"The Last Hope" Airi Taira Wins the Part of Kanna
In autumn 2007 an audition was held for the part of Kanna. Over 3,000 actresses applied for the pivotal part of the event movie of the century. Once deemed impossible for movie adaptation, 20th Century Boys attracted unusual attention throughout the show business. It was literally a cattle call, with actresses both established and unknown.
Among the 3,000, Taira had the right eyes. Strong-willed and determined, perfect for Kanna. Naoki Urasawa and Director Tsutsumi had no hesitation announcing, "She's our Kanna!" Taira prepared for the audition by cutting her long hair short to make it look exactly like the Kanna character. Her determination helped her win the part.
On the same day, the audition was held for the part of Kyoko Koizumi. Haruka Kinami grabbed Urasawa and Tsutsumi's attention for her perfect physical likeness. Not only did she look similar to the character, but she had the right feel to play Kyoko. She was chosen without objection.
A Story of the Young Generation - And the Young Actors!
Urasawa describes 20th Century Boys as "a drama about passing a baton from one generation to the next." Set in the future of 2015, the movie features Kenji's niece Kanna and her classmate Kyoko Koizumi, both high school students. Rookie detective Chono, is the grandson of Detective Cho-san, who'd been killed off in the first movie, because of what he learned about Friend. Comic book artist Kakuta, who helps Otcho, was born in 1990 and is now 25. Britney, the transvestite who befriends Kanna, is still a teenager who lost her father on Bloody New Year's Eve. This is a story of the younger generation learning what's right from their predecessors. Their fresh acting is a welcome change of pace from the seasoned performances of the actors of Kenji's generation.
Hirofumi Araki is a member of a young actors' group, D-BOYS. He has a difficult role-playing transvestite Britney. He did the part justice and made Naohito Fujiki's heart beat a little faster in a scene when he fixes him with his gaze.
The characters of Otcho, Yukiji, Yoshitsune and Number 13 (Masao Tamura) return in this movie, but this time they are 15 years older. To achieve this, special effects makeup was employed. Wigs, beards and skin applications were custom-made for each actor / actress. The most difficult task was to apply the old-age skin on the actors / actresses' skin seamlessly. The actors spent 2 hours everyday having the makeup applied. Portable beds were prepared for the actors / actresses for their comfort. Normally, lines and bags on faces are not a welcome sign of ageing, but the actors / actresses were eager to make themselves look convincingly older.
Acting, and particularly speaking with skin applications is very challenging. Drastic changes in facial expressions can ruin the makeup. Despite the hardship, shooting went as scheduled.
Star Cast for the Unusual Characters - Sadakiyo, Yamane, Takasu and Haru Namio.
Haruka Kinami who played the part of Kyoko Koizumi remembers her shock; "Yusuke Santamaria is usually a fun guy, cracking jokes between takes. But once the camera rolled, he was suddenly in character, quite delirious, it was incredible." Santamaria's appearance was relatively brief but he made sure he expressed the tragic inner turmoil of Sadakiyo.
Fumiyo Kohinata played the part of Yamane, the mad scientist, to perfection. Only an actor with his skill and subtlety could express Yamane's spooky side as he enters one scene with an alcohol lamp in his hand.
Arata Furuta replicated the appearance of Namio Haru character from the comic series with an uncanny resemblance. Karasawa (who plays the part of Kenji) watched Furuta's concert scene where he sings The Hello Hello Expo Song. He burst out laughing and commented, "This guy's on a roll!"
Eiko Koike plays the part of Takasu, a woman who worships Friend with maniacal zeal. This is Koike's third movie with Director Tsutsumi and in every movie she plays a character who has a crazy edge.
Shooting Across the World - New York, London, Paris, Rome, Beijing, Rio de Janeiro...
