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star struck

Holding a grudge
Sarah Michelle Gellar goes from hunting vampires to ghostbusting in Takashi Shimizu’s The grudge
By Chris Betros

Takashi Shimizu and Sarah Michelle Gellar
Chris Betros

Sarah Michelle Gellar reckons the scariest scene to film
in The Grudge (called The Juon in Japan) was the shower sequence. “There were 17 Japanese men in there with me,” she says with a laugh.

Gellar, who has been fighting vampires on TV for seven years as Buffy, plays Karen, a part-time social worker who is in Japan with her student boyfriend. One day she takes a job as a caregiver for a catatonic American woman who is freaked out because the house is haunted by a dead mother and son who don’t want anyone moving in.

Directed by Takashi Shimizu, who also directed the original Japanese version it’s the latest Hollywood remake of a Japanese horror film, which producer Sam Raimi praises highly—so much so that he insisted Shimizu be given the job and not an American director. However, this caused some problems, Takashi recalls. “I had a good conversation with Sam and we were both on the same level. He wanted me to keep the ambiguity of the Japanese horror movie, but after we started editing, the studio bosses said the opposite. They wanted the typical American pattern where everything is cut and dried, so we had a bit of conflict.” Fortunately, audiences in Japan will get to see the director’s cut, while US audiences have to wait until it is released on DVD in June.

“I generally find Japanese horror [films] scarier than American ones. Maybe it is because we find those things that are different or unfamiliar to be scary,” says Gellar, who is skilled in kickboxing and taekwondo. She had a ball in Japan, visiting Kyoto, Hakone, Ueno and taking in some sumo. “We had a purification ceremony on the set before we started and that was an intense experience.”

Born in New York, Gellar went to school with fellow actor Macaulay Culkin. She did theater work and some controversial TV ads, including one for Burger King that resulted in her and the company being sued by McDonald’s. Also, because of the truth in advertising law then (“I only eat at Burger King”), she reportedly could only venture into other fast-food restaurants in disguise.

She made her feature film debut in High Stakes (1989), but it wasn’t until 1997 that she got her big breakthrough as the title actor in the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In between TV work, she made films such as Scream 2, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Cruel Intentions and two Scooby-Doo films. “I don’t feel typecast by Buffy or any one genre,” she says. “I look at every role separately and don’t compare them. I just try to stay true to the character and put forth the director’s vision of the movie.”


 

 

the scene
Sushi bar mayhem
online movie Kaiten LAUNCHES WITH A BANG

Virgin Café in Roppongi hosts the launch of a short, three-part film called Kaiten (English title: Life Is a Merry-Go-Round), an offbeat mystery set in a sushi restaurant. It can only be seen on the Internet at http://cinemawave.jp/pc/live/gemcerey/index.html Clockwise from top left: Cinema analyst and emcee Fumine Yakumo; American TV personality Kaiya; Mayuko Iwasa fires her gun as other cast members look on; director Seiji Matsumura.

 

 

Q&A
Richard Northcott
Switched-on lifestyles

A smart phone that you can wear on your wrist?
No, it’s not science fiction, but a very plausible device, says Australian entrepreneur Richard Northcott, CEO of Enfour Group, a Tokyo-based global leader in multilingual mobile solutions and content. It’s a company he set up in 1992.

When did you first come to Japan?
I came here on a working holiday visa in 1986, attended Sophia University and worked at Sun Music, a music production company, and then Sony Communications and CBS Sony.

What had you studied at university?
Restoration of art.

Big difference from what you are doing now, right?
In those days, they were looking for anyone with any sort of computer experience. I’m basically self-taught all along the way and I’m still learning.

What are you focusing on now?
Mainly two areas. One is the embedded side of mobile solutions and that is helping handset manufacturers put software inside. The second is online software for mobile phones, mainly focusing on the practical solution end of the market rather than entertainment.

Which of your products is an example of that?
TangoTown. It turns your mobile phone into a complete communication, reference and learning tool by combining a multilingual dictionary engine, UniDict, with a variety of educational tools and cultural information sources.

So what about this wearable wrist phone?
It’s just a matter of cost and demand. But you first have to build a lifestyle aspect. Function and form are important but social acceptance is too. Unlike when they first came out, handsets are now ubiquitous, but Star Trek “broache phones” would find too much resistance right now.

What’s a typical day for you?
I show up about 11 or midday. Sometimes I’ll work all night. I’m usually in the office until late.

How do you relax when you are not working?
I practice karate, so I try and get out early occasionally for that. I like to socialize after midnight. I catch up with my friends for drinking in Shinjuku.

Would you like to comment on this article? Send a letter to the editor at letters@metropolis.co.jp.

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