Ken Watanabe is Japan's best-known actor abroad. He has starred in Hollywood films on samurai and geisha, but now he says he wants to show films less stereotypical of his country in the US.
Watanabe produced his latest Japanese-language movie, Memories of Tomorrow, and he plays the lead role of a successful businessman hit by Alzheimer's disease while still young.
"I have respect for past filmmakers who were courageous enough not to fear misunderstandings or failures" over culture, he said. "That is why as a producer I'd like to bring to the United States movies that do not feature ninjas and samurais."
Watanabe, 46, was nominated for an Oscar as best supporting actor for his role as the warrior Katsumoto in 2003's The Last Samurai, starring Tom Cruise.
He was also in last year's Batman Begins and Memoirs of a Geisha, in which he portrayed a rich businessman falling in love with a poor girl who becomes one of Japan's famous traditional hostesses.
Watanabe, who speaks fluent English, is one of the few Japanese stars in Hollywood. He said that before filming The Last Samurai, he feared that a US film on Japan would be rife with stereotypes.
"But during shooting we had rather fierce discussions, and as a result the movie itself became a channel through which Japanese and non-Japanese could understand one another," he said.
Watanabe said he now wants to work on films on issues of social concern, as seen in his latest work.
Watanabe is now filming one of the twin movies by Clint Eastwood which aim to depict the bloody World War II battle of Iwo Jima from both the US and Japanese perspectives. (AFP)
1. What is NOT true about Ken Watanabe?
a. He doesn't want to make any more American films.
b. He speaks English very well.
c. He has worked with Tom Cruise on a movie.
2. What is his latest Japanese-language movie about?
a. A Japanese warrior.
b. A businessman who falls in love with a poor girl.
c. A businessman who gets a disease.
3. What kind of Japanese movies would Watanabe like to bring to the US?
a. Movies about World War II.
b. Movies about traditional Japanese culture.
c. Movies about today's social issues.
4. What does Watanabe think of The Last Samurai?
a. It is rife with stereotypes.
b. Making it helped Americans and Japanese understand each other.
c. It is a movie about an important social concern.