Did you know Keanu Reeves can speak Japanese? OK, he can't. But he certainly made an earnest effort with his latest movie. Most of which we probably won't get to see.
Reeves is well known to be a hard working actor — say what you will about his acting quality, the man takes his preparation seriously. For his upcoming movie, 47 Ronin, a movie based on a Japanese legend, Reeves worked under a Japanese coach so he could perform his lines in Japanese as well as English.
In the movie, there are scenes where Reeve's character, Kai, speaks Japanese. But according him, by order of the director, Carl Erik Rinsch, there was a take filmed with Reeves speaking all of his lines in Japanese for each and every one of his scenes. "I recorded every scene with Japanese dialog according to the wishes of the director." Reeves said in an interview with Kotaku sister site Kotaku Japan. "If the director wanted to, he could probably release a full Japanese version of the film."
The Japanese actors went through the reverse process, filming their scenes in Japanese and then again in English. In separate interview with Kotaku Japan, Tadanobu Asano, who played the story's antagonist, Kozukenosuke Kira, reflected on his experience and how it helped him get into character. "Doing a scene in [your native tongue], your expression changes and your emotions follow. So by trying once in Japanese and understanding the emotions I felt when saying my lines, I was able to act with my English lines."
Very often when characters in movies or on TV shows speak foreign languages, it can be horrifyingly terrible — or hilarious, depending on how it's done. As someone who is bilingual, I've seen my share of teeth-grindingly awful attempts on both sides of the ocean, so it's nice to see filmmakers and actors putting in that extra little bit of effort every now and then. Personally, I'd like to see the reverse-language version of 47 Ronin. Maybe it'll be a bonus feature on the Blu-ray release.
47 Ronin premiered in Japan last week and the box office numbers for its first two days were a disappointing ¥105,248,200 ($1.1 million). Hopefully it will fare better in Australia when it premieres on January 9, 2014.