So you have been heavily involved from the start of the planning process of “KYOKI NO SAKURA / Madness in bloom” but where did you first learn about the story itself?
Yosuke Kubozuka : It all began when Hiroshi Fujiwara introduced the story to me. At that time he showed me a lot about everything culture starting from fashion, music, films and “KYOKI NO SAKURA / Madness in bloom” happened to be one of them.
This happened many years ago so I don’t really remember everything by the exact detail, but I think he was like “Yosuke, you’re gonna love this” and gave me the original novel of “KYOKI NO SAKURA / Madness in bloom”. As I was reading it, it just started to blow my mind and I knew that I had to make it into a movie.
Hiroshi-kun introduced me to all kinds of stories, but at that time I felt that I really related to the lead character Susumu Yamaguchi particularly and we were somewhat inseparable. And so I went on and introduced it to K DUB SHINE (hip-hop artist/rapper).
He immediately got hooked and so we were both like “we gotta turn this into a movie” and we pitched it to Toei saying that we would like to do this story.
What was their initial reaction?
Yosuke Kubozuka : Well I think it might of had to do because of how everything was back then, so Toei was like “Yeah, sounds good” and were on board on the spot.
I was in charge of deciding who the director was going to be, how the package design was going to look and all those small details, so I was basically self producing the film as it went.
“KYOKI NO SAKURA / Madness in bloom” was the only film that I was involved in this way so it definitely became a memorable film for me. The Toei producers really worked hard and so the production itself went smoothly which is really miraculous to happen.
Shoichi Maruyama who has done numerous films for Yusaku-san (Yusaku Matsuda , film star of the 70’s and 80’s) agreed to do our script right from the start, so we had all the hands we needed right away to make this project happen.
In what way did K DUB SHINE inspire you?
Yosuke Kubozuka : I guess things like his passion towards hip-hop and how he has this very chill rapper side of him and how he’s just a really easy going dude overall.
Back then we went on vacation to the states together and everyone in our squad was like “man, I can’t believe you were able to go on vacation with K DUB”. “I can't believe you never got fed up with him” and so on. I mean he is that kind of guy but he is a great senpai to me that taught me all about the Babylon system and all so he is sort of like a teacher figure to me as well.
The hip-hop scene was just really “real” back then. We didn’t need any fake ass people.
So it had me asking myself whether the idea of making films and acting itself was a fake ass thing to do or not, but I think this film became the answer for that doubt I had inside of me.
It allowed me to think “ok, I can turn my honest feelings into a film so this film is that real element I was looking for. “ Right now, I am able to think that because creations made out of fiction realities are not real, they can go beyond our reality and have the power to influence our “real” part of the world.
I remember back then, the hip-hop scene was all about how far they could show their “real” side through their art.
Yosuke Kubozuka : I think nowadays, it is hard to know what is truly real or fake. Saying something is “real” can sound too superficial and I've seen lots of people that have kept saying it over and over which just separated them from the reality even more.
There are many approaches and ways in expressing yourself but I think that the most important thing is understanding if you are really following your true inner voice or not. So in that sense, when I was looking for an answer in a place somewhere outside of me, I had only one way to find that particular answer.
That happened to be “KYOKI NO SAKURA / Madness in bloom” for me. The “artwork” and my “real self” connected with my real feelings. I think that “KYOKI NO SAKURA / Madness in bloom” was the only film that actually really connected with my real self holistically.
Pechini-san (Kenji Sonoda director) did the direction for the film right?
Yosuke Kubozuka : The opening sequence that Pechi-san did for “Ikebukuro West gate park” was really dope and edgy. I really liked it and heard from this guy who happened to be Pechi-san’s childhood friend, that he was doing music video work for someone in K DUB-kun’s crew and I got introduced to him. We immediately hit off right from the bat.
This is something that we found out when Hikita-san (original author of “KYOKI NO SAKURA / Madness in bloom” ) and the director were talking on set , but it seems that Hikita-san was washing windows at an arcade or somewhere in Udagawacho (Shibuya) back in his days.
And when he was on his shift, some “teamer” (japanese gang) came in running after some dude and started to argue and created a scene.
Hikita-san was looking at that incident on another floor above and was like “I am gonna write about this” and started to write “KYOKI NO SAKURA / Madness in bloom” . When Pechi-ni heard about this back story, he said “damn, I think that might’ve been me (who started to argue in the arcade)”.
So all these kind of random connections inspired me to go forward in making this film, it was something that I thought was just inevitable to happen. Miraculous incidents like these really kind of meshed together and created this film.
