Takashi Miike is a powerhouse of cinema. In his 26 years as a director he’s made some of the world’s most controversial and lauded films. Even if you don’t recognize his name you’ve likely seen one of his groundbreaking creations: Ichi the Killer, Audition, Gozu, Visitor Q, or maybe his acclaimed foray into historical action, 13 Assassins. To celebrate the release of his 100th movie, the outstanding adaptation of Hiroaki Samura’s beloved manga Blade of the Immortal, we sat down with the visionary Japanese auteur as he looked back over his career and opened up about his creative process.
With such an extensive body of work you’d think it would be hard for Miike to choose a favorite. But for the director there is a simple answer: his most recent creation, Blade of the Immortal. “The 100th film is a capitulation of the 99 that came before it,” Miike said. “In those 99 films there were lessons that I learned, there were discoveries that were made. So my newest film, it’s almost like my youngest child. And your youngest child is always your cutest baby.”
As his eclectic back catalog suggests, Miike has no interest in playing by the rulebook—not even his own, preferring to allow each film to materialize organically. “A lot of the films I’ve made are maybe similar,” he said. “But when I make a film I don’t want to put in my own personal tastes or put everything of mine in there. I don’t want to make something where it’s me directing everything or where I’m calling the shots. I don’t want to make a film because it’s what I want to make or what the world wants to see from me. That’s not the way that I work.”
Miike continued, “For me, I feel like it gets in the way, so I try to avoid that as much as possible. I try to naturally let myself go with the process, and, of course, I try to make a good film. But it’s not that I try to put my ideas in it or make it what I think it wants to become. I let it become what it wants to become.”
When Miike began his career in film, he never imagined he would reach the point where he would direct 100 films. In fact, at the beginning of his journey he had no ambitions to helm any films at all. “Honestly, I never had the goal of becoming a director,” Miike said. “Originally, I was an assistant director. For many people in that role, becoming a director is the ultimate goal. But, in my case, that wasn’t my goal at all. I just had fun doing it. The schedule was hard, but I enjoyed it greatly so I just kept at it.”
Miike takes great pride in creating working environments that people enjoy, often being inspired to create art for the purpose of giving actors a new or different platform. His favorite part of directing comes from bringing together a team to create something incredible. “My thoughts on the filmmaking process is that maybe the real product for all of us is to gather everyone together, all of these talented people, to create this atmosphere and this vibe of, ‘Wow, I just love being an actor,'” he said. “I feel like for some people this might be difficult to understand. Maybe an orchestra would understand as it has many moving parts. But to bring all these people with different life goals and ambitions together, you create this huge thing. To me, the real product is to create an atmosphere where you can say, ‘I love to be here.'”
Miike was a fan of the long running Blade of the Immortal manga on which his film is based. But as it had run for almost 20 years, it was a fluctuating fandom. The choice to make this film was once again a selfless one, driven by his passion for creating exciting and unexpected roles for actors. “Recently in Japan, a lot of movies are made for middle school kids, for young boys and girls to say, ‘Oh, they’re so good looking!'” Miike said. “A lot of the actors in those films, they think to themselves, ‘This isn’t why I became an actor, to be in these bubblegum pop films.’ So from talking to them I realized they want to do some unique roles, different roles with strong protagonists, with compelling characters. Talking to some of those actors that I worked with, they brought up Blade of the Immortal a lot. So it’s not that I’ve read every book in the series, but more that I wanted to put this together to create these compelling roles for the actors.”
Blade of the Immortal is an unmissable experience, a fantastic adaptation and another brilliant addition to Miike’s canon. Will you be checking out the film now that it finally has an American release? Do you have a favorite moment you can’t wait to see on the screen? Let us know in the comments!
Images: Magnolia Films