Shelley Sweeney, born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, lived for many years in the small town of Kelowna, British Columbia, in the Okanagan Valley, an area of the Rocky Mountains. After being scouted and signing a modeling contract in Japan, she moved to London, England, where she attended the Corona School, a drama academy for young children, for one year. She was later accepted to Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, another drama school in London, where she studied for almost a year. After quitting and returning to Canada, she became involved in modeling, which eventually brought her to Japan where she has since acted in several Godzilla films. She plated Mechagodzilla co-pilot Lt. Catherine Berger in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993), and went on to appear in several other Godzilla films, including Godzilla: Final Wars (2004). In 2005, while Ms. Sweeney was shooting her latest movie in Los Angeles, spoke to Brett Homenick about her roles in Godzilla films.
Brett Homenick: Why did you come to Japan?
Shelley Sweeney: I came to Japan as a model. I was scouted in Canada. I went to an agency in Toronto, Canada (Judy Welch), when I was about 17, 18 years old. A Japanese agent named Satoru came to Toronto and picked me up and brought me to Japan as a model for a three-month contract.
BH: How’d you get your start in acting over there?
SS: Well, because I was able to continue with my modeling contracts for three months over a process of a few years, I was able to save enough money to go to the drama schools in England. Then afterwards, a friend of mine who’s a famous actor in Japan had an opportunity to do a movie and invited me to Japan to do a movie with him. It was called King’s Fire Play.
BH: How did you get the role in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (as Lt. Catherine Berger, a Mechagodzilla co-pilot)?
SS: The agency who was representing me at the time asked me to go to the audition for the Godzilla movie. I was only in Japan at that time to do the movie King’s Fire Play through that agency. They were representing me, so I did this audition for Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla about two or three times. Actually, they were considering me and another girl, and fortunately I won the role.
BH: Do you remember who that other woman was who auditioned?
SS: Right offhand, I don’t remember her name, but I can get back to you on that at some point. (Ms. Sweeney later informed me that the actress was Julie Dreyfus, who went on to appear in Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and Inglourious Basterds. – BH)
BH: Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla certainly has a lot of Western actors in it. One of them is Leo Meneghetti, who plays a scientist in that movie. What was he like to work with?
SS: I fortunately had the experience of working with Leo Meneghetti in my movie that I did called King’s Fire Play because he was also a favorite actor/friend of my friend, so I had met him. Personally, wonderful man. We had a great, great time working together. I believe he was just starting in the business. It was my first big action movie, and we just didn’t know what to expect, so we were just thrown in. “Okay, here you go. Do it.”
BH: A lot of the movie is written in English, as you know. Who wrote that dialogue? Was that the screenwriter, Wataru Mimura, or did the Western actors actually play a role in writing that dialogue?
SS: We had no way of writing the dialogue, unfortunately. It was given to us from the Japanese side. I believe the person who wrote the script was the person who wrote the dialogue. We were not given any choice of the matter whatsoever.
BH: That’s kind of interesting because I noticed in one scene Leo Meneghetti is showing a Japanese official how they can rebuild Mechagodzilla, and it really sounds like he’s making it up on the spot. The dialogue goes, “Well, if we reattach this here, okay, I think that will lead us to … uh, once again, if we reattach this here…” It’s obvious it’s just off the top of his head. So I was just wondering if the Western actors got to write their dialogue or just say anything.
SS: I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the time that when we were doing the filming, a lot of the time it was done again, and perhaps it’s the director who (selects) that cut, thinking that it was okay. Perhaps it was one of the cuts that wasn’t okay. But at the end of the day, it’s the editor who decides to keep things in, and the director, of course. So no, we had nothing to do with the dialogue.
BH: One of the aspects of the film that was apparently dropped during the editing process was the fact that your character, Lt. Catherine Berger, was apparently an android. What do you remember about that story line?
SS: Unfortunately, I don’t remember anything about that or being told that at all. They didn’t really give us a lot of information about anything. A lot of the time, they would just hand us the script and say, “Here, this is what you’re going to read.” Of course, we look at each other, and we go, “It doesn’t make sense.” And they’re like, “Well, this is what we want.”
SS: I know! Plus, we were sort of new with the Japanese acting style, and so it was like, “Wow, this is quite something. It’s not our movie, but we’ll just do what the director says.”
