The Japanese star moves into English-language pics with ‘Silence,’ ‘Rita Hayworth’

After appearing in numerous TV roles in the 1990s, Japanese actor Yosuke Kubozuka’s stardom skyrocketed when he scored the lead in the 2001 Japanese Academy Award-winning drama “Go.” His star continued to climb with roles in “Pingu-Pongu,” “Laundry” and “Ichi.” This year, he’s tapping into English-language films, starring in a Martin Scorsese-directed drama and filming the war drama “Rita Hayworth With a Hand Grenade.”

Kubozuka’s first Hollywood production is certainly a high-profile one: he stars alongside Liam Neeson and Adam Driver in “Silence,” Martin Scorsese’s historical drama that follows two Jesuit priests’ efforts to spread Christianity. The role required him to develop his English language skills, lose weight and study 17th century history.

The 36-year-old actor had to devote a significant amount of time to the film’s extended shooting schedule. There was a silver lining to the project’s prolonged time frame though, the actor says. “No matter how long the wait was in-between takes, I treasured each moment because the wait was worth it — the wait to work with people who all shared the same passion of wanting to make a great film,” Kubozuka says.

Reflecting on his early encounters with Scorsese, Kubozuka praises the storied filmmaker’s hands-on approach to directing, recalling a “Silence” scene that was filmed in a dirty staircase. “As Scorsese directed me on my physical actions, he himself performed what needed to be done, falling on the ground and getting his clothes dirty. And he didn’t care,” Kubozuka says.

Kubozuka’s pursuit of the craft was driven by a fascination with the “theatrics of acting” and as his career developed, that drive became influenced by storytelling and a zest for new experiences. “Even though I have one soul, I am able to live and experience many souls [as an actor],” he says.

Kubozuka plays opposite Elizabeth Banks in “ Rita Hayworth With a Hand Grenade.” Banks plays as a WWII photojournalist shot down over the Pacific and stranded on an island, where the only other inhabitant is a marooned Japanese soldier (Kubozuka). Pic is being sold at Cannes by Radiant Films Intl.