THE LAST SAMURAI: Hiroshi Fujioka Recalls His Career in Japanese Science Fiction!

Photo © Sanki Worldwide Co., Ltd.

Born on February 19, 1946, actor Hiroshi Fujioka made his film debut at Shochiku in 1965, after which he appeared in a small role in the international cult classic The X from Outer Space (1967). Shortly thereafter, Mr. Fujioka rose to fame with the popular TV superhero series Kamen Rider (a.k.a. Masked Rider) in 1971 as Takeshi Hongo. The lead role in Kamen Rider led to his starring in several Toho tokusatsu movies in the 1970s: Submersion of Japan (1973), Espy (1974), and Conflagration (1975). Mr. Fujioka was selected for the leading role in the Hollywood thriller Ghost Warrior (a.k.a. Swordkill, 1984) and became the first Japanese actor to become a member of the Screen Actors Guild. Aside from acting, Mr. Fujioka is also well-known as an accomplished martial artist. Moreover, he is a member of a private volunteer group and for decades has gone to trouble spots and refugee camps around the world to help people in need by supporting humanitarian operations. He also has written many books, and he continues to act in various fields. In this 2008 interview, Mr. Fujioka answered Brett Homenick’s questions about his tokusatsu career. The interview was translated by Emiri Sato.

Brett Homenick: How did you become an actor?

Hiroshi Fujioka: I became an actor because I had a keen interest in human beings and the history of mankind. The world of TV and movies was of great fascination to me. Then I studied at an acting school while participating in auditions. Finally, I was scouted at one of those auditions.

BH: Do you remember working on the film The X from Outer Space (1967)? If so, what are your memories?

HF: It was not too long after my career started. So I only remember devoting myself to playing my role.

BH: How did you get cast in the original Kamen Rider (1971-73) TV series?

HF: I auditioned for the leading role and was chosen for that.

BH: Do you have any interesting memories from working on Kamen Rider?

HF: In the earlier part of the series, I myself acted with Kamen Rider’s mask and suit on, not using a stuntman. During the shooting, I had an accident and was hospitalized with a [near-]fatal injury. Hovering between life and death, I finally could come back. I was running through the best days of my youth, devoting my life to my work. I will never forget how happy I was when I came back after the injury.

BH: What did you find difficult about working on Kamen Rider?

HF: I risked my life working on the earlier parts of the series, as I did both acting and suit-acting [stunts]. Also, I remember the kids in those days believed I was Kamen Rider in real life, so they would always beg me to transform, which made me perplexed.

BH: What was Hideyo Amamoto like to work with on Kamen Rider?

HF: I always felt his strong influence as a senior actor and learned a lot from his professional work ethic. I respect him from my heart.

BH: For Submersion of Japan (1973), how would Shiro Moritani direct you in a scene?

HF: He was always kind and supportive to me, giving me the precise instructions during the shooting.

BH: Do you have any memories of working with Keiju Kobayashi and Tetsuro Tamba on Submersion of Japan?

HF: I was intimidated by both of them, as they were men of dignity and personality. I learned a lot from their enthusiasm for acting.

BH: What are some of your other memories from Submersion of Japan?

HF: Because CG did not exist in those days, when shooting the scene of an earthquake, for example, the staff actually destroyed the elaborate sets and filmed them in one take. We did not have a chance for a second take, as all the sets, to which the staff devoted their heart and soul, were destroyed in a second. No errors were allowed. Each and every take was literally once and for all. It made me nervous, but I learned how concentrated and enthusiastic an actor must be.

BH: How would you describe Jun Fukuda as a director on the film Espy (1974)?

HF: I always felt his severe eyes on me during the shooting.

BH: Do you remember the personalities of Eiji Okada and Goro Mutsumi on Espy?

HF: They are great persons and actors, whom I respect very much. I learned a lot from their personality.

BH: Were there any hard stunts to do on this film?

HF: I remember the two hardest stunts especially: the fight scene with a large-built African-American actor and the water scene done by myself without using a stunt actor.

BH: What was it like filming the scenes in Instanbul for Espy?

HF: I really like the Istanbul scenes, although we did not actually go there.

BH: Do you have any other stories to tell about this film?

HF: I believe love is more precious than life, and love can conquer anything. All you need is love!

BH: On Conflagration (a.k.a. High Seas Hijack, 1975), what do you remember about director Katsumune Ishida?

HF: I do not remember him clearly. I can tell you in general, however, the directors of Toho in those days had a high caliber, although they were usually quiet.

BH: What was it like working with the non-Japanese actors in this movie?

HF: The story was about a crisis that could have actually happened. It was challenging and enjoyable to work on the film that gave me an international view.

BH: Do you have any interesting stories from the set of Conflagration?

HF: I must say that the tokusatsu [SFX] techniques of Toho in those days were just superb. We did not have CG or computers. All we could rely on was the ideas, creativity, sense, and wisdom of the devoted staff. I am still impressed by them.

BH: What would you like to tell us about working on Yamato Takeru (a.k.a. Orochi the Eight-Headed Dragon, 1994)?

HF: I enjoyed working on that film, as it was based on the legends of Japan. I really like the Japanese tradition, culture, and history, as well as the history of humanity itself. I am especially interested in the legends of the world.

BH: Do you have any final words for readers of [this interview]?

HF: I wish for the revival of the Japanese movie industry and hope that Japanese techniques, creativity, and ideas create the pictures that everyone can enjoy globally. I want to continue my journey, looking for freedom, love, dreams, and joy. I will do my best and keep trying. I look forward to meeting every one of you in future pictures.

Hiroshi Fujioka is a great hero who inspires us to love, to dream, to do what’s right, to have courage, and to hope — not only through his roles in the movies, but also in his private life. He is the real “Last Samurai” in both spirit and behavior. He believes the Bushido spirit can save the world. Therefore, he expects that he can spread the Bushido spirit through his new movies all over the world!

Special thanks to Emiri Sato and Sanki Worldwide Co., Ltd., for all their help in arranging this interview.

Please visit Mr. Fujioka’s official website at http://www.samurai-hiroshi.com.

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