BH: One actor in the movie who speaks quite a bit of English, it seems, is Masahiro Takashima.
SS: Yes, a favorite actor and worked with him several times.
BH: So you got along with him pretty well?
SS: Yeah, actually his younger brother, we worked together on a TV series called Hotel quite often.
BH: What was Takao Okawara like as a director?
SS: He was very interesting. I thought of him as very artistic and a very generous type of director, and was very kind to me. I had a few problems on the set because I had to have training for karate and judo. They gave me training for one month on judo and one month on karate. There is a scene where I had to do some flips where I had to beat up Takashima-san, and I pulled a muscle in my stomach. We had to stop filming, so I had to go to the hospital and get that looked into. That’s when they decided to put a double in for me.
BH: So in a lot of those scenes, it’s actually a double and not you who’s performing those stunts.
SS: That’s right. At last, we had to do that. There were a lot of other accidents that came on the set, too. (laughs)
BH: Do you remember any of the other accidents that may have happened to the other actors?
SS: Well, there’s one scene where we’re in the Mechagodzilla, and it was quite an amazing setup. For some of the explosions, they had two “carbs” (electrical probes) zapping each other to get a reaction from us. So when it would be the take, all of us are in the cockpit, and we’re looking forward. We’re about to hit an explosion, so they hit these two carbs, and when they did that, everyone got burned! Our faces got burned! The next day, I couldn’t see. In fact, I had to wear an eyepatch for a whole week after that. I couldn’t see out of my eyes. It was quite a tragedy for me because I have blue eyes, and they’re really sensitive. Everyone’s face got kind of burned up. It was quite a hoopla! (laughs)
BH: Do you have any memories of the other actors who were in that movie, whether they were Western or Japanese — what they were like to work with?
SS: I forget the main captain’s name (Daijiro Harada). He was a wonderful guy. He’s an older gentleman. At that time, probably, he was like 45 years old.
BH: What was he like?
SS: Oh, out of all the actors, he was really supportive because he was just a very generous, giving actor. He was not in any way taking away from anyone’s spotlight. He would never upstage anyone. No one really upstaged anyone, but it was just an amazing learning experience for me at that time. Quite honestly, you’re the first person who’s actually wanting to cover the truth and talk to a real actor/actress that I am on the set. I’ll give you the best on hopefully getting the record straight on these bad reviews I’ve read.
BH: Oh, really? You’ve read bad reviews?
SS: Yes, of course. “Everyone knows that the acting was stilted,” or “I can’t believe that they would speak like that.” Yes, I know some of the scripting was really bad, and everyone has their own opinion. I think it’s great, but it’s kind of sad that no one’s ever asked me or wanting to get to me and interview me about it. I’m so glad that you’ve come forth, Brett. That’s fantastic! (laughs)
BH: It’s my pleasure. I’ve actually been looking forward to this. To be honest with you, about Mechagodzilla, I don’t know how it is in the Japanese press, but I do know that in the fan press in America, the only bad reviews I read for Mechagodzilla are for Leo Meneghetti’s performance. Other than that, that’s one of people’s favorite Godzilla movies.
SS: Oh, really? I guess since the Internet has come forth, I’ve been able to read up on some of these things. Way back when it first came out, it was really hard to see anyone’s point of view, but I’ve just often wished and hoped that I could tell my side of the story someday. Here I am, and I can do it. I’m just really grateful about that.
BH: Well, thank you. I’m glad you’re really getting into this interview. That’s good to hear.
SS: I’m just feeling very honored because it’s like, “Finally! Wow, after 12 years, someone wants to talk to me about the truth!” (laughs)
BH: Any other interesting stories from the set that you want to cover before we move on to some of your other roles?
SS: Actually, overall, it was a really hard movie to make, as it was my first action movie. The demands of the action were just so new to me. I’ve often found that the Japanese directors wouldn’t give enough compassion or encouragement to make us feel confident to do our job. I feel sorry sometimes for Leo Meneghetti, too, because he was just a person that was very popular with his look, such as how I’ve also progressed in my career in Japan. But unfortunately, he became very ill afterwards and ended up having a quadruple bypass.
BH: Is that so?
SS: Yeah, and he left the business completely afterwards and moved to Hawaii and stayed with his family, and I’ve never heard from him since. He used to be in Camp Zama, working there with horses and on a ranch. He used to run the ranch there. That’s when, of course, he got sick and had the quadruple bypass, and after (that) he moved to Hawaii.
