Saturday, February 13, 2010

Midnight Eye Interview

Taken from Midnight Eye.

In an interview with Michael Arias, the director for Heaven's Door, Fukuda Mayuko's name was mentioned and discussed.

An excerpt of the interview pertaining Mayuko:

Can we talk a little bit about the main actress, Mayuko Fukuda? It's a very challenging piece for such a young actress, because to me at least, her character is very much the emotional center of story.

The film starts out very much centered in the guy's world and then at some point it makes a shift: she takes over as the center of the movie and he assumes a role that's subordinate to hers. The point of view also changes, we go from seeing things through his eyes to seeing them through hers. At the end of the movie she definitely is the emotional center of it. As the guy gets weaker and weaker I wanted us to feel that she is getting stronger and stronger. There's almost a maternal instinct in her that takes over.

That was a little tricky, because Nagase's character by nature is a little easier for people to empathize with: he's just a regular guy who finds out that he has only a few days left to live. She is something quite different: grown up in this sterile environment and still at a young age, she has only a few months to live. Her point of view is a little harder to grasp at first. I wanted him to be a regular guy and her to be a sort of foil, someone who disturbs his trajectory.

Tomoya Nagase and Mayuko Fukuda are both great actors, but she's a very, very smart little girl. She has been acting since she was six, but she said she only started really thinking about what she was doing recently. She always knew that she enjoyed acting, but she said Heaven's Door was the first project where she tried to think about what she was doing. Children have a way of inhabiting themselves in a very different way than adults do and we were seeing her make that transition. She's got an amazing sense of timing and she's an incredible ad-libber. An actor is not an actor if they can't ad-lib, but you can throw Mayuko into any situation and she will be very quick to get what's required. There were scenes that were quite emotional and afterward I would ask her "What were you thinking about?" and she would always say that she didn't remember anything. To me that says that she really is one hundred percent there.

I have not spent a whole lot of time around 13-year-old girls, so I was a little worried about how to approach her, though. A lot of the movie hangs on her performance. I was nervous about it, but then you get to know her and she is not a 13-year old at all. It's like talking to an adult, just in her approach to the role. She's read the script better than anyone else and she's asking some very serious questions. Very impressive. And yet she is a 13-year-old girl, she's there with her cell phone, doing her schoolwork, calling her parents.

How did you find her?

We auditioned that part to death. We saw all the actresses between 11 and 18, about 200 of them. There were some very talented young women, but 13-year-old girls either look 9 or they look 19 - there is no 13-year-old. That lasts for like five seconds and then they're grown up. It was very difficult to find someone who looked like what we pictured as 13. And then also to find someone who, without having it all explained, could grasp the nature of Harumi's character. Someone who's been living in a hospital for most of her life may have a very different outlook on life, may have seen a lot of stuff that goes on there, like death and aging. But at the same time she is someone who is very innocent, having grown up in a very sheltered environment. Mayuko got all that. She came in for the audition already in character. All the other actresses came in and we had some chitchat with them, asked them what their hobbies were and if they only had a few days to live how they would want to spend them. Mayu came in and wreaked havoc on this whole process. She was the last person we auditioned. She came in and totally subverted this little routine we would do with the actresses. Since by this time we had already auditioned a couple hundred girls, we had gotten it down to a real routine. It was frustrating, because we were running out of options and started to think about making the girl older or younger or more of just a normal kid. And then Mayu came in and really surprised us, really kind of controlled the whole audition, which was quite intense.

For example?

Well, we would kind of do our small talk with her and she would just hold on to a question for what seemed like minutes. But at the same time she wouldn't let you look away from her. You'd throw her the ball and she would just hang on to it and then toss it back to you when you least expected it. It was just the timing of her answers and the way she would really stare straight at you. You know, we actually went through a few scenes with her, using a young actor to play opposite her, and she just totally dominated. She was the first actress who really got it, who you could really believe.

I know it's an old interview, but it's still good. I suggest everyone to read the whole thing. You will find a lot of interesting off-screen information. Good for those that are interested in a filming/animation career. It's in English too. :D

They talked a bit about Mayuko's power to ad lib here. If you want to see one of her example of ad lib, check Veoh for her Shujiinashi clip. You might be amazed. By the way, the DVD for that is also out!

On another note, I found the behind the scene for the host scene in Heaven's Door, where Mayuko has a chance to act with the Ninomiya Kazunari of the popular ARASHI. Though this is mainly about Nino, there are some of Nagase's silliness in it. So whether you are a fan of Nino, Nagase, or Mayuko, I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did. :)

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