世界で活躍するグローバル・リーダーを bimonthly (隔月ごと）にYGCでインタビューしていきます。全て英語でインタビューが記載されていますので、是非最後まで頑張って読んでいきましょう！
奈良橋さんは、1947年千葉県生まれ。お父様が外交官であったため幼少期から高校時代まで海外（主にカナダ）で過ごし、1962年に帰国されました。その後、聖心インターナショナルスクールに進学、国際基督教大学教養学部を卒業、そしてニューヨークにある名門の演劇学校、Neighborhood Playhouseで演劇を学んで再び帰国。帰国後は1975年に結成されたバンド「ゴダイゴ」のヒット曲、「ガンダーラ」、「モンキーマジック」などの英語作詞を手がけるとともに、「The Winds of God」など、数々の映画監督や舞台演出をされました。スティーブン・スピルバーグ監督の映画「Empire of the Sun（太陽の帝国）」でキャスティングチームの一員として務めたことをきっかけにキャスティングディレクターとして名声を上げ、その後、「The Last Samurai（ラスト サムライ）」（監督：エドワード・ズウィック）、「Memoirs of a Geisha（SAYURI）」（監督：ロブ・マーシャル）、「47 Ronin」（監督：カール・リンシュ）など数々の名作を手がけました。
一方、1974年には、英語劇を通して英語を学ぶ英会話スクール、Model Language Studio（MLS）を共同設立し、現在は首都圏で20校ほど展開されています。さらに、俳優養成所、UPS ACADEMYの代表も務めています。出版物では、「俳優のためのオーディションハンドブック」（フィルムアート社）などの監修・解説もされています。
- You are multifaceted in that you are a movie director, producer, songwriter, casting director, and CEO. What is it that you enjoy doing most?
At the base of it all, I believe, is the desire to express and communicate as my heart leads me to new things, whether it be writing lyrics or acting, directing, casting or producing.
I continue to do what I do simply because I love it, and I enjoy my work. I originally wanted to become an actress, not a commercial one but a skilled one. However, while I was working as an actress, I was asked to direct and realized that directing is what I could base the rest of my life on. In order to direct, I needed good actors, so I started coaching and training them based on what I had learned in NY and predicated on the truth of self, which really celebrates the individuality of each person. In addition, it seemed to follow naturally that I began casting Japanese actors for US films, as I knew both cultures and the craft of acting. I truly am grateful that I am so blessed with all the work I love doing!
- What is the most important thing you value when working? Also, in what instance do you find your work rewarding?
My father was a diplomat, so when I was young, I was surrounded by international families and believed that international harmony exists. However as I grew up, I learned about war, hatred, the insanity and ignorance in people of various cultures. Yet, I still do believe as I saw when I was a child, that we can communicate with people all over the world. To convey this message, I directed, “The Winds of God (1995)” and had it shown in the US as well as the United Nations. Though it was a Japanese play, I believed it should be shown internationally, so I had the Japanese actors act in English.
When “The Winds of God” was released in the U.S., I received many comments from the audience that they had misunderstood the existential purpose of the Kamikaze pilots (Shinpu Tokubetsu Kogekitai) and that they were moved by the fact that the pilots were no different from their own sons. During showings at the United Nations (New York Headquarters), we had standing ovations every night. Some people in the audience commented on how they were taught to hate the Japanese from the war, but seeing the play made them realize that these so-called “crazy” kamikaze pilots could be their brothers, their sons. Instead of using words to try to communicate, such a play which moves hearts can truly make people of other cultures understand and desire peace. Such moments, when people express their joy and excitement at seeing a film or play, strengthen my belief that we can truly communicate with our hearts.
- As you experience various cultures abroad during your work, what do you think are the problems that Japan faces? How do you think we can solve them?
I believe it is important to protect and conserve Japan’s unique culture, and the meticulous and conservative ways of thinking of the Japanese people, but I do feel that the lack of risk-taking will not propel us forward because it is a very guarded, unprogressive way of thinking. There have been some recent events in Japan that really make me feel this way.
Actors must take risks. Actors must make snap decisions and tailor their actions to various situations within the moment. Rather than speaking the lines of a script, an actor must be able to create the life behind the words and accomplish a mission. There is a reason for what they say and do. As you can see from the word, “actor” is related to “action.” Thus, s/he who acts must take action. Actors learn from taking action. “ACTION SPEAKS LOUDER THAN WORDS!” How can we believe someone if they don’t act upon it? The importance of taking action is not only related to acting, but also to the problems we are currently facing in this country. We don’t just discuss it, think about it, or sit on the problem. We must be bold, make decisions, and act on them.
- What is the driving force behind your work?
Without a doubt, it would have to be my family. My mother was like a saint in my eyes—I really don’t think she had any flaws. I also adored my father. My father loved all sorts of entertainment, and he always welcomed challenges in many aspects of life. When we lived in Canada, I remember my father introducing me to contact lenses, which were huge then—back when it was considered the latest technology in the optical world. He also bought a television set, when homes usually didn’t have one. For family vacations, we would cross the continent by car, and since we took a plane over to Canada, on our return to Japan, my father suggested taking a ship. He was always willing to try things that others may not have yet experienced. I believe that my father’s exuberance for life has instilled that love in me as well.
I also think it is possible to raise a family while having a career. It certainly is not easy, but by juggling both, I believe that you can create positive energy and gain vitality, which can then be passed on to your children. Our children are our biggest asset, and the words we speak and the actions we take are extremely crucial to their growth.
- You are an extremely famous casting director. What knowledge and skills are necessary to become a casting director?