BH: How’d you get the role in Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (as an analyst for the U.S. Satellite Information Center)?
SS: Well, fortunately because Toho was my sponsor for my visa, and also because I worked in Mechagodzilla, they’ve been most generous to let me be a part of almost all of their productions of Godzilla as much as possible. They’re very, very happy to have me on set whenever a role is there for me.
BH: What did you think of that role? It was very small. I think you only had about one line or so.
SS: Like I said, they’re very generous to give me any parts in any place that they can in those movies. What I do remember is just showing up on set and, “Hi, everybody!” “Oh, Shelley, how are you?” You know, very friendly, very kind, and just doing my job.
BH: Do you have any memories of that shoot, or was it that you go in there, say your line, go out, and that’s it?
SS: That was pretty much about it. Like I said, they’re always just very good to me whenever I get on the set. They all bow to me. “Thank you, thank you.” Very kind.
BH: Of course, you don’t just work in movies. You also have done some TV work, and one of your roles was in Ultraman Tiga (episode 6). Do you have any memories from that shoot?
SS: I think I was speaking some Japanese in that. If I remember correctly, they gave me a line in Japanese. I was just at that time learning Japanese, and I got really stuck on one word and had to keep repeating it. They’re like, “No, no, no.” I got stuck on a word, and when you get stuck on one word in Japan, they don’t let it go. You try to get the pronunciation just perfect. I forget what word it was right offhand, but I do remember briefly doing that. That was also fun. I’ve done quite a few things with that program, too.
BH: What else have you done with that program?
SS: I can’t think of the things offhand. It’s like a family business when you get into the Japan productions. Once you got in, they’re really loyal people in that respect. So I believe it had probably something to do with my agents, of course, being able to be close with these people in the movie business and TV.
BH: Your next role in Godzilla films was in Godzilla 2000, which was the role of the reporter. Now what were your memories of this role?
SS: That was great because we went into a big, huge parking lot, and there were just so many people. I think over 100 extras and reporters and all the lights — everything was quite amazing to see it. When we had to start reporting, there were other reporters, and there is actually a quite well-known reporter, a Japanese lady. She was like, “Oh, Shelley, you’re here, too!” I’m like, “Oh, yes! Well, of course, you’re here because you’re very famous! But yes, we’re all reporting on Godzilla. Isn’t this great?!” (laughs) But it was really good — good shoot. It was cold!
BH: Is that like Godzilla vs. Destoroyah where you don’t really have many other memories about it because it was one line, and that’s it?
SS: That’s right.
BH: Your most recent role in the Godzilla series was in the controversial Godzilla: Final Wars. How’d you get the role in Final Wars, which was the 50th-anniversary movie and had the biggest budget of all the Godzilla movies?
SS: Well, they auditioned everyone in Japan. I think every foreigner in Japan went to this audition for Final Wars. It was exclusive through my agency, the Inagawa Motoko Office (IMO for short). Everybody auditioned — all the action people. They just picked the people they wanted for the parts. Fortunately, like I said, they’re very generous and kind to Shelley! (laughs) And there I was. So I went on the set, and I just had the one day, of course, on the set. They fitted us for the costumes. They had the costumes done perfectly. Everything was perfectly done — the makeup and the hair, how they wanted it. They really took their time and effort on details in this particular movie, I felt.
BH: What was Ryuhei Kitamura like to work with?
SS: He was really great because it was like having young blood getting into the business for Toho, and getting Godzilla pulled up to the younger generation style of doing things, I felt.
BH: How would you compare working with Mr. Kitamura to working with Mr. Okawara?
SS: They’re both fantastic. They both have their ideas, and they’ve both been doing Godzilla for years, right? So I really couldn’t compare them other than that they’re really, really good directors. They know what they’re doing on the Godzilla set, that’s for sure.
Fortunately, I don’t think I was around for the special effects per se. It was just a lot of sitting around on the set, a lot of waiting around, and being very patient.
BH: So unlike Mechagodzilla, your face didn’t get blown off this time. (laughs)
SS: Yeah. No, Mechagodzilla was the biggest role and the hardest role I ever did in an action movie. (laughs)
BH: Did you get to meet any of the other Western actors who were a part of Final Wars, such as Don Frye?
