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star struck

The clone ranger
Michael Bay combines morality and mayhem in The Island
By Chris Betros

When you go to see a Michael Bay film, you pretty much know what to expect: escapism, car chases, car crashes, explosions and general mayhem. After all, this is the man responsible for Bad Boys, The Rock, Armageddon and Pearl Harbor. Bay’s interest in thrills-a-minute movies was piqued when, age 15, he got a job on the set of Raiders of the Lost Ark, where he was able to watch his idol Steven Spielberg direct.

Things have turned full circle now with Spielberg asking Bay to direct The Island. It’s the first time that Bay has not made a film in collaboration with Jerry Bruckheimer, who launched him on his road to success in the 1990s. “Jerry was slightly pissed. We’ve had a great partnership and we will continue to make movies together, but being asked by Spielberg to direct was cool,” said Bay during a recent visit to Japan.

Set in the near future, The Island tells the story of a utopian society sealed off from the rest of the world. The residents, who live a carefully controlled existence, believe that a major contamination once took place in the outside world and that the only other paradise is an island where lucky lottery winners get to visit. However, two residents (Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson) start to question their reality and find out that they are actually clones, waiting to be harvested for “spare parts” by ailing, wealthy sponsors.

Besides having the usual mayhem of Bay’s other films, The Island deals with moral issues such as cloning. “It’s one of the most complicated questions there is,” said McGregor via satellite hookup from London, where he is appearing in the stage production of Guys and Dolls. “It deals with the very fabric of existence. We’re already at the point where we can tamper with life. I’m not really sure how I feel about it. If cloning could help cure illnesses, the benefits could be enormous, but the implications could be catastrophic.”

Bay said the movie is not meant to be a commentary on human cloning. “It’s more to show how selfish we can be,” he said. “We all want to live longer. It’s how we go about doing it that counts. I wouldn’t order a clone of myself for ‘spare parts’ because I don’t think it is right to take another life.”

Scottish star McGregor is having a big year. Besides The Island, he can currently be seen in Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith and is one of the voice cast of Robots. He said he had no hesitation about doing The Island straight after Star Wars. “Too often, action films are just about action, but The Island has a strong story at its heart. Anyway, I don’t think you can put The Island and Star Wars in the same bracket. The Island is set in the near future with a theme that is more relevant to our society, while Star Wars is set, as they say, in a galaxy far, far away.”

In The Island, McGregor gets to indulge in one of his passions—riding motorbikes. He also gets to be passionate with Johansson. “When I cast them, I didn’t know if they’d have any chemistry,” Bay joked. “So I told them to go to their trailer for three hours and make out and then come back.”


 

Q&A

Noriko Ina
Bringing hope from Hiroshima to the stage

This Saturday, Aug 6, marks 60 years since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Studies estimate that more than 230,000 people were killed by the bomb and the radiation it caused. Another 100,000 died from the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki three days later. Noriko Ina, 41, is the director of Red Cranes, a theater company that will perform A Thousand Cranes in English to commemorate the world’s first nuclear attack.

Where are you from?
I was born in Saitama and grew up in Kanagawa.

When did you start acting?

When I was 6. I wrote stories, made sets and acted in front of friends. Later I studied and performed with the Takarazuka before going to Hollywood to the Stella Adler Academy.

What do the Red Cranes symbolize?
We want to be a wing between Japan and other countries. Red is the symbol of our passion.

Tell us about your play.
It’s the story of a 12-year-old girl called Sadako, who, dying after the bomb, folded paper cranes in the hope of one wish: to be able to run again. It’s not only about the Hiroshima tragedy, but also hope, peace, friendship and dreams. There is a famous statue of Sadako in the peace park in Hiroshima.

You also performed in the US?
Yes, as part of Stella Adler’s children’s outreach project. After 9/11, everything changed, and our challenge was to pick up the story of Hiroshima there. We performed 13 times in front of 1,000 kids.

What was their reaction?
They loved it. I directed it kabuki style, and they were really interested in the movements, masks and kimono. They asked us lots of questions about the bomb, the cranes and kabuki.

Where is your favorite place in the world?
Anywhere with my kids and good friends.

What are your favorite plays or musicals?
The Seagull, by Chekhov; Summer and Smoke, by Tennessee Williams; Musical Passion, by Stephen Sondheim.

Do you think Japan will always be a peace-loving nation?

Yes. We have to be.

What is your personal message to your audience on this anniversary?
The time has come to fold a thousand cranes again.

Red Cranes will perform at Tsutsujigaoka Studio in Chofu on Aug 6. See stage listings for details. AV


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