View Full Version : Samurai Bob

John Lindsey
7th December 2003, 15:38
One of my favorites from the movie. Here is his story:

The Silent Samurai

SEIZO FUKUMOTO (The Silent Samurai) began his career at age 16, working at Toei Movie Company's Kyoto Film Studio. He gained experience by playing roles as an extra and a stunt man and made his movie debut in Kurama Tengu in 1959. Since then he has become one of the most pre-eminent Kirareyaku actors (a Samurai who is often cut by a hero and dies). His autobiography, appropriately, is entitled "Someone Somewhere Watches Me - Japan's Best Kirareyaku."

Fukumoto has appeared in such movies as Shin Jinginaki Tatakai-Kumicho no Kubi (Fight Without Loyalty-Gang Leader's Head), the updated version of the popular Yakuza (Japanese Mafia) movie series, Ryusei Ichizoku no Inbo (Conspiracy, Formed by the Ryusei Family), Iga Ninpo Cho (The Story of the Art of Iga Ninja), Gokudo no Tsumatachi (Gangster's Wives), Toy, and Red Shadow Akakage. He has also appeared in television dramas such as Echizen Ooka, Samurai Momotaro Heiji Zenigata, Abarenbo Shogun (Violent Shogun) and Sanbiki ga Kiru (Three Samurai Cut by a Sword).

John Lindsey
7th December 2003, 15:42

Silent Samurai speaks up on career, Hollywood

Shogo Hagiwara / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

KYOTO--Some say Seizo Fukumoto has appeared in more than 20,000 movies and television programs over the course of his acting career, which has spanned more than 40 years, but that he cannot claim any one of them as his major role. Fukumoto, 60, agrees with the later part of this assessment, but says that he has no idea how many programs he has acted in, it's just too many to count.

But The Last Samurai may feel a bit different for him.

Until now, Fukumoto has been known mainly as an actor who gets slashed to death by swords in Japanese period dramas. Despite that, however, he has a strong fan base with several Web sites dedicated to him and some documentary programs featuring his career. But it's also true that his fame beyond fans of Japanese historical pictures is nonexistent.

But when The Last Samurai hits theaters across the country this weekend, all that may change. Playing a character called the Silent Samurai (obviously he doesn't speak in the movie), the veteran actor appears on screen hovering behind Tom Cruise's Capt. Nathan Algren as the samurai whose job it is to look after the American.

"When I found myself on the set with no one else but Tom-san at one point during the shoot, I just couldn't believe it," Fukumoto said. "My role in the film is too small for anyone to notice, though. People (who have seen the film) come up to me and say, 'Where the heck are you in the movie?'"

This isn't really true, though. The media-shy Fukumoto said so merely to divert attention away from himself. But his contributions shouldn't be understated. Admittedly, he keeps his mouth shut throughout the film, but he is constantly on the screen and his presence as an amusing sidekick is made louder by his silence.

Fukumoto said appearing in a Hollywood movie was "beyond my wildest dreams" as he has always been an anonymous extra. Fukumoto said he didn't even think about getting a role in Last Samurai simply because he believed he wasn't good enough.

"I heard that the director and staff of Last Samurai would be coming to Tokyo for the audition of the Japanese cast, but I didn't bother to apply," said Fukumoto, who chain-smoked during the entire interview, as if trying to relax. "I've been working at Toei (one of the nation's major film production and distribution companies) for 44 years, but being part of a Hollywood movie was never anything more than a dream. On top of that, the film stars Tom-san and the director (Edward Zwick) is an Oscar-winning filmmaker."

Thinking that such famous company was out of his league, Fukumoto was prepared to let it slide, but one of his fans contacted casting director Yoko Narahashi without his knowledge. And before he knew it, he had gotten a part.

"When I received the news, my first reaction was like, 'That can't be true!'" Fukumoto recalled.

Fukumoto may have gotten a role he never thought possible in an unusual way, but about 40 years ago his career took off in a similar fashion--he wasn't even aiming to be an actor.

Born in Hyogo Prefecture in 1943, Fukumoto was forced to take over his family's rice-selling business when he was 15, fresh out of middle school. But the young Fukumoto was too young to settle down, so he packed up his stuff and left home, knocking on the door of relatives living in Kyoto, where Toei had--and still has--its studio. While it was never a career Fukumoto had thought about taking up, his relatives knew someone at Toei, and, through that channel, he landed a job there. As it turns out, he has been working at the studio for nearly half a century.

"It seems I have always been surrounded by good people who have helped me in one way or another to become the actor I am today. I'm not sure if I deserve it all, though," Fukumoto added.

By the way, the Silent Samurai does have a line to utter in the film. It's: "Tom-san!" Oh, sorry. Correction. That's: "Algren-saaaan!"

8th December 2003, 22:40
Watching the one-sided verbal interaction and insults Tom Cruise's character heaped upon "Samurai Bob" during his months of captivity, I felt for sure to interject an understated humorous gag - that somewhere near the end of the movie Samurai Bob would have addressed Captain Algren in perfect English - to Algren's bewilderment.

That Samurai Bob had understood everything Algren had said to him from day one. Now that would have been funny!!

11th December 2003, 09:26
Honestly, I was thinking the same thing! I was waiting for 'Bob' to say some witty comment towards the end of the movie and have Cruise crap his pants.

Cady Goldfield
15th December 2003, 15:34
I got a kick out of the character, and also was happy to see that a "little guy/face in a crowd" movie guy can get a break in his career and have a chance to shine. It doesn't require spoken lines to do that (although his one line - just before his character dies in battle - is perfectly fitting), just a "presence," which Fukumoto has.

15th December 2003, 20:42
Remember: there are no small parts, only small actors.
--Konstantin Stanislavsky

If I recall my theatre history correctly, Stanislavsky -- the famous Russian actor and director -- gave his last performance as a butler who had no lines in the play. One person noted how sad it was such a great actor had such a small part. Stanislavisky (iirc) then made his famous comment and proved his point by stealing every scene due to his acting. Again, it's been over 30 years since I studied this craft, and I may have misattributed -- however the point has most recently been proved by Silent Bob.