SS: No, I didn’t. I did not meet Don Frye. I heard that he was also on the set, I think, the day after I was, but I never got to meet him, no.
BH: I don’t think you were at the premiere, were you, in Hollywood?
SS: No, I didn’t make it to that.
BH: Was there a reason for that?
SS: Nope, nope. I think, probably, they wanted just the main actors who could be able to finance going there. (laughs)
BH: What are some of your roles coming up in films, whether they’re kaiju films or not?
SS: I don’t have any of those type of roles in films coming up. The reason why I’m here in L.A. right now is I’m doing a movie that’s called I Am Nihonjin. It’s a movie that’s based on my daughter, who is the protagonist, who is experiencing her life here in America and also in Japan. I don’t have a lot more details on it, but one of the actors who’s very famous is Hiroshi Fujioka, and he’s playing my husband. Now he’s an action star.
BH: Kamen Rider.
SS: Yes, that’s right. He’s here in L.A. with us now. We’re going to start filming, I believe, tomorrow and the next day.
BH: What is Mr. Fujioka like to work with since he was in Kamen Rider, and he’s certainly been in a lot of special effects movies?
SS: I’ve been with him a couple of times. He’s really kind. He’s really quiet, very gentle soul. He seems to me like a person that has a lot of peace and good harmony in life that I can feel. He’s a good person, good people.
BH: Is there anything else you wanted to say?
SS: Like I said, Brett, I think it’s really amazing that we could finally connect up and do this type of interview and to let the readers know that in Japan, when it comes to writing the scripts, the actors don‘t have a lot to say. That’s why it sometimes comes out really funny. What they decide on the editing — what is good, or what it bad — is at the end of the day up to the director and the editor. That’s unfortunate for some of us actors because we don’t have any unions here in Japan to control anything or to make anything understandable. (laughs)
BH: So you’re pretty much at the whim of the director and the screenwriter in that respect.
SS: That’s right. There are times when I would say, “You know, this just doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t work in English.” And they’re like, “But that’s okay, just do it.” Then of course, we’re given the opportunity to do it this way, and that sounds good, but then they’ll decide what happens at the editing room.
I hope that I will be able to work with Godzilla and have Godzilla fans enjoy even more and more productions of greater things in the future.
In July 2007, Ms. Sweeney was interviewed by Brett Homenick a second time. The transcript of that interview is below. Please note that, due to the poor quality of the audio, some comments could not be transcribed. The transcript is presented in the most accurate form possible.
Brett Homenick: Please tell us a little bit about your background, how you got involved in acting, and how you came to Japan.
Shelley Sweeney: Very big question with a long answer, but, to make it simple and short, I am a fashion model by trade since [the] early ‘80s. I came to Japan through a Japanese modeling agency and spent three months in Tokyo. From there on, I traveled the world and did modeling all over countries in Europe and America and Asian countries, and ended up always coming back to Japan.
BH: How did it come about that you got involved in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla [II] (1993)?
SS: That was a wonderful experience. I auditioned for them. My agent was able to let me have an audition.
BH: I remember you mentioned that Julie Dreyfus, who went on to have a pretty interesting career in her own right – she was in Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003). She also auditioned for the part that you ultimately got. Do you remember anything about her [or] her audition?
SS: No, I didn’t see her at the audition or anything. But I was told that I had to wait for an answer before I got my part because there was another woman involved with this auditioning process, finding out that it was Julie Dreyfus. Then, apparently, she declined it, and then I accepted, and that was how that went.
BH: Do you remember any preproduction meetings that happened, like when they were fitting you with your outfit or your costume, or just preparing you for the movie? Do you have any memories about that process?
SS: Yes. Gosh, that took a few days, but [they] were able to put me through a lot of different lessons. I had to take karate lessons, and I had to do…
SS: Yes, and judo – really had to [train] for my role.
BH: Talk a little bit about working with director Takao Okawara – what he was like, and how he directed you in scenes.
SS: Well, actually, there were two directors, right? Well, they seemed like [it]. It was interesting because they were just so easygoing. They had trust in me as an actress and gave me [free] rein.
BH: In the scenes where you are fighting Masahiro Takashima, that’s actually a stunt double for you in a lot of those scenes. What do you remember about your stunt double? Did you have a chance to meet her?
