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Yôsuke Kubozuka Talk ‘Silence’, Martin Scorsese, His Reggae Career, Japan and More

Not everyone gets the chance to work with one of the most brilliant filmmakers of our time. For Yôsuke Kubozuka, who build his career around the unpredictable, that’s merely the beginning.

The filmmaker I’m referring to, of course, is Martin Scorsese, a legend who needs no introduction. His latest film, Silence, is among his most challenging and heartbreaking cinematic achievements to date, but it’s also one of his most lyrical, eloquent, personal and deeply resonant. As our own Chris Evangelista wrote in his 10/10 review, it’s “a journey, a reflection on faith, a spiritual assault… the film he was always meant to make… It is Scorsese at the very height of his power. It will shake you to the core. Like a true religious experience, you will be in awe of what you’ve witnessed.”

Kubozuka had a similar experience working on the film.

As Kichijiro, a character who must balance the drama’s rare levity with its unending misery, Kubozuka gives a powerful performance, one filled with reasonable doubt, muddled objectives but very clear pain. As Chris wrote, he “provides occasional levity with frequent requests for confession and absolution, but the character is also inherently tragic, and the actor shines in balancing absurdity and tragedy.” Kubozuka, however, is filled with clear insights and positive affirmations.

In our recent e-mail interview, Kubozuka detailed how he went from “Japan’s bad boy,” an actor/model who, for over a decade, became known for attacking the paparazzi, bragging about smoking weed and surviving a nine-story fall from a balcony, only to be blessed with the opportunity to work with Scorsese on what might (hopefully) be recognized as one of his most startlingly brutal-but-telling filmmaking achievements. We also discuss Manji Line, his reggae music personality, working with Elizabeth Banks on Rita Hayworth with a Hand Grenade and more. Check it out below.

CutPrintFilm: Can you describe your experience with Martin Scorsese? What was your biggest takeaway from the legendary filmmaker?

Yôsuke Kubozuka: It was a dream-come-true, and it still is. Scorsese is a great director. His respect and generosity for the book and its author, Shusaku Endo, the cast, the staff, and Japan inspired and healed me every day. He devoted all his energy into making this film. He has an abundant amount of youthful energy. He taught me a lot of things, such as the importance of believing in myself, cultivating a love towards films and how to live my life. These are not [things] you can see physically, but they will stay with me for a lifetime.

CPF: How did you overcome the language barrier?

YK: I had English lessons with my English teacher, Tim, starting from [a] month before filming until the end. He helped me through the shooting. It was a valuable time during which it set me on the path to my future. Therefore, I am studying English every day this year.

CPF: Silence looked like a challenging film to shoot, to put it mildly. In your words, what was the atmosphere on set? Were there any ways that you and your fellow cast members battled the heaviness of the material between takes?

YK: Producers frequently said that the budget was very small, but I had never participated in such a large-scale shooting —including all the equipment, sets and sense of quality. So it was an eye-opening experience for me. Each cast member was very motivated. I thought about the film day and night, even when not shooting. Andrew Garfield really motivated me and we developed a strong bond.


CPF: How familiar were you with Scorsese’s filmography before this new movie? Did you consider yourself a fan?

YK: Of course I am a Scorsese fan! I cannot just name one of my favorites. I have too many favorites. I even went through the bonus features from multiple movies. He might give you the impression that he has directed many mafia films, but I think his filmography is very colorful and full of great works.

CPF: You play a pivotal role in Silence. Since you were cast in such an important part in a major film from one of the most famous filmmakers ever, did you ever find yourself nervous by the challenge? Or were you more excited than anything else?

YK: To be honest, I am honored from the bottom of my heart — to the extent that if this was my last film that I ever worked on, that would be OK. It was a role that all actors in Japan wanted. I used that competitive energy to my advantage. I changed it to fuel my concentration and patience. I enjoyed shooting every day and it was exciting.

CPF: You’re also set to act alongside Elizabeth Banks in Rita Hayworth with a Hand Grenade. The film, which finds you on an island for 30 years, sounds like another daunting role for you. Do you find yourself attracted to more challenging roles?

YK: It has been 22 years since I started as an actor in Japan. From the beginning, my goal was to be an actor who could play anything from beautiful demons to ugly angels. I am confident and determined to play any role. Working with Scorsese made the feeling even stronger. I would like to continue working as an actor in Hollywood.

CPF: Based on your history, it sounds like you’ve come a long way towards liberalizing Japan. Do you believe that’s the case? If not, how to do reflect on your past experiences, and how do you believe they shaped you into the man you are today?

YK: I was planning to walk a straight path in my life, but I have had a lot of twists and turns influence me since I was 18, and since the incident of me falling from a balcony, it has been a roller coaster of a ride. LOL. Because I’ve been very lucky and blessed with a job that people enjoy and that I get to enjoy as well, whatever small expression I give, the world becomes a better place. This is a strong thought that I’ve had from the beginning. This Great Journey is a promise of my soul. I will always continue to walk in gratitude.

CPF: In addition to your acting career, you’ve also established yourself as the reggae singer Manji Line. What inspired you to perform music, especially reggae music, and how has your music career treated you thus far?

YK: For me, being an actor and being a reggae musician are two flowers blooming from the same root. I see it as my strongest asset in order to make the world a better place. Acting and being a musician is like being an instrument mixing dreams and reality. Writing books, directing music videos, and modeling — all of that is to bring happiness to others and myself.

Silence is now available on iTunes and Amazon Video in Digital HD. It’s released on Blu-Ray/DVD on March 28. 

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Will Ashton is a staff writer for Cut Print Film. He also writes for The Playlist, We Got This Covered and MovieBoozer. He co-hosts the podcast Cinemaholics. One day, he'll become Jack Burton. You wait and see.

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