Shinoda and Iwashita Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

The Movie Experience: Conversation with director Masahiro Shinoda and actress Shima Iwashita; 2/27/99 by Harry Kreisler
Photo by Jane Scherr

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Iwashita on Acting

Ms. Iwashita, you have played extraordinary roles in your career. I am curious, do you draw on your own experience and personality, or does your understanding of the character shape your performance, or is it both?

There are some instances where I can use my experience but many cases I have to play roles that I have no experience having lived through. For example, if I am to play in the role of a lawyer I will talk to lawyers, visit law firms, and go to court, watch trials so that I can get the sense of what being a lawyer is from that external situation. Then I can internalize it and use it in the role. But it is not that often that I can actually use my own experience for the roles.

In your husband's films in which you appear, how does your relationship with him as husband and wife affect what you become in the film?

I think I have an advantage because I know what my husband is trying to create in a film from the preparation stage. I don't have to ask him anything once it is in production, so that is a great advantage. But in another way, it is a disadvantage that I know in terms of his private life whether he has a cold, whether he is not feeling well, whether he has a stomach ache. Sometimes I worry about those physical conditions of my husband on the set and that might reflect into my acting.

In anticipation of your visit to Berkeley, I saw Double Suicide twice, and your dual performance of Koharu and Osan in that movie was extraordinary. You were able to convey the bond between the two women even though they were fighting over the same man. What were the challenges of doing that dual role?

Koharu was a prostitute, and in that time the people wore very white make up, had very glamorous kimono, and I used a very high voice for her. With Osan, I contrasted that with the traditional blackening of the teeth for married women and shaving of the eyebrows and having a lower speaking tone in my voice. Koharu spoke much faster and Osan slower. But the director had told me that in the last scene that he wanted to give the impression it might have been the double suicide of the same woman. So that the two of them might have been the same woman. So toward the end, I tried to keep that in mind in thinking that Koharu's suicide might have been Osan's suicide as well. I tried to get that impression across.

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