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Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2001

He ain't heavy, he's Beat Takeshi. And he likes real handguns.

Turning out to promote "Brother" were director "Beat" Takeshi Kitano, stars Omar Epps and Claude Maki, and producers Masayuki Mori (of Office Kitano) and Jeremy Thomas, who has worked in the past with Nagisa Oshima and Bernardo Bertolucci. Filmed on two continents, "Brother" is easily Kitano's most ambitious film so far (logistically, if not stylistically; this is pretty much your average post-post-Tarantino hard-men-with-guns flick).

Claude Maki, Takeshi Kitano and Omar Epps (Left to right), at a promotional event for Kitano's "Brother."

The lavish (by local standards) $12 million budget spent on it will demand a good showing internationally. Local audiences may prove a hard sell, however; there was a sparse media turnout for the press conference. Perhaps, unlike the French, the locals know Kitano all too well as a slap-head comedian to entertain his auteurist pretensions.

On the film's international profile:

Jeremy Thomas: "On the 12th of December (2000), in France, the film will be opening in just under 300 cinemas. This level of release is right up there with the major American films. And it won't just be shown in the cities, but the small towns as well. In January, it will open in other places in Europe, and it's been invited to a special gala screening at Sundance. And it will open in America in many, many cities in April. (In America,) the film is being distributed by Sony Classics, the most respected specialized distributor in America. They have a very good record of choosing films that they can promote into cinemas. We've also shown it at the New York Film Festival, and (based on) the reaction so far, we're very optimistic."

On filming in the United States:

Takeshi Kitano: "At first there were rumors that I was going to make a Hollywood film, but basically, I wanted to bring my own staff; my feeling was it wouldn't go well if I didn't. It wasn't a problem, though: Whatever country you play the game in, the rules don't change. When I first proposed this project, I was really worried about a lot of stuff, filming in America and the like. But as it turned out, we got a really good film completed with almost no problems. When a work isn't going smoothly, I find I get really anxious over it, but lately I've felt that to make a good movie, you can't get worried while you're making it.

"Basically, when I film inside Japan, I impose self-limitations before we start to shoot. In Japan, it's really impossible to rent locations in cities or to close down a road. The handguns, too, you have to use ones that look like toys. But when I went overseas, I saw real guns and that you could get them just about anywhere, and I thought, I want to do this, let's do it.

"I guess the great thing about (filming in) foreign countries is that if you say 'I want to do this,' they'll try to do it for you. If only I had known it was like that earlier!"

On working with Kitano:

Omar Epps: "To those people who are wondering about Japanese cinema and American cinema, and so forth and so on, welcome to the future. I'm looking forward to doing another dance with Kitano some day. And all I can say is, hold on to your hats, a film like 'Brother' is going to set off a whole new wave of young filmmakers. You have to realize the power of a film like this to a little 12-year-old kid growing up now who wants to be a filmmaker."

On the film's story of yakuza battling the mafia:

TK: "As far as the content is concerned, well, this is something I don't talk about much [knowing chuckle], but the content is really like the attack on Pearl Harbor. The protagonist is named Yamamoto, and he's Yamamoto Isoroku. And Kato is [Capt. Takeo] Kato [of the] Hayabusa [Fighter Squadron]. It's a story of how they planned hondo kessen [a final decisive battle] and blew it. Well, a parody version."

On why women viewers are reported to like the film:

TK: "I feel it's natural that what guys see in the film as cool, women will too."

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