Mon, May 24, 2004 - Page 16 News List

Japan's top teenage actor needs no more encouragement

AFP , TOKYO

Japan's Yuuya Yagira, 14, who picked up the Best Actor award at this year's Cannes Film Festival, said yesterday the prize had convinced him to pursue a screen career and ditch ambitions to be a soccer player.

"I am very happy although I wondered if it is okay to be given this big award," said Yagira, who was in the southern French resort for the festival but had to fly home before the awards ceremony to sit exams.

"I was previously unable to decide between a soccer player or an actor, but I am now convinced I should work hard as an actor," he said in a statement.

Yagira said he acted in the movie Nobody Knows just the way he was told by director Hirokazu Koreeda.

The film, which had its world premiere at Cannes before release in Japan in July, is based on a real-life story in which four children were abandoned by their mother and left to fend for themselves.

The youngster plays the oldest of the four children, who are aged between four and 12 in the film.

Reiko Kubo, a film critic based in Tokyo, said Yagira fully deserved the award.

"When I saw the movie, I thought the director made a very good choice in casting ... But his age and inexperience made me doubt if he could win the Best Actor award," she said.

"It turned out judges have an eye," she said.

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