Alicia Vikander and Naoki Kobayashi made a thriller film set in Japan.
From winning an Academy Award for her role in "The Danish Girl", to being the next big action star via the new "Tomb Raider" reboot, 31-year-old Swedish actress Alicia Vikander wants to do it all.
In her upcoming film for Netflix, "Earthquake Bird" directed by Wash Westmoreland, Vikander stars as an English woman who is a typical expat in Japan. Burying herself in the culture, she also learned how to speak in Japanese for the role, amongst many other things.
Bringing the best of both worlds together, her co-star is Japanese actor and former EXILE member, Naoki Kobayashi, who plays a photographer and her lover in the film.
Of course, the noir-thriller is more than it seems, when one of her close friends - a fellow expat played by Riley Keough - suddenly disappears, thus setting the tone for the plot.
At a special press conference event for the film held at the Tokyo International Film Festival in Roppongi, Tokyo, Cinema Online meets the two stars to talk about their respective roles.
A scene from "Earthquake Bird".
What is so different about "Earthquake Bird" compared to the other recent films you have starred in like "Tomb Raider" and "The Danish Girl"?
Alicia: Wash [director] knows that I always try to learn as much as I can, so when I saw the finished film, I got on the phone to tell him he's made something unique. I don't think there's any film in the west that looks and feels like this. I was so happy and honoured to be shooting in Japan. Everyone who worked on the film was so kind and hard-working, and to come and do this film was a real privilege.
You had to learn Japanese in order to perform certain scenes in the language. What was that experience like?
Alicia: I made a similar journey as Naoki, coming from Swedish films and then doing my first English-language films. I love how, over the past few years, the world has gotten smaller and so many different cultures have had a chance to work together. I think new kinds of art comes from that. To learn about Japanese culture by trying to learn as much language as possible was a great way in.
What was your most memorable experience shooting in a country so different [like Hollywood] from what you're used to?
Alicia: I was very happy and lucky that I got to be here and immerse myself in the life here. I met a lot of people who I now consider my friends. I went and had soba the other night - it's my new favourite dish, cold soba. Me and Naoki had a lot of adventures over the months I was here.
What about you, Naoki? Surely it was easier for you, considering the film was shot in Japan, your homeland?
Naoki: Yes absolutely. This is a great film about Japan, where I was born and raised. I'm so glad I could work with a director, cast and crew who respect this country. It was my first role where I speak mainly in English, and I hope it piques the interest of many Japanese as well as those who are interested in Japan.
"Earthquake Bird" comes to Netflix on 15 November 2019.
What was the most challenging part about starring in an English film like this?
Naoki: I spent a lot of time preparing, since the script was in English, not Japanese. I felt empathy with Teiji [my character]. I looked for something I could share with him, and find the hidden parts of the character. The director and I talked a lot about Japanese culture, values and ways of thinking to further develop Teiji's character. Alicia and I also talked a lot during production. I had the opportunity to meet Ridley Scott at the London Film Festival [premiere of the film] and he gave me a lot of encouragement. I'd like to continue playing roles using both Japanese and English.
In a time where there are many female-fronted thrillers, what are your hopes for "Earthquake Bird", Alicia?
Alicia: Being here and getting to meet the audience and fans is extremely humbling. I think it's a beautiful, poetic story mixed within the thriller that it is, and I think people will enjoy the story of these characters, and will also see a film that wonderfully, successfully merges these different cultures. I think people will hope that more films like this will come out in the future.
Cinema Online, 01 November 2019