‘Inception’ actor Ken Watanabe wins over Christopher Nolan: ‘He’s such a huge movie star, it’s amazing’

June 03, 2010 | 2:08 p.m.

Christopher Nolans Inception action


Christopher Nolan’sInception” has perhaps the deepest cast of any film this year, with six past Oscar nominees or winners at the top of the credits: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Michael Caine and Tom Berenger.

With that dream team (as well as on-the-rise actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Cillian Murphy), Nolan is far too smart to publicly pick any favorites, but last year on the set of the film, he acknowledged that getting to know Watanabe as a person and a performer has been a particular highlight of the “Inception” experience.

“It’s brilliant working with Ken Watanabe,” said Nolan, the writer and director of the movie that opens July 16. “We worked briefly together on Batman Begins,’ and I’ve been looking to do something with him ever since. This is a more substantial part, and his work really comes through.”

In “Inception,” Watanabe plays Saito, one of the key characters in a tale of international action and (literally) mind-bending intrigue. Watanabe became a  star back home in Japan in the 1980s in “Dokugan-ryu Masamune,” a 50-episode samurai drama that became a ratings sensation. American audiences discovered him with Edward Zwick’s 2003 film The Last Samurai,” a film that earned Watanabe an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor. He followed that up with memorable turns in Memoirs of a Geisha” in 2005 and Clint Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima in 2006.

Nolan said the 50-year-old native of Kiode, Japan, more than held his own on the “Inception” set. “He’s just got such incredible charisma, and he’s such a huge movie star, it’s amazing,” Nolan said. “There’s such a sensitivity in his performances. It’s just been brilliant.”

— Geoff Boucher


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Photo: Ken Watanabe, with gun, and Lukas Haas in “Inception” Credit: Stephen Vaughan / Warner Bros.

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4 Responses to ‘Inception’ actor Ken Watanabe wins over Christopher Nolan: ‘He’s such a huge movie star, it’s amazing’

  1. Chee says:

    And he looks great for his age.

  2. Drew says:

    Very interested in seeing how Watanabe's character plays into this elaborate story. Hopefully he won't end up as the guy who is simply there to be the antagonist. Nolan doesn't seem like the type of person to push characters in that kind of direction though.
    I am equally as curious to see what this may also do for Tom Berenger's career. He's received billing above the title in all of the promotional material so far, which, to me at least shows that he clearly plays a role of some importnace.

  3. Jason says:

    I love Ken Wantanabe and cant wait to see him in this movie.
    Also you should check out the Inception Mind Crime Prevention app. I just got it on my Droid. There is a cool poster with Ken on it and a bunch of behind the scenes stuff.

  4. Elaine says:

    Well, I really hope Ken gets a bigger role in this movie. Just because his name is the first name after Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie posters doesn't mean he'll get that big of a role (how many seconds do you see him in the trailers?!). For now, just gotta live with his Facebook page: http://bit.ly/saitofb

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