‘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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