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star struck

Gentle as a beast
Bob Sapp kicks off his Hollywood career and hopes he can show his gentle side one day
By Chris Betros

Chris Betros

“The Beast” playing a lawyer or doctor in a movie? Why not? Bob Sapp says he is ready, able and willing to try all sorts of roles as he launches his Hollywood career with Elektra. “I don’t want to just play action heroes and villains,” said the 30-year-old former NFL player who has carved a niche for himself over the past two years in the Japanese entertainment world as a K-1 fighter and pitchman for 10-15 products, including Panasonic and instant noodles.

Standing 1.93m tall and weighing 170kg, Sapp at first looks fierce, probably because every time he meets Japanese media and fans, they expect him to do his trademark roar. But today, he is gentle and soft-spoken about his role in Elektra, a spin-off from the 2003 Marvel Comics film Daredevil. Sapp plays a ninja assassin named Stone who does battle with the title character played by Jennifer Garner.

“The director Rob Bowman had seen some of what I had done in K-1 and on variety TV shows in Japan and asked me to be in the film,” said Sapp. “My K-1 training definitely came in handy, but the hard part was learning to hold my punches. The stunt coordinator had to make sure I didn’t hit Jennifer too hard.” Sapp was more concerned with avoiding the snakes used by one lethal character on the set, and a black bear that found its way into his trailer on location outside Vancouver.

He has already appeared in one movie—a Japanese horror feature last year called Devilman, in which he plays a broadcaster whose body is taken over by demons. It is the sort of schlock that he doesn’t want to get pigeonholed into playing, hence his desire for something more cerebral. “I’ll consider any role, especially one that lets me use my intellect,” he said. For the moment, Sapp’s main opponent appears to be Michael Clarke Duncan (of Daredevil and The Green Mile fame). A rivalry seems to have already sprung up between them. “At the LA premiere of Elektra, he actually challenged me to a fight, believe it or not,” Sapp said.

One thing that won’t change for Sapp is keeping Japan as his base, which is his gold mine. “Hollywood knows they can only rent ‘The Beast,’” he said. “Japan created me and I will remain indebted to it forever.” Sapp travels a lot between the two countries and is constantly in demand to do charity work here, which he is happy to accept. “You don’t need super powers to help out. I feel great being asked to volunteer my time.”

Sapp has already finished his second Hollywood movie, The Longest Yard, a remake of the 1974 film, starring Adam Sandler, Chris Rock and Burt Reynolds. After that, maybe he’ll get that call to play a movie doctor.




the scene

Peace Boat March
Demonstrators seek improving relations with China


Peace Boat activists march to the Ministry of Education to demand that the government mend frayed relations with China. The group opposes textbooks that it says misrepresent the past, and wants to promote peace with Japan’s Asian neighbors.
photos courtesy of peace boat

 

 

Q&A

Kuro Erikawa
A word from your host

Whenever there is a press conference for a visiting movie star, Kuro Erikawa is often there as emcee. When she’s not doing that, the Tochigi-born “cinema personality” does TV and radio work.

How did you get into entertainment?
I studied child psychology at Aoyama Gakuin and thought I would go into children’s education. But I started doing DJ work for fun and it became a full-time thing.

Have you done any acting?
Yes, I played a nurse in a TV drama about ten years ago. Do you work seven days a week? Often. A lot of your work involves films.

How many do you see a week?
About 40.

How do you keep up your English?
I read the subtitles on movies. It’s a good way to learn.

Of all the celebrities you have interviewed, which four would you invite to dinner?
Will Smith, Johnny Depp, Ken Takakura and Meg Ryan.

I’ve heard you don’t use email or cell phones.
That’s right. It would interfere with my private time.

And how do you spend your private time?
Mornings are important for me. I get up around 7am and do yoga, gardening, sewing or cooking.

What would you like to do in the future?
Walk the red carpet at the Oscars.

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

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