Rain and James McTeigue Talk NINJA ASSASSIN

Our thanks to Diva Velez for the following interviews with Ninja Assassin star and director Rain and James McTeigue.

Rain
 
The Lady Miz Diva:  Ninja Assassin is a really violent, bloody film.  Were you concerned that so much of your fan base, which consists of younger kids and people who might not usually go to this type of movie, wouldn't be able to see your big Hollywood film?
 
Rain:  Yeah, I know, but it's gonna be huge.  I believe they will like my movie.  I am a little bit worried, but it's something different from what I've done, so it's interesting that way.  And I believe more male fans will be interested in this movie.
 
 
LMD:  Raizo is a full of a lot of rage.  What did you find inside yourself to create that constant anger he feels?
 
R:  Well, before the shooting the Wachowskis and James McTeigue always told me that I have to show everything with my facial expression, so that's what I worked on mostly.
 
 
LMD:  When you first read Raizo, how did you picture him?
 
R:  As a real action hero.
 
 
LMD:  You play Raizo with a lot of sadness in your eyes.  How did you motivate that in yourself?
 
R:  Because he was hurt a lot since he was very young, so I had to have that sadness carried on within.
 
 
LMD:  I'm a little bothered by the Ninja Assassin poster.  Have you seen it?
 
R:  Yeah, I like that.
 
 
LMD:  Did you?
 
R:  Yes, I like that!
 
 
LMD:  But why is half your face missing?
 
R:  That is a good idea!  I love my poster.
 
 
LMD:  Explain why it's a good idea?  Is it to keep you hidden like a ninja?
 
R:  It's a new style of a poster, a new style of a picture that's never been done before.  It's quite unique.  Normally, you'd see the whole face.  It brings out curiosity of wanting to know who that is.
 
 
LMD:  How much physical training did you do for Ninja Assassin?
 
R:  I trained for eight hours a day for eight months, five days a week.  I ate just chicken breast and vegetables, no sugar, no salt, it was horrible. {Laughs}  I learned a lot of martial arts; tae kwan do, tai chi, ninja techniques and karate.
 
 
LMD:  Besides your extensive training, was there any other research you did for this role?
 
R:  I just saw a lot of Ninja films. A lot. I wanted to focus on the ninja training and then do it. This is how we do it.
 
 
LMD:  Were there any particular martial arts films that stood out in your mind?
 
R:  Jet Li movies, Jackie Chan movie, Bruce Lee movies, yeah.
 
 
LMD:  You mentioned watching a lot of ninja films and in Ninja Assassin you star with Sho Kosugi, who is a veteran of his own series of ninja films.  Can you talk about anything you learned from him?
 
R:  Yeah, he's a real master! Always I learned martial arts from him.  He was always focused on the film, so I learned a lot.  He's a great person.
 
 
LMD:  Of course, every Rain fan needs to know if this move into Hollywood films means the end of Rain as a singer?
 
R:  Oh, no.  I love both singing and acting.  I will concentrate on both and then I will release in the US market very soon.  Next year?
 
 
LMD:  Will we see you perform again in New York?
 
R:  Yeah, sure! I love New York! If people like my movie, you know?
 
 
LMD:  Besides your acting, singing and dancing, you're also a clothing designer and the head of your own entertainment company.  How do you balance all those roles?

 
R:  I am not a businessman.  I have a CEO, another CEO, and another CEO.  I'm not a businessman, I'm an artist. I love singing and acting.  I'm just an entertainer.
 
 
LMD:  It's almost expected for a singer to act in Asia.  In the US, a singer who acts is not taken seriously.  Are you concerned you might have to choose between the two?
 
R:  Because I'm starting in the US as an actor, maybe people will recognise me more as an actor.
 
 
LMD:  In Asia, you would never choose, would you?
 
R:  No! {Laughs}
 
 
LMD:  I understand when you first began your career, it was very difficult for you to get started.  You were turned away for many different reasons; such as you didn't look right, or didn't fit in somehow.  What made you continue to go on?
 
R:  It's cos I was hungry!  That is the reason.  We were very poor when I was young.
 
 
LMD:  How did you find the strength to keep going forward?
 
R:  It was because of my mother.  My mother is like God for me.  That is the reason.  I always do my best.  My mother is my strength.
 
 
LMD:  What do you think audiences are going to take away from Ninja Assassin?
 
