The Hyper-Real BUNRAKU's Josh Hartnett and Kevin McKidd Speak

Sean Smithson, Contributor
The world of Bunraku exists in a highly stylized landscape of origami facades and multi-colored lights. The Law of the Gun has been abandoned for the Discipline of the Sword and in the town called Little Westworld, the rules are set by a crime overlord named Nicola aka The Woodcutter (Ron Perlman). Aided by a gang of killers called The Red Suits which are ruthlessly led by Killer #2 (Kevin McKidd), The Woodcutter runs the town with an iron fist. Deep in the darkened streets, rival gangs fight for turf, money, and influence. Into this violent tableau step two men, The Drifter (Josh Hartnett) and Yoshi, the Jin Samurai (singer-turned-actor Gakt). Both seek something of great value. One craves revenge. The other, a Dragon Amulet that represents great power for his family. With the help of The Bartender (Woody Harrelson), these men can only be destined to meet... and to clash.

Bunraku is a unique and imaginative film written and directed by Guy Moshe (2006's HOLLY) and available September 1, 2011 on Video On Demand and on DVD/BluRay November 1, 2011 from Arc Entertainment.

Twitchfilm had a chance to speak with Josh Hartnett regarding his performance as The Drifter and Kevin McKidd about his role as the dancing psychopath, Killer #2 in Moshe's groundbreaking new film.


JOSH HARTNETT

Twitch: How did you become involved in BUNRAKU?

Hartnett: Well the director, Guy Moshe, came to New York and asked me to look at something he was doing, but he didn't want to show me the script. So he came and showed a kind of initial presentation, which had a lot to do with the style of the world, not necessarily the style of the character, and he explained to me what Bunraku was, which I had no concept of before we spoke. We're talking about the style of Japanese puppetry theater, not the film in this instance. But yeah, Guy sold me on his passion for the idea, and his hyper ambitious take on what this world was going to be.  I don't know. I was just sold on his energy.
Then, I read the script afterward, and found it sedately, cleverly, funny. I also thought it would be fun to do some choreographed fighting sequences, which I'd never really done before.

Twitch: The look is of course very unique. It is kind of West Side Story by way of Dexter Gordon. Being so visually stylized, how much of a challenge is that?

Josh Hartnett: The world was surrounding us. There were tons of drawings of what it was going to look like in the end. SO I just had the faith that they were going to pull it off. The idea that they were going to "fold" in and and out of scenes, like a pop-up book occasionally, was very interesting to me. There were a few ideas they never went with, probably because of budgetary restrictions, but uh, Guy had this idea of a smooth flowing otherworldly action film. His references for the film were pretty much all from the 60's so, you know, you have Jean-Pierre Melville's French New Wave films like La Samourai, or Le Circe Rouge, the Kurosawa samurai films of course, the Leone westerns. It was all such an ambitious take that I figured "Well, this is going to be hard to pull off no matter what." of course we had to shoot all of it in something like 40 days. We were all running from set to set constantly. They built something like nine stage sets at a time, so we could constantly be shooting. We didn't have any downtime, so the challenge was just in the actual pulling it off.
I mean, we shot the kind of Mario Bros. scene (ed note *just see the film) in like 4 hours.

Twitch: That was kind of Mario Bros. meets Oldboy.

JH: Right yeah! It was incredibly choreographed and was worked out way before hand. So sometimes I'd work 18 hours, then I'd go home, and be up first thing next morning learning that day's choreography with the stunt guy. SO I didn't get any sleep, but we did have one day off. We worked six day weeks. Then on that one day we'd go crazy, we got to go blow off some steam. But yeah (laughs) I did not sleep for a good three months.

Twitch: So what do you do to blow off steam in Romania man?

JH: Well you know there are limited options. But you know the cast was such a well rounded group of people that we'd go to a bar and just hang out, and tell jokes, giving Woody a hard time about his vegan diet just to pick on him...you know.

Twitch: With that cast stoty time had to have been amazing.

JH: Absolutely. Nobody tells a better story than Ron Perlman. Are you guys interviewing him soon as well?

Twitch: Yup!

JH: (laughs knowingly) He loves to talk. Just set him up and let him go. You guys' will have a hilarious time.



KEVIN McKIDD

Twitch: How did you get involved with the Bunraku project?

