Interview with Masami Nagasawa, Star of Moteki (Love Strikes)

By Alice Chin

I recently had the amazing opportunity to interview the lovely actress Masami Nagasawa during the New York Asian Film Festival. For those of you who don’t know, she is supremely popular in Japan and starred in hit movie Moteki (Love Strikes) which was produced by Toho studios. Nagasawa played the role of Miyuki Matsuo, the main love interest of Yukiyo Fujimoto, a 30 something geek who suddenly hits his “moteki” or “a Japanese slang term referring to a period of unexplained but not unwelcome romantic popularity with the opposite sex”. Although the hilarious film had plenty of energetic singing and an extremely entertaining dance scene which brought roars of laughter from the audience, there was still a sense of realism to the film that made it not just another comedy. Masami discusses how it was like on the set and how she prepared for her role.

How do you feel about showing the movie in New York?

Falling in love is a sentiment that everybody shares no matter which country you’re from, so I was very affected by that and I can’t wait to see it shown to a lot of people

How are you similar or different from the role that you played?

The character is a little bit of a she devil in the film and she has a natural brightness to her that attracts everybody. I really empathize with that aspect. But the thing is she’s a little bit lazy, which is something that is different from me.

What attracted you to the project?

The project was first pitched to me, and I was a big fan of the original manga and I was quite taken by it. Moteki depicts a very realistic picture of men and women’s relationships in Japan, love, and also their daily lives. There was a consistent pursuit of realism. So I really wanted to do it.

Can you talk about the energy on the set and how it was like to work with Mirai Moriyama?

I’m not sure if that actual shooting was energetic. It was more serious and very consistent. What was important to me was the rhythm, so I made sure that there was high tension. And also there are a lot of subcultural references in the film. All the characters in the film have common likes, such as music, film and so forth. And all those aspects that my character enjoyed, I tried to enjoy it as well. The director (Hitoshi Ohne) was also a very loving person. Everyday he would tell us you either you look good, you look pretty or you look really cool, so that was motivation as well. And Mr. Moriyama, he was a very serious, consistent, performer. He really likes to build his role, character gradually. Of course, we starred together in a film 8 years ago, and even then I was struck by his professionalism and his consistent work ethic. And he’s just so fun and inspiring to work with.

How did you prepare for the role?

I don’t know about preparing for the role, but I did consider greatly about my life. The director also asked me to think deeply about myself. He was writing the screenplay at the time and he wanted the character to reflect my character. He wanted to give the character Miyuki some depth and he also wanted to make sure that she was a realistic 3 dimensional character, a unique character. When the director asked me how I think about myself, I answered that I’m not a very confident person. So that was reflected in Miyuki. Of course, she seems to be so confident and always full of energy. But at the same time, there’s another side to herself, that’s a little darker. You can tell in her relationship with her boyfriend especially. He has everything that she wants. There’s a lack of confidence about her that makes her want to mimic him because she wants to be like him. It’s a conflicted relationship. So I was very happy to see a side of me in the characterization of Miyuki. I feel like we grew up together, the character and myself.

You mentioned earlier that the film paints a realistic depiction of Japanese male female relationships. Can you give examples?

An example of a realistic scene is how she sleeps over on the first night. As for Yukiyo, I think depicts Japanese men, especially since he’s very diffident. He has a lack of confidence and he can’t put what he desires into action at all. Even though she’s sleeping over, it’s a very opportunistic situation, he doesn’t do anything, which shows the conflict within Japanese men today. In terms of the women’s side, I think all these 4 characters of women. Rumiko (Kumiko Aso) is a character who’s starting to care about her age. And she can’t quite step out of herself.

What do you look for when you’re choosing a role?

I don’t feel like I’m at that level where I can take on complex roles. The reality of my work is that it’s hard for my opinion to go through. Before I was taking on roles that were given to me, but ever since Moteki on, I feel like I’ve been able to challenge myself more with different roles. Of course I want fans to really enjoy my roles, but I have a clear idea of who I want to be as an actress.

Is there any American actor or director that you would want to work with in the future?

I would love to work with Edward Norton and Kirsten Dunst.

What’s your experience making the film and seeing the film?

I was completely taken aback by how fun it is. I think this is a film that American audience will enjoy so I can’t wait for a lot of people to see it.

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