This past weekend I went to Yamaga to be an extra in the new Rurouni Kenshin sequel. I started the application process in the middle of July because they had posted they needed foreigners for a scene — I had my fingers crossed and kept silent in fear that I may jinx the possibility of getting the role. I know that it wouldn’t have helped or lessened my chances of getting the role, but I didn’t want to get anybody’s hopes up. I requested a Saturday off from work, which my boss was none too happy about, but he reluctantly gave in.
So Friday the 9th after work my friend and I drove to Yamaga and checked into our ryokan hotel (which the owner was completely against allowing us to stay because we were foreigners). I was able to talk him into allowing us to keep our reservation because he tried to get us to cancel a few days before we left to go and there was no room left because it was a busy weekend for the staff working on the film and the fans coming to stake out the area for a chance to catch a glimpse of their favorite actor. I brought the owner of the hotel some donuts in attempt to buy over some trust, and I think it worked. We had a good experience at the hotel, so I can’t complain!
Saturday morning, bright and early, my friend and I got up at 4:30am and wandered down to Yachiyo-za where they were going to film the movie. It was a long process, but we got in for wardrobe, hair and makeup. They fitted me into a long 1870′s style gold dress, and underneath I wore a long petticoat. Those fluffy things are like ovens, by the way. After that I got into line for makeup. We weren’t supposed to wear makeup before hand, but the lady there thought I had put some on. She was surprised how nice my skin looked. What can I say? When ya got it, ya got it. She covered up my freckles and smoothed out some blemishes. She said she liked the color of my lips so we didn’t put any lipstick on. On to hair — now I had hoped that they would do something with my own hair, but they slapped a dorag on my head and slid on a very funny-looking wig. I couldn’t hold in my laughter when I looked into the mirror and saw my new “do”. I looked like something out of Little House on the Prairie or Goldilocks.
The first day on set we spent the whole day outside recording one scene. It wasn’t that there were any mistakes that needed to be corrected, it’s that they had to refilm the same scene from many different angles. I had absolutely no idea the amount of work and care that goes into making a movie. This scene can’t take up much more than maybe 4-5 minutes total, but it took 5-6 hours to film! First we began with the camera behind me and a few others looking into the “marketplace”. Along the way there was a camera in the marketplace filming. I didn’t realize it was there until I was walking so one time I did accidentally look at it. The next time they moved the camera from behind us to in front and above us, re-positioning some cameras throughout the marketplace for a different look. Next they completely moved the camera to the back, and above. Then there was another scene where we had to weave through it as though it was a person while taking care to continue acting our parts and ignoring the camera, and then there was another scene where the camera was on something motorized and would “drive” through the marketplace. There was probably more than that, and I lost count as to how many times we did that scene. There was a band there playing music and we were told that when the band stopped playing, we were supposed to stop speaking — but we were supposed to continue moving our mouths as though we were speaking.
The second day we were inside Yachiyo-za for another full day of scene shooting. The same scene, of course. But we were inside and they air conditioned the room when we weren’t filming. As I said before, we did the same scene many times with the cameras in different places. It’s hard to go into this scene without potentially giving it away and whereas it isn’t a huge plot piece, I still feel it was a rather important part of the movie. I believe this is when Kenshin will make his reappearance in the movie. How they will introduce him and the others within the movie.
Which brings me to the next bit — the actors were there. Munetaka Aoki (Sanosuke), Satou Takeru (Kenshin), Takei Emi (Kaoru) and Tanaka Taketo (Yahiko). The creator of the manga Kenshin (Nobuhiro Watsuki) was also there as well as the director (Otomo). I always thought that they would look different in person. Either their height would be not as I imagined or the screen told lies about how they looked, but no. They looked exactly like they did in the first movie. The only thing I was surprised about was how tall Munetaka Aoki (Sanosuke). I nearly walked into him leaving the theatre and I remember looking up and thinking, “Wow, you are tall.” Satou Takeru came off a bit cold, but I like to think it’s because he was working. Perhaps he was making sure he kept himself in character. While he’s on set perhaps he just doesn’t like to interact with anyone or anything. A friend of mine said he saw him balancing on the beams in the theatre, which he said seemed like a “Kenshin” thing to do. I’m not quite sure if it was a “Kenshin” thing to do or not, but I like to think he was just keeping his mind in character and avoiding all outward distractions. Munetaka Aoki (Sanosuke) was very vocal. He’d play with the kids and make all the extras on set laugh. I thoroughly enjoyed his presence. He and I kept making eye contact but I was rather nervous and I felt shy everytime our eyes met so I never actually reacted outwardly other than quickly looking away.
All in all it was a great experience and I loved every moment of it, even when I felt the drops of sweat dripping down my back. Even when the staff would come over and dab the sweat off my face before a take so the camera wouldn’t catch the beads of sweat dripping off my nose and chin. I don’t think everyone can say they were in a movie — a Warner Bros. movie! It’ll be out in theatres Summer 2014 in Japan. Unfortunately I won’t be here to see it. :( Yep, I’ll be here to see it!