SS: Well, actually, she was with me through the training process when I was doing judo and also through the process of fitting [for costumes]. She was really sweet; she spoke no English.
BH: What was it like to work with Masahiro Takashima?
SS: He’s a handsome boy, that one! He spoke very good English, and that impressed me because, usually, the actors don’t, and they don’t want to speak. But he was very professional, always there on time, always acknowledging everybody on the set, just wonderful to work with.
BH: Please share with us some of your memories of some of the accidents that happened on the set of Mechagodzilla.
SS: Well, the explosion scene. There was the scene where we had to pilot Mechagodzilla. This was about 3:00 in the morning, and we were preparing for the scene. Everyone was just hot because we were in our outfits, and we were all ready to go. Well, they had to make the explosion so that the lighting would come up in front of our faces. So we all had to pretend that we were in this big fighting scene, and we were controlling the Mechagodzilla. Well, when they lit up the two “carbs” to make the explosion, it really did explode, and it really did go off in all of our faces.
We got burned, and not recognizing anything about it – an hour later, getting makeup off, going home, thinking, “Oh, everything’s OK,” my eyes progressed to get worse. I started feeling a little grit, my face started getting really hot. The next morning, I couldn’t open my eyes. I called my agent: “I don’t know what’s happened with me. There’s something wrong.” Then the schedule just got worse and worse, so we had to cancel that week of filming of Mechagodzilla.
BH: Did it just get better on its own, or did you take medication for that?
SS: [They] had to put eyepatches on me because I couldn’t see, which was quite a unique situation. Everyone else seemed to be kind of OK. They only got burned. But I guess, because I have blue eyes, the sensitivity to the explosion made it worse. It was just absolutely horrendous; it was like sand [in my eyes].
BH: I think it was when you were preparing for the judo scene, or you were actually performing the scene, you also did get injured.
BH: What happened?
SS: Well, we were all preparing for the scene where I had to have a fight with Takashima-san. He’s all prepared; he’s doing his stretching and everything. Everyone’s lined up. Everything’s fine; I’m going to do my big flip, thinking that I can do this without having the double.
Well, I go to do my stance in the karate fighting, and, as I was doing that, I’m so intense and so into this that I pull my shoulders back, turn and twist, and pull the stomach muscles, and I can’t move. I’m frozen. They were like, “Oh, no!” and I’m like, “No, this can’t be happening!”
We’re all just sort of looking at each other. [They said,] “OK, just sit down, wait an hour. We’re thinking it’s going to get better.” Well, it doesn’t, and I had to go to the hospital. So they do use the double. We filmed my scenes at a later date, and I just sort of do the handstand and then the jump back, and I missed the opportunity of doing the action.
BH: The backstory to your character in that film is that you’re actually an android. That was never explained to you by the writers, director, or anybody.
SS: No, I had no idea until I talked to you! (laughs)
BH: I also remember that you weren’t happy with some of the dialogue that you had to say and that it really didn’t make sense in English. You really wanted to change it, but they [wouldn’t allow that].
SS: That happened a lot. That’s what they wanted, so we had to [say it].
BH: Do you have any other interesting stories from the set about Mechagodzilla that you want to share?
SS: There was a lot of waiting around. A lot of waiting around, hanging out with the actors, being entertained by one of the main actors, [Daijiro] Harada-san. Also very entertaining, very charismatic, and likes to tell jokes. So he was a very interesting person.
BH: Do you remember the Mechagodzilla set? Do you remember where you shot that?
SS: Yeah, Toho Studios – in a very old, old studio.
BH: Memories of Leo Meneghetti.
SS: That’s not the first time I worked with him. I was fortunate enough to do a movie called King’s Fire Play (1991). It was my first-ever film that I did when I came to Japan. I met him, and we had a scene where he played my father. He was into acting at that time, but I didn’t realize it. I just saw him as a good old American cowboy. He played that well. And then I saw him in Mechagodzilla.
BH: Was he a cowboy? Was that what he was like off-screen?
SS: Kind of, yes. He had a horse ranch that [he was taking care of].
BH: I do remember that you had quite a few memories about Godzilla 2000 (1999) where you played a reporter.
