The cast and crew of manga movie Dragonball talk about filming the Japanese cult hit
It was one of the most popular anime series on TV and one of the most popular manga’s before that. Now the fans can finally see their favorites like Goku, Bulma, Chi Chi and the villain Piccolo brought to life before their eyes in Dragonball Evolution, which hits Irish cinemas this weekend. Here, Movies.ie goes behind-the-scenes talking to the cast and crew about bringing the manga sensation to the big screen.
How familiar were you with the characters you were playing?
Emmy Rossum: I actually grew up watching the weekend cartoon for kids when I was eight and nine, so I knew a little bit about Bulma and that pretty much she was funny, and had blue hair. That’s what I remembered at least when I heard they were making a live action feature. So I ordered the mangas and I really researched the basis of Dragonball.
Justin Chatwick: I would watch my friends’ little brothers and sisters sit around and passionately talk about the Goku and Piccolo and all these crazy intense scenes and they were talking with so much life. They were talking like a Christian talks about the bible. It was just like everything to them. I was like: ‘You guys are nuts! You are total nerds! I have no idea what you’re talking about? Then I began watching the cartoon on a Saturday morning. I was like: ‘You know what? This is pretty cool. I like manga because it’s different from an American comic book. An American comic book is a little bit darker, and a little more serious and is based on reality, whereas manga is fun and playful and a little bit out there. It’s a little more fantasy then regular Peter Parker or Bruce Wayne kind of stuff.
Jamie Chung: Well, the cartoons I grew up watching ” I’m from San Francisco, so Japanese anime cartoons were really big. There was Pokemon, Sailor Moon and Dragonball. And Dragonball was fun. Okay, some characters were kind of perverted but it really entertaining,
Justin Chatwick: That’s one of the reasons that attracted all of us to the movie!
Jamie Chung: I think so. When I got the script for this, I was really excited. I thought it was about time they made a live action movie.
Joon Park: I grew up with anime and manga and as a kid, I had a couple of friends who were Japanese and their families would go on trips to Japan, and they would come back with these comic books, and video tapes before they brought Dragonball to the United States. I was very familiar with it. When I found out that they were having a casting for it, I was like: ‘Dude, I’ve got to go in for it. And I told James (the director): ‘If I don’t get the role, will you at least use me for an extra? (Laughs) And when I found out I got the role, I was so ecstatic to be able to play one of the characters I played with as a kid.
Eriko Tomura: My character Mai is not a fully developed character in the original Dragonball, so this was fun and I got to create my own Mai. As far as watching Dragonball as a child, I was a big fan, so I’m really happy to be a part of this project.
James Marsters: I have a son who is thirteen, but when he was seven years old, he introduced me to Dragonball. And I’ll never forget putting in the first DVD and the first scene we watched together was where Goku has died, and his son is training because he’s the only one left that can save Earth, but the only one who can train him is my character, Lord Piccolo. So the first scene I remember, is Piccolo floating half a foot off the ground, studying the landscape, thinking deep thoughts and little Gohan comes climbing up the cliff and says: ‘Train me! And Piccolo goes: ‘Get away from me kid, you’re bothering me. And he goes: ‘No, I’m the only one, my dad is dead, you have to do it for the Earth. Piccolo goes: ‘Get away from me! And Gohan says: ‘Train me! Piccolo agrees, and then he smashes the kid in the head, he drop kicks him up into the air and smashes him back into the rocks. And there’s a close up of little Gohan, this seven year old kid and at this point as a father, I’m about to rip out the DVD, I’ll never forget it, but then there was a close up of little Gohan. The dust parts, he has a swollen eye, he’s got blood coming down and he starts laughing at Piccolo. ‘Like I got you to do what I wanted you to do, bud. You’re going to train me like I told you, you would. And I looked over at my son’s face and he wasn’t terrified, he wasn’t shaking, he was completely entranced by this young kid and how strong he was. That’s when I thought there was something to this. So we kept watching it and the more I watched it the more I realized that there are a lot of good messages for young people in Dragonball.
So how does your son feel about his father becoming Piccolo?
James Marsters: (Laughs) I’m not unlike any other parent, kids don’t really care what you do at the office. They care about what you do when you come home. But as a parent it was really refreshing to have him care about a job I was doing. It’s the first time.
What kind of training did each of you have to endure?
Jamie Chung: Each character was given a particular style of fighting. They wanted Chi Chi to be really tough. So a lot of my training incorporated Tech-quando, because that martial art is known for its strong kicks and strong punches. The days I wasn’t filming with the rest of the cast, I had a lot more days off than everyone else, I was training. It was intense. It was a month prior to filming and then everyday that you’re not working.
