Monday, May 19, 2014

Specialists in getting killed by samurai

Seizo Fukumoto has been stabbed, slashed and sliced with Japanese swords for over 50 years.

He is one of the top "kirareyaku" actors, stuntmen who specialize in being killed by the hero samurai in period movies and TV shows.

A true kirareyaku is one who can make viewers cringe in their seats, "the one that can make them ask, 'Is he OK?' " Mr. Fukumoto said.

The 71-year-old thespian got into acting at age 15 and soon became fascinated with playing the antagonist on screen. At night, on his futon, he would ponder flashier ways to drop dead in a sword fight. One of his signature moves is the "ebi-zori," or prawn bend, in which after being struck, he arches his body backward like a prawn, then goes into convulsions, twitching and grasping before dying.

"The way my characters die has a huge impact on the impression the lead character gives in a film," Mr. Fukumoto wrote in a 2012 essay. Ebi-zori is the perfect way to go, in his opinion, because the camera can remain focused on the hero's gallantry while the kirareyaku actor also gains screen time by turning his face toward the audience as he falls dead.
--Jun Hongo, WSJ, on the many ways to make a living