I think that was the first and only film that portrayed Shibuya as it truly was back then.
Yosuke Kubozuka : Yeah, I used to live in Shibuya at that time. So even for scenes where I was just walking around the streets had a real feel to it.
I knew the streets to the exact detail, what building was in what area and all, so I think it successfully captured the raw side of Shibuya back then. Especially how it truly captured how Maruyamacho and the love hotel (motels for couples) area were laid out amongst Shibuya.
I was really excited that the film captured the hometown of mine with so much real detail. Since everyone involved in shooting the film, creating the music were natives of Shibuya, I also felt really comfortable and encouraged throughout the whole film.
I feel that you are really aware and take pride that you are Japanese. Plus you also did a role as a Japanese-born North Korean living in Japan in the film “GO” previously. Do you think any of this had an effect on your decisions and personal feelings for this film?
Yosuke Kubozuka : There is a line in “GO” saying ”who am I?” and that line became something that I kinda personally became invested with.
I started to wonder, “wait, who am I actually?” you know. And at that time I started having the opportunity to meet all people from the hip-hop scene like K DUB SHINE and especially one of his songs “Ore wa Ore (I am who I am)” really spoke to me and I started to strongly feel the same way as the song.
As people started to recognize my name as an actor, I started to feel that what I say and do had an impact on the world. Then soon after, 9.11 happened and I thought to myself, what is wrong with the world? This is not something all the adults have taught me was about.
They all said the world was round but it's not even a bit. It's totally different, it's a triangular shape. So, myself and the world. Hip-hop and music.
All of these elements connected to and molded in to one single film of “KYOKI NO SAKURA / Madness in bloom”. “GO” was the film that made me realize things and “KYOKI NO SAKURA / Madness in bloom” was the film that made me find out myself in my own personal way.
Looking back on the film ten years later, what are your thoughts on what you wanted to say and express at that time?
Yosuke Kubozuka : Well, I think that all the dots sort of connected to where I am now today. I feel that because “KYOKI NO SAKURA / Madness in bloom” was able to happen I am the way I am today and if “GO” didn't happen “KYOKI NO SAKURA / Madness in bloom” wouldn't have happen either and if “KYOKI NO SAKURA / Madness in bloom” didn't happen, I wouldn't have started my project as a reggae DJ and I wouldn't even have 卍LINE(Manji Line) either.
All those small dots connected together as a continuation of everything and became my own fuel to further myself and became my own base line of my life.
Because I was able to express my own living life with 120% of my own energy, I still feel that's why I am able to still talk about this film today even fifteen years later, so I am really proud of myself that I was able to put my all in that film.
It was not something like typical actors would say like, “well, this role is something that my agency got me ” or “well, I needed this role to get food on my table” you know, and I am really glad it wasn't like that either.
I mean, I don't have any films that was like that (so I am still very glad) anyway.
I remember that all the young teens of that era were all angry and we had our fair share of bad guys and guys that just were just complete idiots. I feel that we don't see those kind of people anymore nowadays.
Yosuke Kubozuka : I agree. It might be that I just don't realize it though. But since everyone kind of became Soshoku-kei (Japanese term meaning “herbivore men”), everyone turned really soft and more compassionate.
Some side of me feels that this is a good thing but I remember feeling why the world couldn't be like that (like KYOKI NO SAKURA / Madness in bloom ) back then.
I don't really want to bad mouth the entertainment industry or other actors but I always thought “dude, there are tons of guys way cooler than you around me and who live in the night life”.
Like in the music scene, I was always surrounded and grew up with people who were not only cool when they were behind the camera but who really lived their life, so I had this strong anti approach towards other worlds where I lived in. I felt that I was the only one struggling and thinking and feeling and fighting against my feelings which I converted into my acting, and the others don’t understand anything at all.
I might even feel this way even right now in a sense. But because I kept believing in myself, I got the reward of an American legend offering me a role in his movie so I am really proud of myself that I stayed real.
I will always do things as I always have because this is the only way I know how to live. So that's why I feel confident than ever and I feel that I can walk this path with joy.
I would like to talk about another film you did with Martin Scorsese called “Silence”, do you mind sharing a little about that experience?
Yosuke Kubozuka : It still feels like a prank or a story in a parallel universe but I also think that this role was something that I got because of that version of me at that time (when I was playing the role in KYOKI NO SAKURA / Madness in bloom) existed .
If I wasn't as determined and didn't have that life style I had at that time, I think Martin Scorsese would have never considered me in the first place.
How did you get the role for “Silence” ?
