Yesterday, I got to be a gaijin extra in a TV drama for NHK (the Japanese equivalent of the BBC, or Australia's ABC).
It’s not like I was a wet-behind-the-ears extra—earlier this year I worked for 4 days on Watashi wa Kani ni Naritai, which focuses on the same time-frame (just after World War 2), so you could call me extra-battle-hardened, if you lack a decent quip that’s actually funny—which is precisely what I’m lacking as I write this crap blog.
Anyway, back to the point here, maybe I chose to delete certain parts of that previous experience, and romanticize the others?
If, by standing around for 15 hours in a chronically airless, perpetually artificially daylit, smoke-filled room that’s doing the dopplegänger thing for MacArthur’s GHQ in Tokyo, in 1945, it sounds like fun—then perhaps, indeed, it was just that. Hah.
The highlight was my promotion—no longer was I the gate-pushing PFC MP of that first picture; no, this time I was a pen-pushing GHQ lieutenant in a swanky new uniform.
And I did get to natter on about nonsensical subjects with Matt, my mate from that first shoot back in February (this time inexplicably forced to wear fancy red braces), and a new lad, Peter, fresh off the boat from the U.K.—who’s really a bonafide actor, set to be on stage doing the Bard thing in Ikebukuro next April.
Along with them and the 37 other hapless ring-ins, we were locked up, badgered, flattered, cajoled, encouraged—but fed no lunch, as that wasn’t included in NHK’s budget plans. Maybe I should’ve paid the NHK viewer fees after all.
The film’s title is Shirasu Jiro, and it stars a couple of actors from a swag of favorite Japanese flicks: Miki Nakatani, from Tetsuya Nakashima’s Memories of Matsuko and Ringu, and Yusuke Iseya, from Casshern and Takashi Miike’s Sukiyaki Western Django—as well as the voice of Kimura in Tekkonkinkreet.
While Nakatani was MIA, Iseya was on the set and turned out to be a very cool, charming individual who responded to the nobodies around him and had a superb voice far more impressive than you’d picture emerging from the tonsil area for a man his age (he’s 32). Coming from someone who waxes obsessive about cinematic vocal cords (George Sanders, Basil Rathbone, and Vincent Price are among my iPod’s aural highlights), I figure that's saying something.
And going by the shots we glimpsed in between standing, smoking like chimneys, grumbling, swapping barbs on pumpkinite, singing ‘Greensleeves’, and paper-shuffling, it looks sweet.
There’s no beating a smoke-engulfed, cavernous hall, with ’40s-clad people and typewriters, to capture that Blade Runner-cum-noir feel for the big picture.