Filmmakers and star talk “TETSUO: THE BULLET MAN”

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Originally published at on April 28, 2010

Tying in with the U.S. premiere of TETSUO: THE BULLET MAN at the current Tribeca Film Festival, a panel discussion was held with the filmmakers and star at the Soho Apple Store. Director Shinya Tsukamoto, producer Masayuki Tanishima and actor Eric Bossick answered questions and offered observations about making the third in the TETSUO series.

The first film (a.k.a. THE IRON MAN) and TETSUO II: THE BODY HAMMER have been hailed as the best cyberpunk films to come out of Japanese cinema. Tsukamoto wanted the third continuation to also be set in Japan, but spoken in English and headed by an American actor. Hollywood approached him with numerous offers for this project, but creative conflicts prevented these from being fulfilled, and the originally attached producers dropped out because of the way the economy was heading. After 18 years, Tsukamoto felt compelled to bring THE BULLET MAN to the screen his way, rather than give up on his vision.

When Bossick first auditioned for the project, he had no idea what he was in for. “I didn’t know it was TETSUO because the script was titled just THE BULLET MAN,” he said. “I didn’t know what the role was. I guessed I would have 10 minutes of screen time. One hundred actors came in for the first audition; five came in for the second.”

When he discovered what he’d actually be starring in, he felt like “I won the lottery. TETSUO is a worldwide name, known all across the world. It’s a part of cinematic history. I am the first foreigner to work closely with [Tsukamoto].” Understanding the physical elements of his character, as well as his dance training, helped Bossick enact the lead role of Anthony, a family man transformed into a metallic demon.

Tanishima explained that six months is the typical period spent making a film in Japan, making it especially tough to spend the two years he did on this project. An early cut was screened at film festivals last year to gauge audience reactions, followed by reshoots and many takes on the sound design. Where the latter is concerned, Tribeca audiences are the first to hear a new song by Nine Inch Nails added to the end credits. The seeds of this collaboration were planted way back in 1989, when lead singer Trent Reznor wrote a personal fan letter to Tsukamoto, expressing his desire to work with the director. The director faxed him back at the time, but never received a reply; but when Tsukamoto asked him to participate in the latest film, Reznor said yes right away. However, “Last November, I lost hope the song would arrive after word came of Nine Inch Nails breaking up,” Tanishima recalled. “Between January and February, the song arrived. I realized then that superstars don’t follow schedules.”

When queried about whether he has a favorite among his three TETSUO features, Tsukamoto replied, “Asking me to choose is like asking a father to choose whom of his children is his favorite. The original is a reckless, misbehaving child. The second is cynical. The third has just been born, and I don’t know what to make of it.” He added that when he next goes behind the camera, the film will have a new theme and not be in the cyberpunk genre.

For information on TETSUO: THE BULLET MAN’s Tribeca screenings, go to the festival site linked above, and look for more coverage of the film at this site soon.