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Interview

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Will Yun Lee On The Wolverine
He'll admit to playing Kenuichio Harada - but does his character have another name?

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Will Yun Lee has played a Marvel character before - he was big bad Kirigi in Elektra - but that's not to be confused with his character in The Wolverine. We know he's officially billed as Kenuichio Harada, but beyond that Lee can't say much for fear of spoilers. Still, we did get a few snippets from him on his experience of filming, including Hugh Jackman's thing with lottery tickets...

Will Yun Lee On The Wolverine

Tell us about your character...
I play a man named Harada and he's kind of a mysterious character, and the way the movie is structured he's definitely involved in a lot of the relationships between Hugh and Tao and some of the different characters, but you never really know what side of the line he falls on. He's part of some of the great action sequences you're going to see.

And you have to be careful of spoilers. Is this the first movie in a while you have to worry about that?
Yes, the studio is here looking over my shoulder! No, it's one of those pieces that the less the audience knows in terms of specifics, the more they'll enjoy it. I think the movie is twofold - to me, I feel like watching what I've seen on set and some of the epic pieces we got to be a part of in Japan, not only will it have the action of a tent pole movie, but there are great characters that bring the nuances of Japan to a superhero movie.

This is your second time playing a Marvel character? Did they give you homework to do by reading the comics?
It was a combination of the script and the comics. Wolverine and the X-Men were one of my favourite comics growing up but I never read the Claremont version of Logan's journey to Japan. So it was new, but it was also one of those things where in the audition process there wasn't a lot to prepare because when I went in and got sides, my character's name, because it was so top secret, was Mario. I went, "I know there can't be a Mario in this story!” I didn't know much, but once I sat down with James, what I came to find out was to be prepared as possible, because he has 30/40 ideas and choices I never would have thought of in terms of playing each scene. That's the biggest thing I took away from it.

Tao said James was very collaborative and welcomed ideas, so did you throw your own ideas in?
In all the movies I've shot, I've never seen an A-list actor during lunch break go eat with the entire crew. Hugh did it almost every day.
Absolutely. It's the dream scenario, because sometimes you walk on the set and you get the sense that the director doesn't know what he wants and then you feel unsafe. In this case, particularly after my first week, I knew I was in safe hands. Because he knew what he wanted, he allowed us to play in his sandbox. And that was cool.

And you have Hugh as Wolverine. Do you ever access your childhood X-Men fan and think, 'I'm on screen with Wolverine!'
To an extent, yeah. When you're on the plane flying to Australia, that's what you're thinking of, and you become the giddy actor remembering what it was like on your first set. That's the magic of Hugh, and it goes along with James and Hiroyuki Sanada particularly. I have a couple of Hugh stories. In all the movies I've shot, I've never seen an A-list actor during lunch break go eat with the entire crew. He did it almost every day. That nature that he has took away any nervousness. He's so gracious that way. In the other story, my wife was so blown away by him, because every Friday, no matter what we would do, in Sydney or Japan, he'd buy lottery tickets for the entire cast and crew. He'd have a thousand of them in his hand from the beginning of the morning and he'd pass every single one of them out. My wife came to set and he made her come over and gave her a lottery ticket, remembered her name the next day. He's so humble and human. You don't get to see that too often on a set like that.

Talk shooting in Japan, and seeing the country?
Sometimes when you're in different countries, everything has become so homogenised and there's a Starbucks and McDonalds everywhere and you could feel like you're in Florida. But in Japan, you know you're there. Some of the sequences we shot were truly epic. You'd watch them on the monitor and almost forget that you're in a huge action movie. There were all these nuances that reflected Japanese culture and warriors and you felt it with the crew there too.

With your martial arts background, were you allowed to do more of the stunts?
I had an incredible stunt double called Jeremy Marinas and I've never seen someone flip so much in my life! That's where insurance gets involved... But the 87 Eleven stunt team let me do as much as I could. Whenever you're fighting with weapons, there's a level of reality because people don't understand that these are still metal or hard rubber with sharp points that if the timing's wrong you could definitely get hurt. There's nothing like working with an actor who doesn't know what they're doing, because you're always in fear of losing an eye. Thankfully, Hugh's timing is impeccable.


Pick up the July 2012 issue of Empire magazine for much more on The Wolverine - including an exclusive interview with Hugh Jackman.

Interview by James White

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