Rila Fukushima was best known as a model and had only appeared in one short film before she was cast in The Wolverine as Yukio. But we can expect to see much more of her in future; she has the acting bug now, and has training as an assassin so casting directors had better watch out. We chatted to her about working with Hugh Jackman's metal-boned mutant and how she approached the part...
Tell us about your character... Wolverine travels to Japan to see his old friend, Master Yashida to talk about his immortality. My character, Yukio is working for the powerful Yashida family, for the guy that Wolverine met years ago. So I'm the one sent to find Logan and bring him to Japan.
And she's a fairly tough woman? Yeah, she's pretty tough. A badass! She's highly trained in martial arts and is a bodyguard for the Yashida family.
How much training did you have to go through to play her? Once I got the part, I started training for three weeks before we started training. It was challenging, but I had a lot of fun. I learned Japanese swords and Bo staff and to fist fight, plus some knife work. At first, I learned a little bit of everything, mainly katana and Bo staff. My character is the type of girl who can fight with anything. She can fight with a cell phone probably! Anything she finds. For this film, I had swords, staffs and my fists. I learned some gymnastics too. I can't spin in the air, unfortunately, but I learned basic things.
Did you adapt quickly? You must keep in shape to be a model.
I kicked people before, so I was ready for that. But I never killed people before, so they trained me very well.
I was exercising before I got the part because I love it, and I was taking martial arts classes for fitness. So it was definitely helpful because I had a little bit of muscle and some experience, and was okay with kicking people! I kicked people before, so I was ready for that. But I never killed people before, so they trained me very well. Now I can kill people, okay?
That's good to know. It's scary, but it's good to know. If you need me to kill someone, just let me know. I'll fly there and I'll do it! I have to become Yukio, though, so I have to dye my hair red before I kill them, so it'll take three days' notice.
This is your first big film. How was it stepping onto the set for the first time? It was, so everything was so new and fresh and amazing. Especially working with Hugh. He's a great performer and he's very nice to everyone on set. You felt like he's a superstar but he's a real person, and he made me want to keep acting in the future. I hope I can become like him in the future. I told him "thank you" a lot, and he said, "you don't have to thank me, when I started acting, a lot of people helped me out." He told me never to feel like I didn't belong. And that if I establish myself as an actress, I can help other people. It was such a lovely thing to hear from someone like Hugh. I'm excited to see the movie, but so nervous too!
How was it working with James Mangold? He's the greatest director a first-time actor could work with! And he's great for actresses, especially his past film work. I'm very glad I could get to work with him. He gave me a lot of freedom to build my character, and even though he had millions of things to do on set, he gave me feedback and advice. I did a lot of the stunt sequences, so he was always making sure I was okay. Hugh and James worked together 10 years ago, so hopefully I can get to see James again in 10 years after I have some experience!
Was it interesting seeing Japan through Hugh and James and the crew's eyes? Shooting in Japan is a great feeling because I appreciated that they came down to shoot part of the film there. We went to Yoshino Prefecture, which was so beautiful. I had seen some of it, but it was amazing to see people shooting there. They really picked some great locations. Some of the places they shot I had never seen, and it was awesome I got to go there. James loves a lot of Japanese films and filmmakers and got ideas for where he wanted to shoot.
How does modelling compare to acting? I had been taking acting classes on and off while I was modelling, so I always had a dream to be in a film. I never thought about acting before I started modelling, but since then I've been in short films and music videos and I got interested. It felt natural to switch over. I tried to get ready slowly.
So how is it playing a Marvel character? James Mangold told me he thinks next Halloween there will be a little girl with red hair like Yukio and that will be so cool!
Pick up the July 2012 issue of Empire magazine for much more on The Wolverine - including an exclusive interview with Hugh Jackman.