Original (Japanese) source & credits : highflyers.nu
Text: Kaya Takatsuna / Photo: Atsuko Tanaka / Photo Retouch: Koto Nagai
English Translation by Nicki A. (@uchiakebanashi)
For our third interview with MIYAVI, we asked him to talk about his lifestyle in America, and also the new challenges he faced as an actor after being casted in the movie directed by Angelina Jolie, “Unbroken”. MIYAVI, who is a believer in the existence of an invisible power, is one to dedicate heartfelt prayers to not only his ancestors but also to the spirit of the places where he holds his live concerts. It’s also a habit of his to perform exercises in order to regulate his blood flow and body temperature. Just as he had established this lifestyle, he was offered a role by Angelina Jolie as the real-life Japanese sergeant, Mutsuhiro Watanabe in the movie “Unbroken”. In this interview, MIYAVI shared about his experiences from his first meeting with Angelina Jolie, the deeply interesting topic on the differences of being an actor and being a musician, and also on how much his activities in assisting refugees influenced him.
Despite being alike in appearances, musicians and actors are essentially different from each other. As a musician, MIYAVI is a role that he plays at 100% every day.
- You are based in America now. Is there anything that you would diligently do every morning as part of your daily routine?
I’d wake up in the morning, drink water, take a shower, do some stretching, and exercise my whole body using dumbbells, exercise ball, exercise tube and etc. I believe that going to the gym and growing fat are both things that are essentially unnatural for the body. We currently live in a convenient era where with just one click we can get all kinds of things delivered to our homes, whereas people in the past had to hunt for their meals. Basically, we are in an age where we don’t move our bodies much. I exercise and stretch every morning in order to reset and understand my blood flow, body temperature as well as the room temperature.
- I’ve heard that you devote a lot of time to spiritual activities.
I give my offerings every day after exercising. I usually dedicate sake and water, and set out muffins, cookies, fruits and others as offerings. For myself, and I’m sure it’s the same for my fans too: the sensation of being deeply moved by sounds, the feeling of having your heart swayed; they are all things that can’t be perceived by our eyes. Things that are separate from the body and flesh such as wave motion, thoughts and spirit; they exist but are invisible to the eyes and we as musicians are those who draw on them for our work. Our being here isn’t due to a God-like birth, but is in fact because we have parents, and because our parents had their own parents and so on. This all just goes to show how we are connected in various ways and I don’t only make prayers in regards to this. Even when I go to unfamiliar places, I give prayers for the locals and also to the spirit of the land there. I guess it’s like saying to them “Excuse me for intruding” (laughs).
- When did you start holding such sentiments?
I have to say that the feeling got stronger after filming the movie “Unbroken”. After my appearance in the movie was confirmed, I got to read books on the people back then who went into the battlefield, fully prepared for death. Just before and immediately following production, I got to visit Yasukuni Shrine and I was also giving prayers every day on the filming location. While I’d always given prayers before, I started properly doing them especially since then.
- Appearing in that movie must have been a very big affair for you.
Of course. It was something huge for me. It opened up a lot of doors for me, including my meeting with Angie (Angelina Jolie). It also allowed me opportunities to challenge various new things. When we die, don’t our body rot away into nothing? Additionally, we can’t bring our status, prestige and possessions with us to the grave. This got me to seriously and consciously think about what I can leave behind for those in the future and I’ve made it my life’s mission to do so.
- I’m sure your role in the movie was really difficult. Was there anything that you were reluctant about?
Yes, there was some reluctance. Before I met Angie in person, I was unsure on whether I had the right qualifications and on whether I would even be able to play the part. I also wondered about why they would leave such a role to someone like me who has not had any professional experience in acting.
- Did the offer for the role come out of nowhere?
Yes. Apparently, seeing as how it was a unique character, she wanted someone with charisma. She believed that a musician or rock star would be best suited for the role of a person who daunts and overpowers captured prisoners of war. That’s how she got around to finding me on the internet and from there I was sent the offer. In the beginning I did feel some hesitation but when she came to Tokyo and we met for the first time she said, “This is a simple story about America and Japan. It’s not a story about which side wins or loses. It’s a story describing how a single person overcame his difficulties and trauma and on how in the end, he eventually became strong enough to reach a state of mind where he is able to forgive others. This story is to share about the life he lived and the path he took to reach the courageous and forgiving mindset he had.” Her enthusiasm got through to me then. Although it was a role that I found to be sensitive, but as it was to convey such a message, I thought that it had a huge significance. Also, more than anything, I wanted to give a response to her enthusiasm. And so, I was allowed the opportunity for a new challenge by deciding to give it my all in my cooperation with her.
- Appearing in a large-scale Hollywood movie like that, did you have an acting coach to work with?
Yoko Narahashi, the casting director who casted Ken Watanabe for “Last Samurai” and Rinko Kikuchi for “Babel”, was my acting coach and she taught me a lot of things. She taught me that “To act is not to act”. As a musician, I 100% act my role as MIYAVI every day. On the other hand, as an actor I have to empty myself and leave myself in a neutral state. I then have to immerse my body in the person that my role represents, and use my body and voice as a medium of expression for that role. My experience from this taught me that although actors and musicians are similar in the subject of performing in front of cameras, they are actually fundamentally different.
- I’m sure that normally, it’s not easy to become fully immersed in one’s role. How is it that you managed to do so even though you’ve only been active as a musician until then?
I have two daughters of my own and when I think about how I can protect my family in that kind of environment, I feel that I would go to any means to do so. While I’m sure that warring conditions are far beyond what we can imagine, in my imagination, I could feel the enemy’s hatred and was sure that I would do anything if they were to attack us and lay a hand on my family. I was always in that kind of mindset when on location and was consistently on edge. Also, considering how I was playing the role of a villain, I made sure to keep my distance from my co-actors. Other than that, I was able to immerse myself in the role thanks to Angie, Yuko, our director of photography, Roger Deakins (who also worked on “The Shawshank Redemption”), and also thanks to the really wonderful film crew. Angie’s leadership, enthusiasm and attitude of working together and personally with each single person really helped in working on such a difficult story where it was frequently tense on site. Not only were my co-actors nice people, I was also able to be present in such a splendid atmosphere. It was a truly professional setting.
- Do you feel that music and movies are two different fields?
When it comes to the matter of creation as a passion, be it movies, music or fashion, there isn’t much difference between them. However, movies are a complete work of art as it incorporates music and fashion. If we include acting and acoustics into the mix, a single movie is actually a creation made up of various art. Making movies covers a larger scope in this sense while the environment for making music has a different atmosphere and sense of tempo.
- Were you influenced by Angelina Jolie in anything beyond movies?
I was inspired by her activities in as well as her contribution towards the refugee crisis and got to go to refugee camps in Lebanon and Thailand. I came to realise again how greatly disconnected entertainment and recreations are from world affairs such as the refugee crisis and conflicts. Before meeting Angie, I wasn’t aware about the refugee crisis and also about UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). I never in my life thought that in my career, I would one day be wearing UNHCR’s light blue cap and be visiting refugee camps. While observing the situation on site, I wondered if there was anything I could do. Since I thought that this kind of activity is cool in itself, we started thinking that things might somehow start changing if we could show this kind of activities to others. We hope to draw the younger generation into thinking that a lifestyle of doing activities that helps the earth as cool by presenting them as so. I also started hoping that I would be able to create, in my own way, things that also includes about the state of the world; and that I would be able to spread positivity to those who are willing to listen to my work.
Translation by Nicki A. @onakabel @uchiakebanashi