, we had time off, the stunt crew would just grab us and strong-arm us into a rehearsal hall where we’d be drilling fights for the next sequence and the next. So it wasn’t like we had months and months to train. We had to actually do it as we were going."

It doesn’t sound like an indie movie.

Kevin McKidd: "It was like one of the highest end indie movies I’ve ever been a part of. I don't know what the budget was but, absolutely, it felt like a studio film with an independent sensibility, which is very cool."

How did it feel to wear the costume?

Kevin McKidd: "Me and Guy kind of sat down, we said we wanted this guy to be like Fred Astaire and that kind of stuff but we want him to be deconstructed instead of angular, so we came up with this weird waistcoat and stuff. It was good because we came to the vision of what he looked like together, little pink glasses with no stems and stuff. Actually, I decided that my character should have fully manicured nails at all times so I had to go to the nail salon once every two weeks to get new acrylic nails attached so I had these perfect acrylic nails that women have normally. I had to maintain that during the whole shooting because he wanted this feel of this guy who’s a perfectly coifed killing machine. It was actually tough to wear those nails, man."

Writer/Director Guy Moshe Interview

What does Bunraku mean?

Guy Moshe: "Bunraku is an ancient art of Japanese puppetry where the puppeteers appear on the stage together with the puppets. There’s a narrative commentator on the side of the stage that suggests not really backstory, but more like a sports commentary about what’s going on in the plot. There’s a shamisen player that provides a constant musical support to the storytelling. I’ve seen it about 10 years ago. I thought it was a really fascinating way of telling the story, the idea that the audience can see the puppeteer and still cry and laugh and get engaged in it. I thought metaphorically it would be an interesting thing to try and do in cinema."

Is that what the film is?

Guy Moshe: "No, the film is live action but the idea that the puppeteer is present is in any frame of the movie you could pause and look at enough elements in it that subconsciously lets you know that this is a movie, this is a show. It’s like Cirque du Soleil. It’s not real. It’s not supposed to be an alternative reality or an alternative time, an historical piece or a piece of the future. It’s a show."

How much training did the actors have to do?

Guy Moshe: "Months. Josh, I think, was training for about three or almost four months before we started. Kevin did a couple months of training. Gackt, the Japanese actor, started training in Japan a couple months before. They did 95% of their own stunts."

How did you create the look of the film?

Guy Moshe: "The first guy that kind of mentored me through the process and who’s a coproducer on the film is Alex McDowell who’s a production designer with a lot of stuff behind him. He did Minority Report and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and all that stuff. He was one of the first guys that I gravitated towards to just kind of pick his brain and see what he feels about what I was trying to do. I was fortunate to get to know him through one of my producers and he fell in love with what I was trying to do and kind of guided me on how to approach a project like this. Not necessarily the answers to what we’re going to do, but what kind of preparation and research does it take in order to figure it out. We spent a year just doing research before we produced the first concept art. It took about a year of just gathering materials and discussing in a more abstract way what we were trying to do."

Is it more practical or green screen?

Guy Moshe: "It’s half and half. Half and half. There’s a ton of visual effects in it but almost every scene has a real set component. And there are a lot of sets that are 360 degree sets."

Do you have distribution?

Guy Moshe: "Not yet. We’re still working on it. I think it will be figured out in the next couple weeks probably. The market just changes. It’s a tougher market these days. That’s why you go out there and hope the audience responds and they spread the word. Independent film has not become easier in the last few years."

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