In 2015 Friend is so influential he's on friendly terms with the Pope. To depict the scenes where the world watches Japan under Friend's rule, a crew flew to multiple overseas locations. In Times Square, Trafalgar Square, Eiffel Tower, The Basilica of Saint Peter, Tiananmen Square, and Corcovado...extras held up signs expressing their support for Friend. The crew filmed a large number of extras at each location and achieved a realistic look. So real that the filming was sometimes mistaken for a strange cult gathering. It was difficult to get filming permission from the Chinese Government as tensions were high in the China/Tibet dispute, but filming was able to commence after long hours of negotiation. Adding international flavour to the movie is Fred McQueen, the late Steve McQueen's son, and Chen Chao jung, a Taiwanese star.
2015: A Future Tokyo is the Bladerunner World
Friend hosts the Expo 2015 mirroring the image of the Expo '70 in Osaka. CGI is used to replicate The majestic Tower of Friend and other pavilions. In fact, CGI is extensively employed to depict Friend Land and its virtual-attractions. It's also employed to subtly enhance the sense of wonder with the everyday lives of the future with elements like laser-string-figures. Director Tsutsumi suggested this future child-play for students at Kanna's high school.
Kenji and Maruo as they appear in the Friend Land training program are realised by actors Toshiaki Karasawa and Hidehiko Ishizuka. They both ad-libbed for a game-character quality, which provided an interesting interpretation.
Recreating the 1970s
While the future is depicted in detail, 1970s nostalgia is also subtly brought in, injecting the essence of 20th Century Boys.
First, Kanna's room is covered with 1970's memorabilia. To reproduce the room as depicted in the comic series, the prop department travelled all over Japan to track down period items.
Friend Museum where Sadakiyo takes Kyoko Koizumi is also stocked with period toys and comic books. One of the toys is worth 5 million yen. Unavailability of period comic magazines meant that the magazines on the bookshelves weren't originals. The Props crew had the laborious task of photocopying magazine covers in the National Diet Library and pasting them onto dummy magazines in order to fabricate the right look.
Also unforgettable is the Toyota 2000GT that Sadakiyo drives, a beautifully restored classic car.
Extras, all together 16,000!
Naoki Urasawa describes the story of 20th Century Boys as something "that reaches the very private microcosm of the audience." It's a story that revolves around the main cast, but it's also a story that we can all identify with. So anybody appearing in the movie is treated with equal importance, even the extras cast as pedestrians.
The movie has unprecedented numbers of extras besides its huge cast of stars. There are all the foreigners in Kabuki-cho and the people queuing outside the Friend's Palace to file petitions. The crowds at the church, at the parade, at Namio Haru's concert and at Expo 2015... All together there were 16,000 extras.
Director Tsutsumi's intention was to "make each person in the crowd visible." Faces in the crowds show that 20th Century Boys is a story that's connected to our reality, not a fantastic and irrelevant fiction.
Kabuki-cho, 2015 - Constructed in Skip City, Nishikawaguchi
On a Skip City plot in Nishi-Kawaguchi, where Kenji's convenience store had been built for the first movie, the Kabuki-cho exterior & interior sets were constructed. At the heart of it is the church. Around the church is a web of alleys with adult-oriented shops and other illegal businesses. The atmosphere is seedy and from outside it has the appearance of a lawless fortress.
Chin Ho Ro, the restaurant in which Kanna works part-time, is also built on this set. The scenes of the Mafia war and people marching towards the church were shot there. On a different plot in Skip City, the Friend parade scene were shot. Over 4,000 extras of different genders and ages provided an exciting backdrop for Otcho's showdown with Friend.
Naoki Urasawa, the Musician
If you pay close attention to the end credits of 20th Century Boys - Chapter 1, you'll find Urasawa's name in the music credits. It's a well-known fact that "Bob Lennon," the song over the end credit sung by Kenji was written and composed by Urasawa. But that's not his only musical contribution. A piece of music heard in the scene where Otcho walks over the busy intersection in Shibuya as he returns to Japan, was also composed and performed by Urasawa. Urasawa is known for his music activities with several CD titles and occasional live performances. Director Tsutsumi and Music Director Ryomei Shirai asked Urasawa to write the music for the scene. Listen carefully and you'll find new music that Urasawa wrote in the second chapter, too.
© 1999, 2006 Naoki Urasawa, Studio Nuts, Shogakukan © 2008-2009 “20th Century Boys” Film Partners © 2008-2010 4Digital Media
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