SS: That was nice because I had the experience of working on the Godzilla sets for a couple of years, so I knew the directors. So, when I do arrive on the set with the other foreigners, who are also in the background, all the staff and everyone knew me, and it was like, “Oh, Ms. Sweeney, welcome!” They were very kind – very open and warm.
BH: Your next role was also as another reporter in [Godzilla:] Tokyo S.O.S. (2003). It was a press pool scene, and I believe you’re holding up a tape recorder. Does anything stick out in your memory about that role?
SS: All the staff was very happy to have me back and were very kind – and I got my bento [box lunch].
BH: Do you have any memories of working with Mr. [Ryuhei] Kitamura [on Godzilla: Final Wars] (2004)?
SS: Yeah. Basically, I think we spent more time on the costume and hair than we did on set. We had to audition, and we had rehearsal, a time where we had to have fitting, and then do makeup and hair. Then, the next day, we do the same thing again for the next week or whatever it was. It took all morning. We get there and wait on the set. He kept changing this and changing that. He was more of an energetic type of director. Really nice to work with. Probably had a lot more to say, detail-wise, than [the other] directors.
BH: Do you remember anything about the actors who were also in that scene with you?
SS: Oh, sure. There was quite a few of the actors [who had lived] in Japan for a while, mostly models and [actors who had been on] TV. They were just people [from] our office.
BH: My last question will be on the recent Ultraman TV movie that you worked on [Ultraseven X (2007)]. Could you say a few words about that? When will it be on Japanese TV?
SS: We did that last week. It was pretty close to my agency that’s in Tokyo, in Roppongi. It was a nightclub scene. The director – he’s done quite a few Ultraman [shows] – he’s a younger guy. It’s a nightclub scene. The main actor comes running through the nightclub in a big panic, and we’re all just watching him. That will be on air in October, midnight, late-night TV movie.
BH: Did you [ever] watch any of the special effects scenes being shot [on any film]?
SS: It was just too much waiting time [on the set], I just remember. We’d already finished talking with each other and joking with each other. (laughs) I did see other stuff going on. I went to see the set with the miniatures. That was really, really interesting because I had no idea that’s how they actually filmed the Godzilla stuff. Security was really strong. In fact, I had to have a manager with me to go in and look at the miniatures. The guy who was in the Godzilla costume, I just clapped [at] the end. It was amazing because it was so hot; he had to sweat in that suit.
Q: [What do you remember about Megumi Odaka]?
SS: She was just really sweet and innocent. Like all the other Toho actors, very quiet and always on time.
Q: [After the accidents on set, were there any safety precautions taken]?
SS: No. (laughs) They say, “Shoganai.” (laughs) It can’t be helped.
Q: [Of all the Godzilla films you were in, which was your favorite?]
SS: Mechagodzilla! I wish I could see it, the whole movie. I was able to see the rushes on the day and see bits and pieces of it. But I’ve never seen the actual beginning straight through to the end, which I have to do.
Q: [Please talk about your other work in Japan.]
SS: In Japan, I work full-time as an actress. I’ve been signed to a contract with my agency there for 17 years this year.
I do a TV series called Unbelievable, which is a TV show every Thursday night, 8:00, with Beat Takeshi. He’s the emcee of the program. It’s all about murder-mystery reenactments, sort of like Court TV stuff. I’ve been doing that for 11 years now. I have a TV commercial right now for Daiwa House.
Q: What’s it like living there in Japan?
SS: I’ve adapted to the lifestyle in Japan so much. But every day is an adventure. I’m not a fluent speaker of the Japanese language. I pick it up as I go along, even with my work. Every day, there’s something new to learn. There’s never a dull moment, catching the train, or seeing people, the way they dress, or the different mood. Everything is an adventure. That’s why I love it there. It’s a very positive place to be.
Q: [About not having any speaking lines in Godzilla: Final Wars]
SS: It’s interesting you ask that because we all had to audition for this role in Final Wars. Everyone that was on the set auditioned for the movie. At the audition, we had lines, but it was like lines that were, [once] again, translated probably from a computer or whatever. We had to act with these lines. And then the guys had to audition and really do a lot of serious action stuff.
So they put me in the room with the guys doing the action stuff — sword-fighting and getting down on the ground and fighting. And I’m standing there: “What am I doing here?!” He just said: “OK, you guys wait there, and, Shelley, do your thing and act with these lines.” Then: “Congratulations, you got the part!” “OK, great!” (laughs) And then there’s no lines! I guess the action was all done at the audition.