Kevin McKidd: Well, Guy (Moshe) the writer/director sent me the script and I read it and really didn't understand it. I was like, "What is this?" I couldn't figure it out, but I knew there was something really interesting about it. I've always loved 'fight movies.' I met Guy and he showed me this fifteen minute presentation of pre-visualized sequences for the movie that he'd done with some stunt guys and I thought it looked really cool. He started to talk about his idea for the visuals with the whole world being made of paper and everything is kind of make with origami and it's a very strange, very heightened, world that the thing takes place in. It really intrigued me and I thought he had a very strong vision. So, that was how I decided, "Yeah, this seems like a good thing to be a part of." I'm also a big Ron Perlman, Woody Harrelson, and Josh Hartnett fan. They're all great actors. Just to get to work with all of those guys was exciting to me.

Twitch: It's such a great cast. I know you were in Romania. Was that a good experience for you?

KM: Yeah, we had a blast! It doesn't happen all of the time that a cast really gets along and really wants to hang out and we did and we had an absolute ball. I couldn't have had a better cast to hang out with in Eastern Europe. There were some great stories told during social hour. Ron's a great storyteller, as is Woody, so we had a lot of good times.

(ed, note - This Perlman guy is starting to sound like he has a rep!)

Twitch: When shooting such a stylized movie, what kind of challenges did that present you with as an actor?

KM: The biggest challenge was physical. I'm not a dancer and I'm certainly not a martial artist. Guy Moshe wanted all of the actors to basically do their own stunts and that was slightly terrifying. A lot of us ended up with a lot of injuries and pulled muscles and all of that stuff, but I enjoyed that as a challenge. That's the sort of stuff that gets me really excited, so... It was hard and it was probably about two months worth of gearing up to do, but I'm proud of it. I'm proud that we all basically did our own stunts in the movie.

Twitch: I noticed you had a unique sword style. The only way I could describe it would be as 'Tomisaburo Wakayama meets Fred Astaire."

KM: Right!

Twitch: How did you come up with that?

KM: You hit the nail on the head! Guy Moshe said to me straight off the bat, "I want your character to be like a dancing, killing machine" and he used the words, "Fred Astaire" many times.  He said, "I want you to be dancing your way through and decimating the opponents, the enemy." So, I took a dance class as well as martial arts class in order to achieve that.

Twitch: So, looking at your IMDB, I notice that you've directed an episode of the show you are on, the hit Grey's Anatomy. Is directing something you want to do more of?

KM: Yeah, I've directed one episode last season and I'm just about to do my second one. I might do another episode in the latter part of the season. But, apart from that, I'm trying to develop a few projects back in Europe. I'm trying to get a few movies off the ground. I'm sort of attached as a producer on one movie that might shoot in Tuscany at some point It would be great to go back to Italy. So, yeah... I'm pretty busy. The TV show, Grey's Anatomy, takes up nine months of the year, so it's hard to find time to do anything else, really.

Twitch: Is there a kind of film that you want to make?

KM: Yeah! I want to make a Sci-Fi movie. Definitely! I've been a fan of science fiction since I was a little kid. Science Fiction was really the thing that got me into acting because I had such a huge obsession with it. I've never been involved with that genre, so I really want to do that.

Twitch: We here at Twitch are huge nerds, we grew up on a lot of different kinds of film. We're always interested to know which were the titles that sparked your interest. Were you a DR WHO kid?

KM: I was a huge DR WHO kid. Tom Baker was my doctor as was Peter Davison. I also loved all of those 1950s black-and-white B-movies. My dad loved watching all of those movies. I grew up watching cowboy movies or those sci-fi B-movies from America like the original The Day The Earth Stood Still. I was also a huge fan of Plan 9 From Outer Space. In fact, I had a band called Plan 9.

Twitch: That's great. [laughs] Well, we know you're in a hurry. Just wanted to say that we really enjoyed your performance in Bunraku.


At that point we were politely cut, as we had already run past our allotted time, so thanks to the very patient publicists who dealt so well with a couple of detail minded people like us (Sean "The Butcher" Smithson and new Twitch contributor and Night Crew co-hostThom Carnell).

Bunraku drops today, Sept. 1, 2011, on VOD.  Check below the break for an idea of the crazy world that beckons, with a sizzle clip and a trailer!


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