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Ken Watanabe on Geisha

MSN-Mainichi: Ken Watanabe defends casting choices in ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’

Critics say the sight of Chinese actresses playing subservient geishas insults the memory of Chinese victims of Japanese atrocities during World War II.

But Watanabe, who plays a businessman in “Memoirs,” said the art of being a geisha should be universal.

“I thought a lot about the meaning of geisha in Japanese society, and during shooting it occurred to me that geisha has always been like opera — beautiful costumes and beautiful music and amazing dancing and maybe some love,” Watanabe said in an interview published in the February edition of the magazine Prestige Hong Kong.

“Opera is totally Italian. But sometimes German or English or Chinese or Japanese people play in the opera,” he said.

“The same thing with this movie. Talent is the most important thing. A beautiful soprano. A wonderful tenor. Not your nationality,” Watanabe argued.

It’s a pretty argument. Too bad it doesn’t make any sense!

Real reasons for the Geisha casting choices:

  1. They wanted someone American audiences would recognize from other movies.
  2. They figured American audiences wouldn’t know the difference anyway.

And they’re probably right. :>

I previously discussed this movie here and here.