R:  I would just like them to enjoy it.
 
 
LMD:  What is next for you after Ninja Assassin?
 
R:  I wanna do a romantic comedy, like Love, Actually.
 
LMD:  In English?
 
R:  Yes!
 
LMD:  Your English is so good now.
 
R:  I'm working on it.  It's almost there {Laughs}
 
 
 
We were also graced to take part in a chat with Ninja Assassin director James McTeigue, who kindly solved some of the film's mysteries.
 
 
James McTeigue
 
The Lady Miz Diva:  I think most people regard ninjas as Japanese.  I'm curious about the inclusion of so many non-Asians and pan-Asians in the cast, including the lead in a movie called Ninja Assassin.  Were you worried about a Memoirs of a Geisha-type backlash?

 
James McTeigue:  Not really.  If you ever get into the ninja folklore, there is a basis of it in Korea.  They apparently did kill a Korean princess, so it did cross over.  But I think that just because the Japanese lay claim to owning the ninja genre, I don't think you have to worry about that.  I mean they made plenty of movies here in the late eighties and nineties that were like American ninja movies that had Caucasians in it and Asians in it, some of them had African-Americans in it.  I wasn't worried about getting pigeonholed or getting any backlash.  I thought it'd be fun to have an orphanage and he gets these kids from all over the world so that gives you a bit of license.  Then he sends them out into the world; so he sends a Korean out into the world, or he sends a German out into the world, or whatever he does, so he gets the kids right off the street from all over the world.  So yeah, I was trying to fix it up a little bit.
 
 
LMD:  Is the temple meant to be located in Japan?
 
JM:  Yeah, it's meant to be in Japan; up in Hokkaido, up in the mountains somewhere.  It's kinda like Dick Cheney's place, it's off Google Earth.  You can't find it anywhere.  It's actually Berlin, to tell you the truth.
 
 
LMD:  If you have Rain, who is an international superstar, as your lead, what is the theory behind having only half his face on the poster?
 
JM:  {Laughs} Well, I think, we're saving his face for the film?  I think it's just a graphic image, you know? In Asia, they probably won't cut off his face.
 
 
LMD:  So, they'll have a different poster?
 
JM:  Yeah, they'll probably crop it a little differently.  I mean, I think that even if you had his face on the poster here, I think for the most part there'd be some brand recognition, but that'd be people who were already interested in him anyway.
 
 
LMD:  I wondered if there was some fear that an Asian lead on the poster won't be able to sell tickets?
 
JM:  Oh, I don't think so.  I don't think there's anyway you can't look at that poster and not know he's not Asian, do you think?
 
 
LMD:  You can't tell anything, it's just his mouth.
 
JM:  What about the colour of his skin?
 
 
LMD:  It could be anything; it could be a Spanish guy...
 
JM:  You could be right, but at the point, I guess that I saw that poster and I saw that obviously his skin is a little dark, maybe.  But when I read Ninja Assassin, I'm not expecting a Spanish guy {Laughs}
 
 
LMD:  About the fight cinematography; one of the things we see often in Western films that use martial arts is the tendency to be very close with the camera and use a lot of quick edits.  In Asian films, they tend to pull the camera back and expose the choreography more.  Why did you choose to film the fights very close up in darkness, with lots of stuff in the way?
 
JM:  Well, I think that if you're running with the conceit that the ninjas appear out of darkness and for the most part you can't see them; that was like the darker element to the movie.  Then, I kinda personally like some of that close-quarters, feel-like-you're-in-the-fighting.  But every now and then I pull off the action, you know, like when they're in that safe house environment where the ninjas converge on where they're keeping Raizo.  You see more of the action.  They do do that a lot, but it's been done a lot, too, you know?  It doesn't get boring, but I've seen it before and I guess I was trying to mix up both of them.
 
 
LMD:  Working with the Wachowskis, was there an obligation to keep sort of Matrixian touches effects like the trails on the ninja stars?  I wondered how much input they might've had?
 
JM:  They're producers, so they're there if I needed their support, or want to talk about something. But they never tried to influence me at all, they were like, "It's your movie. We're making our own movies. We'll put all our stuff into Speed Racer or Matrix, or whatever we're doing next." I think usually by the time we get to do my movies, they're coming off the back of a movie, so they're like, "Yeah, you know, okay..."
 
 
~ The Lady Miz Diva
November 13th, 2009
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