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Tatsuya Nakadai Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (1)  | Trade Mark (2)  | Trivia (12)  | Personal Quotes (7)

Overview (4)

Born in Tokyo, Japan
Birth NameMotohisa Nakadai
Nicknames Moya
The Snake
Height 5' 11" (1.8 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Japanese leading man, an important star and one of the handful of Japanese actors well known outside Japan. Nakadai was a tall handsome clerk in a Tokyo shop when director Masaki Kobayashi encountered him and cast him in The Thick-Walled Room (1956). Nakadai was subsequently cast in the lead role in Kobayashi's monumental trilogy 'Ningen no joken' and became a star whose international acclaim rivaled that of countryman Toshirô Mifune. Like Mifune, Nakadai worked frequently with director Akira Kurosawa and indeed more or less replaced Mifune as Kurosawa's principal leading man after the well-known falling out between Mifune and Kurosawa. His appearances for Kurosawa in Kagemusha (1980) and Ran (1985) are among the most indelible in the director's oeuvre.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Spouse (1)

Tomoe Ryu (1957 - 27 June 1996) ( her death)

Trade Mark (2)

Frequently works with 'Toshiro Mifune' and Akira Kurosawa
Distinctive voice with nuanced delivery

Trivia (12)

He played characters of a very different age from his own through his career. In Harakiri (1962), he played a samurai in his 50s while he was 33. In Kwaidan (1964), he played a 18-year-old woodcutter when he himself was 36. In Ran (1985) he played a nearly 80-year-old war lord when he was 56.
Though a frequent on-screen rival, he was good friends with Toshirô Mifune.
He has played both the primary antagonist and protagonist in two different films that are both based on the same novel - "Peaceful Days" by Shûgorô Yamamoto. The former was the character Hanbei in Sanjuro (1962), while the latter was Genta in Kill! (1968).
His beard caught fire during the apocalyptic castle-burning scene in Ran (1985).
Although perhaps most regularly associated with his works with Masaki Kobayashi, Koyabashi was only his second most prolific collaborator among film directors. His most frequent director collaborators were: Kihachi Okamoto with whom he did 12 films, Koyabashi with whom he did 11 films, Hideo Gosha with whom he did 10 films, 6 films each with Akira Kurosawa and Kon Ichikawa, and Mikio Naruse with whom he did 5 films. The longest collaboration would be with Ichiwawa, with whom he did his first film in 1958, his last with in 2006, 48 years later.
Appeared in a plethora of plays written by Kôbô Abe while working at the "New Theatre" and appeared in some film adaptations (often with screenplays written by Abe himself) of his works. This theatre group controversially introduced avante-garde concepts to Japanese theatre and film, especially through Abe's collaborations with director Hiroshi Teshigahara.
Speaks some lines in Mandarin in The Human Condition I: No Greater Love (1959) and some in English in Today We Kill, Tomorrow We Die! (1968) but learned these phonetically and is self-described as "terrible" at learning additional languages.
His childhood and teenage film heroes included John Wayne, Gary Cooper and Marlon Brando.
While filming his first appearance on film as an extra on Seven Samurai (1954), Akira Kurosawa spent more than 5 minutes lecturing on how to walk correctly as a wandering samurai for an appearance that totals about 4 seconds in duration.
Although it was commonplace for actors, evening leading men, in Japan to do their own stunt work in the 1950s through at least the 1970s (when actor's union laws enforced safer conditions on sets), the film sets of Masaki Kobayashi were particularly dangerous for Nakadai. During the filming of "The Human Condition", Nakadai was actually beaten by other actors in a boot-camp scene where his character Kaji is brutalized for rebelling against more experienced soldiers. According to Nakadai, the swelling of his face and some of the blood is real on this scene. Later in The Human Condition, his character collapses in a frozen field and is covered by snow, this was real snow and done by Nakadai himself, who came very near to hypothermia. During the filming of Harakiri (1962) real, sharp samurai swords were used in the battle scenes (according to Nakadai, this is not his only samurai film where real swords were used but is the only one where absolutely no dull, stage swords were utilized), much to Nakadai's very reasonable concern, since a mistimed slash could have been fatal for him or the other actors. Amazingly, no one was seriously injured during filming.
After the embarrassing grilling by Kurosawa on the set of Seven Samurai, the then 19 year old Nakadai decided to work very hard on his acting skills so as to be able to reject any future offer by the director. The part in question was an uncredited extra with a few seconds on screen and Nakadai never found out why he was not simply replaced by another actor.
Was not initially considered by Kurosawa for the part of Unosuke (Mifune's formidable gun-wielding opponent) in Yojimbo. When the chief assistant director Shiro Moritani proposed Nakadai for the role, Kurosawa purportedly replied "I don't like Nakadai, and if a director does not like an actor, he should not cast him as one of the leads." As Nakadai's skills were already widely recognized in Japan at that time, the AD found the Kurosawa's reply strange and inquired which of Nakadai's movies the director had seen. The reply was none, as Kurosawa usually did not watch domestic films. Soon after, having watched all of Nakadai's films, Kurosawa came up with his own proposal: "How about Nakadai for Yojimbo?".

Personal Quotes (7)

You're willing to take a plunge from any height. There's just something about being in front of a camera. And being in front of an audience is the same thing. It's hopeless. I guess I'm just a ham.
I think I tend to prefer freedom. I've always worked in a manner that I will give it my all; I'll do it to my heart's content, and then the director will tell me, "You can tone it down a little. You don't have to go so far." That's the way I've always worked and I think I don't really prefer that oppressive type of direction.
Japanese cinema was very focused on capturing both the ordinary and the extraordinary, so a lot of the things that we captured tended to be existentialist, as well. In the films, there were influences by Camus or Sartre, different philosophers. In the theater, we referred to Brecht, so in that sense there was a lot of inclination towards existentialism and extraordinary references were very strong. In that sense, I thought this piece - that was based on Abe Kobo's work - was something altogether very different from works by Kurosawa, for instance.
If someone were to ask me on my deathbed what my best film was, I think I'd say it was Harakiri, which I made when I was 29. You could say my most important work was finished by the time I was 29! So I'd like to put Harakiri (1962) on the list. Next is Yojimbo (1961). And then there's a director named Kihachi Okamoto, who did a film called The Sword of Doom - this was a very difficult film for me, one that's been made into a movie many times in Japan. Then there's Ran (1985) - the last film I did with Kurosawa. Before that, I took over for the actor Shintarô Katsu in Kurosawa's Kagemusha (1980), which won the Grand Prix at Cannes. Lastly, there's Hideo Gosha's Goyokin (1969), which is a little bit different from an ordinary Samurai film.
I'm quieter than average, and a bit solitary. I think maybe those characteristics have something in common with the positive elements of a Samurai. I'm a loner. I worked hard as a film actor, but essentially I'm a theatre actor. For sixty-some years I served those two masters, but I never signed with a film company. Maybe you can call that lone wolf behavior a connection.
In reference to Japanese actors, while here in New York, whenever have free time, I take in a Broadway show. I intend to watch eight shows before I leave this time. American actors on stage, I'm struck by how powerful and skillful they are, and at the same time that I'm inspired, I also feel very regretful and sorrowful because I cannot say the same thing about Japanese actors. My generation of actors - not only actors, but directors - went through so much training and I wonder why the younger generation of Japanese actors today don't train as hard?
[on Akira Kurosawa] He had 300 horses brought in from the US and used them in the film. If he got a really good take, he would go to each of those 300 riders, shake their hands and say: "Good job!" So yes, he was "the emperor", but really in the best sense of the word.

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