Yosuke Kubozuka : They weren't able to find the perfect person for the role I played as Kichijiro and so they weren't able to finish the audition process.
For the first round of auditions, I made a mistake in timing and went in the room chewing gum and he told me I should go home and so I lost the role at that very moment. But two years later they called me back in and I got the role.
The reason why it took over two years was because it seems that Martin Scorsese was saying that no one was perfect for Kichijiro and that if they couldn't find anyone the movie wouldn't have happened.
So this was a very important role I was about to take on and I just felt that it was a huge honor. Once we finished filming I almost felt I think I could quit (acting) at that time.
It was just hard to believe that I was able to be part of a film of a director that I loved so much where I used to watch all the bonus contents of his work all the time.
Yeah, and the fact that he chose that theme was really great as well.
Yosuke Kubozuka : Yeah. I really feel that the film itself was really anti-babylon.
I mean it was a film that said there is no god in the church and that god only exists in each person’s mind, while we live in a world where the most read book.
That legend (Mark Scorsese) chose that particular theme, portrayed Buddhism and Christianity from a neutral standpoint.
He was really respectful toward us every single day and in every scene and in every cut and treated me unbelievably well. It seemed like a dream to me.
So going back to KYOKI NO SAKURA / Madness in bloom , can you share any personal episodes you would like to share?
Yosuke Kubozuka : There was this scene where I was walking from Shibuya station to Bunkamura street while I was exploding with anger and Mariko Takahashi came in and I had to say something to her only using my facial expressions.
Maruyama-san watching my acting said that the scene was something that blew his mind. He said it was his first time seeing an actor angry and crying and laughing all at the same time and expressing it all with only his facial expressions. That comment was something that made me really happy.
How did you come up with the ending of the movie?
Yosuke Kubozuka : Well this film is about violence and so Sonoda-san and I were talking about how people who live with violence will get punished with violence and that we need to illustrate that in the film.
So we thought that it wasn't really important in showing who put out who in the ending.
It wasn't something that was included in the film, and we had an idea that Yamaguchi would be taken out by someone who he beated in the past and could fall down.
So we decided that we made sure that we clearly illustrated the fact that if you beat someone, you get paid back in a painful way.
So looking back, what kind of aspects do you think makes this film so special?
Yosuke Kubozuka : I am not sure. Maybe the fact that I was so raw and bold like a knife…. that the film was a spitting image of “Yosuke” right from the beginning to ending.
Right now I feel like maybe I should have been a "knife" with a casing at least.
While we were filming, Pechini used to say “hey, you've got your knife out again” to me all the time you know. I was that bold and raw.
Interview by Toshiya Ohno
Text by Kentaro Okumura
Translate / Tlanslate by Brittany Anna I
Yosuke KubozukaIn 1995, Yosuke Kubozuka started his career as an actor in Japan. He made his debut on famed crime drama series, ‘The case file of Kosuke Kindaichi’. In 2000, he became widely recognized for his unique acting when he starred in the film, ‘Ikebukuro West Gate Park’. In 2001, for his performance in the film, ‘GO’, he won both Best New Actor Award and Best Actor Award at the 25th Japan Academy Prize. He was the youngest recipient of Best Actor Award in history.
He has been proactively acting in various films in both domestic and abroad. His major Japanese films are ‘Ping Pong’, ‘Crazy Cherry Tree’, ‘Monsters Club’, ‘Helter Skelter’, ‘The Extreme Sukiyaki’, ‘1/3’, ‘Tokyo Tribe’, ‘Z Island’, etc.
In 2016, he was cast as Kichijiro, a key character in the film, ‘Silence’ directed by Martin Scorsese and made his first appearance in Hollywood.
He is now expecting to work with Elizabeth Banks in the film, ‘Rita Hayworth with a Hand Grenade’ and will continue to explore further opportunities in overseas.
He is also well known for his theatrical performance. In 2010, he made his theatrical debut by acting a character of lonely terrorist on drama directed by famed stage director, Yukio Ninagawa. Since then he had been cast in Ninagawa’s works frequently such as ‘Blood Wedding’ and ‘Cymbeline’. He also had an opportunity to perform on stage in London for Shakespeare’s ‘Cymbeline’ for the first time. Recently, he starred in the drama directed by Toshiaki Toyoda in 2015 and 2016.
Yosuke has been pursuing his career also as a reggae musician, ‘Deejay’ since 2006. He has been vigorously involved with music activity and performing 100 concerts a year. He released his first album in 2015 and recently released his sixth album of his original songs in 2017.