International movie star Hiroyuki Sanada is the latest big name to join the John Wick film franchise bringing his acting talent and martial arts skills in the fourth and possibly final installment.
In John Wick: Chapter 4, Hiroyuki Sanada plays Shimazu, a martial arts master who, like Donnie Yen’s Caine, has a history with John Wick (Keanu Reeves) and considers the hunted assassin to be a good friend.
Shimazu values his friendship with Wick, and he is willing the face the wrath of the High Table and possibly the dire consequences for his hotel, the Osaka Continental, just to protect Wick from the organization, The Tracker (Shamier Anderson) and Caine because he is his “last friend.”
Before this role, Sanada has been putting in the work during his long acting career. John Wick: Chapter 4 is a full circle moment for the action star because it reunites him with Reeves. The two starred together in 47 Ronin. John Wick 4 also brings Sanada back on set with Donnie Yen. They starred in the 1986 film Royal Warriors, which also starred Academy Award-winning actress Michelle Yeoh.
Hiroyuki Sanada Reflects on His Amazing Career
Speaking exclusively with Sanada, CASSIUS Life asked him about his career and how far he has come since being in Royal Warriors. He reflected on his acting career, revealing he can’t believe where he is now while also not planning on being the action star he is now.
“Yeah. I’ve done two Hong Kong movie[s] around then. But before I started training for the martial arts, I was a child actor. So as an actor, I watched a lot of action movies, comedies or musicals, and then all the leading actors and actresses doing fighting or dancing, singing themselves,” he begins.
“And then when I was [a] child actor, oh my gosh, that’s the best service to the audience. I want to do everything by myself if I can continue acting in the future. Then I started training. Dancing, singing, horseback riding, stunts and martial arts. So the action was just one of my skills as an actor. So I didn’t plan to be an action star. Just as an actor, sometimes no action; love comedy, musical, a serious drama and if [the] director want me to do some action, I do. So a little different stances than other action stars for me. But that was a great experience and then made me continue acting. So I’m so happy to continue acting and also action. Then after The Last Samurai, I started trying to get in international project[s]. And then luckily, I could survive.”
… when I look back [a] long time ago, maybe younger me cannot believe I’m here now
Sanada continues, “So yeah, when I look back [a] long time ago, maybe younger me cannot believe I’m here now. And then [I’m] so happy I could see a lot of great filmmakers and directors, actors. So I want to say thank you for all of them. All of my experience brought me here.”
Sanada Talks About Learning The Choreography
Of course, we had to ask him about learning the choreography and if it was difficult learning the “Gun-Fu” style the films have become well-known for.
“I watched this series, one and two, three, so I knew John Wick’s fighting style. And then my role, Koji Shimazu, grown up together with John. We train together, helping each other and then kill somebody together or something,” Sanada tells Cassius Life.
“So I needed to know and mimic his style because we [have] grown up together. We have [the] same skills basically. And, plus, Chad wanted me to use the Japanese sword. So John Wick style, gun-fu style, plus Japanese sword and mixture.”
He continues, “So we needed to find out Koji Shimazu’s original fighting style. So that was the main theme during the stunt training. We jump into the choreography and try to create [our] own style. And the choreography depends on the weapon. The distance is always changing. So that was the most hardest part and most interesting part for me.”
John Wick: Chapter 4 kicks and punches into theaters March 24.
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