At Contenders Film: The Nominees, Deadline presented a panel with the director and star of perhaps the most historic nominated film at this year’s Oscars, Drive My Car, which represents Japan’s first-ever Best Picture nomination. It’s an astounding feat for a three-hour Japanese-language film, about a stage director’s personal crisis interweaved with his trip to Hiroshima to direct a production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya.
Hidetoshi Nishijima stars in that role under the direction of Ryusuke Hamaguchi, who also nabbed nominations for Best Director, Adapted Screenplay and International Feature, making it one of the darlings of this year’s Oscars. It has already won several critics awards for best picture after first being seen in competition at Cannes and winning for its screenplay there.
Contenders Film: The Nominees — Full Coverage
“ I do understand that this is a very historical thing, and I was very happy, but at the same time very surprised to have had my work chosen,” Hamaguchi said. “Thinking about going to the Oscars myself makes me very excited.”
Hidetoshi, one of Japan’s most famous actors, had only high praise for his director. “One of the biggest talents that director Hamaguchi has is that even though he is working with things that are seen as classical he can make them resonate in contemporary things in our world,“ he said. “Even though he is using Chekhov’s words, and of course they have a universality to them and there is truth in that, I think that also he makes these words resonate through the screenplay and through the actors to make these words living words that are alive, and I think director Hamaguchi has this kind of talent. It was tough work for me to work on this film but one that was full of joy.”
And of course in a movie called Drive My Car, the car itself is going to play an important role. Hamaguchi felt he had to be close to his actors, so he jumped right in.
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“To shoot a car scene is very difficult,” he said. “I thought it would be very important to shoot the scenes while the car is running so we can see the landscapes as we go by. I thought it was important for the actors as well. I was in the trunk of the car while we were shooting because I thought it important to communicate with my actors. The trunk and backseat were connected, so I was able to do that,” he said.
Hidetoshi gave his viewpoint: “To be honest there was also the cinematographer and the sound person in there,” he said, noting they found a route where it would take 20 straight minutes to traverse — good for a very long scene they had to shoot. “It took 20 minutes to drive across and do one take, and then 20 minutes to drive back. But as we did that director Hamaguchi said, ‘That was wonderful. Let’s do it again. ‘ “
Check out the panel video above.
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