To understand my job, you first need to know about acting. Who is a good actor? What is good acting about? Then to be aware that film making and acting in the international world is different from within the Japanese industry. For example, in a popular Japanese drama series, “Hanzawa Naoki,” many kabuki actors took part as cast members, and the story was quite manga-like (well, it did originate from a manga series). Because of this, the actors initially focused on the external attributes of the characters they were playing. On the other hand, actors in American or other international films probe into inner thoughts and qualities of the roles assigned to them, pursuing creative choices and more realistic components of the characters they play. This phenomenon has been refined even more, particularly over the past ten years or so where they further pursue the inner world of the characters. This invokes a need to have a strong inner self to express oneself to the fullest. I’d like to quote Edward Zwick who directed many things including “The Last Samurai” —this is from a message he wrote to our students:
Skilled actors open a little window behind their eyes allowing the audience to glimpse their inner life and then shut it just as quickly. Such blessed creatures are why God invented the close-up.
As a casting director who can cast Japanese actors in foreign films or TV dramas, you have to know what kind of actor can best fulfill the role that the Western directors want. You have to find those actors who have that ability plus are able to speak English (for the most part). Ultimately, you make your sensitive choice that this one Japanese actor can best fulfill the role.
Secondly, being able to communicate in English is a must—it’s not just the actors. Not only do you need to be able to speak English, but you also need to be familiar with the culture and customs of your own country, to work in a global community, and to communicate with the film team. Having a broad spectrum of knowledge and business skills—such as people skills and contract negotiation skills—are essential to the job as well. There is a lot of trailblazing that is required, as it is still a minor profession and still relatively unknown.
And thirdly, you need to imagine the roles and personalities of the characters from the script you read initially, and really give them a life in your mind. This is when I use my mind, knowledge, and imagination to the fullest to think about who would fit into a particular role within the script. If no one comes to mind, I cast people by conducting further research while relying on my own instincts and meeting as many interesting people as I can. When all goes well, the work and actors truly seem like a match made in heaven—the actor is fantastic and so is the role—and you can actually see the synergy in the films created afterward.
- When you came back from Canada to Japan after being away for so long, did you go through any difficulties in your life?
At first, I was sooo excited and eager to get back and see all my cousins, whom I hadn’t seen since I was five. I was like a foreigner, loving all aspects of Japanese culture, and I immediately got into learning tea ceremony and ikebana. However, I did struggle with my Japanese language skills—though I thought I was able to speak it. I learned how to write characters—I thought they were like pictures and learned from reading signs like MEIJI. MEI meaning moon and sun and therefore interpreting it as “bright”! I enjoyed learning Japanese calligraphy, shodo, as well. I took Special Japanese classes at ICU to further my speaking and writing skills. Difficulties…I did have, but I guess I don’t consider them big problems.
- You have received a broad education in Japan, the U.S., and Canada. Which style of education in what country left the greatest impression on you?
The place I lived the longest while growing up was in Montreal, Canada, and the most memorable education I received was at a private high school there: Trafalgar School for Girls. I actually loved going to school, and I remember studying diligently and enjoying extracurricular activities. The truth is, I was never told to study or was scolded by my parents about schoolwork! I genuinely enjoyed attending Trafalgar School and, to this day, I’m in touch with some dear friends I fostered relationships with there.
Trafalgar School adopted the British system of education. What left the biggest impression on me was that many activities involved students mingling among various grade groups. We all sat down at lunch together, surrounding a big round table, and enjoyed scrumptious hand-cooked meals—and to this day I still make some of those dishes which even my grandkids love.
- You have been working all over the world and raising children at the same time. How did you manage to do it?
From the time my children were very young, I took them with me to movie sets and sites all over the world. I took pride in my work, so it felt natural for me to show my children what I did for a living. While most children would easily get bored from watching theater performances that run for long hours, my children could sit through a whole performance without being skittish since they got so absorbed in what they were watching. Because of this, I think they have an eye for gauging actors in their performances. This was especially notable during their childhood years when they would watch actors playing their roles through their pure eyes and evaluate those performances from a child’s perspective. I must say, the actors must have been more intimidated by my children than me back then! When I directed, I always aimed for the actors to act, based on their individual truth and to do rather than show. On some level, I believe that this was conveyed to my children.
As time went by, it just so happened that my children were part of my career and I really never contemplated being far away from them when going to work: I remember holding Lyena in my arms while directing the musical Hair and having Eugene make a random appearance during the show!
- Going forward, what do you hope the younger generation will be conscious of when putting themselves out there?
The importance of taking action. With young people in general, I have noticed that they are more fragile and less aggressive, and have to be told what to do. I think this is because they currently feel safe and that they don’t need to challenge themselves.
In fact, there was an event that made me realize this just recently. As an inaugural member of Model Production (MP)—an English theater production comprised of students from many universities in Japan—and now general director, we had a very difficult year with COVID. Granted they had a huge obstacle to overcome, but at the beginning, I felt they discussed a lot but did not take enough action. I don’t think they could quite see the goal ahead of them.
However, ultimately these MP kids overcame this huge obstacle and created a fantastic musical this year. I truly encourage our young generation to step up and take action—challenge yourselves, take risks!!
- Is there anyone who you respect as a global leader?
Angelina Jolie. Her work in helping humanity around the world is genuinely heroic. Her love and care for her children of all races are real and honest. Her compassion towards people—simple, struggling, caring, creative—abounds, and her efforts to do something to help, however small, is truly a joy!
Also, I would have to say, Richard Via, the founder of MP. Richard was the son of a pastor, so he really had a pure, beautiful heart. He worked in Broadway for about 25 years and was involved in many popular theatrical productions. Richard also worked extensively as an actor, stage manager, and director. I learned a lot from him, especially the art of directing. Somehow I go back to him (though he has passed away, he told me he would never die, as he would live in me and the MP kids)—he said it so simply and I think I am still learning from him!! He was and always will be one of my dearest mentors!