Q: [Before getting cast in Mechagodzilla, had you heard of Godzilla?]
SS: Very interesting question. I actually had heard of Godzilla, but I had no idea and really didn’t realize how big Godzilla was until I came here this week. But, at that time, to me, it was like, “Oh, it’s just a movie, Godzilla.” (laughs) Even when I spoke to my family, they were like, “Oh.” And then my younger brother said, “Hey, you know, Godzilla is really cool. It’s a really great thing to be in.” I was like, “OK.”
Q: [Have you seen Godzilla: Final Wars in its entirety?]
SS: No, I haven’t. I have not seen any Godzilla movies to the end. I have to see one.
BH: You actually worked with Chuck Wilson [of Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah fame]. Why don’t you say a few words about Chuck Wilson?
SS: I worked with Chuck Wilson; we had a TV drama together. In this TV drama, he was my husband. We played a very unique type of couple where we had kidnapped a Japanese teacher that was in this drama, along with – he’s a lawyer.
BH: Kent Gilbert.
SS: Kent Gilbert. And Kent Gilbert’s wife was also a friend of mine – she’s a German lady. So the four of us kidnap this Japanese fellow, took him to the basement, tied him up, and tortured him. And I had to get all excited about this and jump into Chuck Wilson’s arms and scream, “Oh, we’ve caught this man!” Absolutely ridiculous. After that TV drama, he finished TV work in Japan.
Q: [Do you think sci-fi directors spend too much time focused on the technical aspects instead of the acting?]
SS: In a way, you’re right. They spent more time with the technical aspects. They had no concern about the actors.
Q: [Was that frustrating for you?]
SS: Sure, absolutely, because there’s times where it was like, “Are you sure that was OK?” because actors are always a little bit insecure about things. But all you could get is, “Hai,” and then they’d go. “Oh, OK, that was it. I hope it’s OK.”
It’s frustrating, and sometimes it goes to the extreme where they give too much information, and you’re like, “Wow, OK, I’ve got all this information, like the history of the character, I’ve got how I’m supposed to put my hands, and how I’m supposed to look over there at this person, and then I’m supposed to look down.”
But I got all this information in five minutes. Why couldn’t we have had all this discussed a little, or discussed the script, or have some kind of meeting? But, usually, it’s all done within five minutes.
Q: [Have you done any acting work in the States?]
SS: No, not in the States, I haven’t.
BH: Didn’t you film a movie with Hiroshi Fujioka [in the U.S.]?
SS: Oh, a Japanese production [I Am Nipponjin (2006)], yes. That was filmed in Los Angeles, yes. That’s a movie that came out last year. They were hoping that it was going to do well, but it didn’t.
Q: [What was it like to work with Beat Takeshi?]
SS: I’ve actually worked with him a couple of times. I worked with him once in a comedy movie — can’t think of the name of the movie offhand because it was almost 20 years ago. Then, about five years ago, I did a TV drama about a true story where he played the character of a bank robber, and I was his wife. We filmed that in Yokosuka in Japan.
He was very professional. Because he got quite well-known internationally at that time, he was very cool, very reserved, whereas 20 years ago when I worked on a movie with him as a comedian, he wasn’t so well-known. He was more open to talk with the foreigners or talk with people on the set. Now, he just goes in, does his thing.
Q: Twenty years ago, was that before or after his motorcycle accident?
SS: Way before. His motorcycle accident was, I think, about seven years ago. It was in the ‘90s.
Q: [Is there a role that you’ve always wanted to play?]
SS: Yes, there is. There’s one wonderful role that I wish they’d make a movie of. It’s about the first woman ever to [make a solo] voyage to Japan [Isabella Lucy Bird]. She was 40 years old, and it was in the early 1900s, a British woman. She took nobody else with her; she spoke none of the language. She got on the ship to Japan by herself, got off the ship, got on a horse, and traveled the whole country by herself. That would be a role that would be just absolutely amazing to play.
Q: [What other countries have you visited?]
SS: I went to drama school in England. That was interesting. Spain was one of my favorite countries. Taiwan — I was there for four months, working as a model. That was interesting because they have a whole different system of modeling there than they do in Japan for auditioning.
Q: [If they restarted the Godzilla series, would you want to be in it?]