Ansel Elgort was learning Japanese for four hours daily for a month to play the real yakuza journalist in “Tokyo Vice” (VIDEO) | Show biz

Elgort plays Jake Adelstein, the first foreign reporter in one of Japan's biggest newspapers in the original HBO Max series.  - Photo courtesy of HBO GO
Elgort plays Jake Adelstein, the first foreign reporter in one of Japan’s biggest newspapers in the original HBO Max series. – Photo courtesy of HBO GO

KUALA LUMPUR, April 1 – In Ansel Elgort’s toughest role to date, the Hollywood actor learned Japanese until he was able to improvise his lines in one of the most difficult languages.

The teen idol spent four hours a day for four weeks portraying American crime reporter Jake Adelstein in the highly anticipated HBO Max series. Tokyo Vice.

Adelstein is the first non – Japanese reporter in Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper where he researched the yakuza.

His memoirs in 2009 Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter at Police Beat in Japan serves as the basis of the police drama series.

Filmed in Tokyo, the series chronicles Adelstein’s daily descent into Japan’s belly in the late 1990s, after being caught under the wing of a veteran detective (Ken Watanabe) in the vice president’s team to explore the dark and dangerous world of Japanese yakuza. . .

In addition to learning Japanese, Elgort also studied journalism and the Japanese martial art of aikido to master all of his character skills.

He said Malay Mail yesterday was the most preparation he has done for a role which the 28-year-old described as fun but provocative.

The actor of
The actor of “West Side Story” delivers most of his lines in Japanese in the police drama. – Photo courtesy of HBO GO

“We did a lot of preparation working with Michael Mann,” Elgort said

“He likes to prepare you to the point where things become second nature, where you can feel really immersed in the role.”

The acclaimed author of the crime whose credits include Heat and Warrantydirected the pilot to Tokyo Vice and his vision set the tone for the series.

“I wanted to get to the point where I feel comfortable being able to improvise in Japanese because it’s liberating,” Elgort said.

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“At first, when I was just learning the lines vocally, you felt a little okay, now I can only say them in one way? Will we make a download or something? Where will the range come from? “

For Elgort, it was necessary to know exactly what he was saying and how to say it in different ways.

“These are challenging because the way you emphasize words in English is different in Japanese, so obviously it would take a lot of work,” said the Baby Driver actor.

Elgort and Watanabe also served as executive producers on
Elgort and Watanabe also served as executive producers on “Tokyo Vice.” – Photo courtesy of HBO GO

Creator and Tony Award-winning playwright JT Rogers said it was amazing to watch Elgort’s commitment to language learning – most actors would learn foreign scripts to some degree and falsify them, but Elgort continued to perfect Japanese of to date.

“Not only did the audience have to be fooled, in the sense of cinema, that this character spoke Japanese, but Ansel got to the point of speaking Japanese.

“Unique is a word that is overused in our profession, but I think it is unique to our show,” Rogers said.

As Elgort became more comfortable speaking Japanese during filming, the actor, who was also the show’s executive producer, suggested that scenes be made in Japanese, and Rogers said, “Let’s do it both ways.”

The separate Japanese and English scenes were often merged to reflect the actual way in which multilingual conversations take place.

“What if we created this liquidity where people who are bilingual just float back and forth without paying attention to it and that was very careful,” Rogers said.

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“In Japan, sometimes you would notice people talking that way and you might call it Spanglish or I guess Japaneselish,” Elgort added.

The 28-year-old teen idol studied journalism and Japanese martial art aikido for his role.  - Photo courtesy of HBO GO
The 28-year-old teen idol studied journalism and Japanese martial art aikido for his role. – Photo courtesy of HBO GO

“This freedom is something I wanted to have and I’m glad I took the time to be able to have it.”

Japanese actor Ken Watanabe as Detective Hiroto Katagiri praised Elgort for immersing himself in his country’s language and culture.

As one of the executive producers of the series, the star of The Last Samurai oversaw the Japanese dialogues and did not lag behind when it came to constructive comments.

“[For some scenes]Ansel tried to speak Japanese but I could not hear it and we tried to return to English.

“It was an honest relationship, but he’s so hardworking,” said the Oscar nominee.

Like the mafia, the mysterious world of yakuza may intrigue Western filmmakers, but in Japan, it is an issue that many prefer to avoid.

When Adelstein wrote his memoirs, which were translated into Japanese, no publisher wanted to link to it because it pressed too hard.

Watanabe gave Elgort honest and constructive feedback on his Japanese lines.  - Photo courtesy of HBO GO
Watanabe gave Elgort honest and constructive feedback on his Japanese lines. – Photo courtesy of HBO GO

“I think this is the first time we have a show about real underground gangs, I think the Japanese are surprised and interesting to them,” Watanabe said.

“I hope the Japanese audience will enjoy the show.”

The Memories of a geisha The actor added that there were good movies for foreigners who set foot in Japan, such as Black Rain and Mr. Baseball, but did not offer an accurate depiction of city life in the East Asian nation.

“This series captures this reality and that is due to Michael’s first direction.

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“He wanted to show a Tokyo that was real and realistic.

“He had a solid vision for the show from the art department to the wardrobe and props, each department needed to offer that realism,” Watanabe said.

In addition to Elgort and Watanabe, the cast includes Oscar nominee Rinko Kikuchi, Rachel Keller, Ella Rumpf, Hideaki Ito, Show Kasamatsu and Tomohisa Yamashita.

Tokyo Vice premieres the same day in the US with three episodes on Thursday, April 7 exclusively on HBO GO. Two episodes will make their debut every Thursday until the finale on April 28.

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