Emmy Rossum: And they didn’t take it any easier on the girls. No, no – it was completely like ˜we don’t care if you have big biceps or not ” you will have big biceps by the end of this training.’ It was about three plus hours a day, six days a week for the few weeks before we started training. I remember I went to the director and I said: ‘This is really intense! He said: ‘Well, I20want you to be a real warrior. I want you to look like a warrior and feel like a warrior and think like a warrior. The training really did that to us. We did have some specific things we all did together like martial arts training that we would do in a team which made it less painful, because when you look over at the other person and they are grimacing as much as you are, it makes it, somehow more pleasurable. Then we would all go off and do our specific things which was for Eriko, like knife throwing and for Jamie, it was Tae Kwon Do with a ton of squats! I had to go and shoot guns with the marines and learn how to ride a motorcycle and do lots of stuff I never thought I would. So thanks for casting me.
Joon Park: I got to drive my truck in the big fields for hours and hours. It was awesome. But seriously, someone had to do the same strenuous physical exercises like weight training and cardio. We later realized on the set why were doing all this for the action sequences which needed our bodies to be physically strong otherwise you’d get hurt. Luckily no-one got severely hurt except Justin had stitches in his arm.
Justin Chatwin: It was the scene where I was getting thrown around in the truck before it crashes and there was a bunch of metal sticking out, and I got my arm sliced open. And I broke a toe.
Jamie Chung: When actors fight other actors its trouble. But when actors are fighting stunt people, it’s like: ‘It’s so easy.
Emmy Rossum: But it’s also because the stunt people, if we make a mistake they can see it coming. Actors are like: ‘Why did you hit me in the nose? (Laughs) ‘It really hurts!
Justin Chatwin: Yeah, because the stunt people have bo undaries. There is this thing called the box and they say you’ve got to stay in the box. A young actor comes in there and they’re like” ‘I’m in character .So, you’ve got arms flying way out here and an actor gets hit the blood. But we were pretty safe. Me and James we had to fly at each other in a scene like at twenty miles an hour and grab each other and fly twenty feet into the air.
James Marsters: And I just remember Justin’s face coming at me like at thirty miles an hour and just chill, because he’s got to grab me in a certain way so he wasn’t freaked out or anything. I’ll never forget that.
Justin Chatwin: Not to mention we had eight Rockstar Energy drinks and we felt like we were having seizures we were so high! There was a come down once we finished shooting this that’s for sure.
James Marsters: But James (director) was very subtle about it. The whole time he knew he was only going to put the stunt people in if he absolutely had to and he was going to absolutely give us five chances to do it ourselves. I think if he would have told all of us that in the beginning, I think we would have run for the hills, but just day by day very calmly, he would give us one thing to do a day.
Director: James Wong: The amazing thing is for actors who aren’t martial arts masters; I think the fight scenes look pretty darn good. I’ve worked with Jet Li before and you can just tell Jet ” do this ” and he can do it better and with more imagination that you can imagine and without any rehearsals, but with actors who aren’t martial arts masters, it has to be cheorgraphed so precisely because we don’t want people to hurt each other and they did a great job. They learned it all very well.
Have you all watched the movie? What did you think when you watched yourselves performing the superpowers with the CGI?
Jamie Chung: It blew my mind! James would not even give us even a sneak peek as to what he was working on. He would go into his Bat Cave and do his editing. I didn’t hear back from anyone for the longest time and finally we sat down and watched it. It blew my mind! It was two hours long and it went by in five minutes! I was like: ‘That’s it?! No!! None of my scenes were cut, thanks James. I was so impressed with all the special effects. It was so magical.
Justin Chatwin: I was nervous because there has never been an American adaptation of a manga, so James is really pioneering this ground for film makers. I was nervous, because I was like: ‘ Alright, I’m in an orange ninja suit with half a foot long hair, running around doing ninja stuff. This was either going to be really good or the end of my career. It might as well do it now rather than later! (Jokes) When I sat down to watch it, I was really nervous, but once the movie started, the music comes in and the characters come to life and just the colours and the tone, and the balance of violence and comedy ” once it started, I mean, it started and then it ended and I was really happy. I think it’s a super fun movie. It’s up there in the vein of movies I loved growing up, like Ninja Turtles, Batman and Back to the Future, movies like that.
James Marsters: It reminded me of a freight train. It left the station and it didn’t slow down. There are moments when I used to watch the anime where your jaw would just drop, there would be certain moments in the cartoon that the fight would happen and you would be like: I cannot believe I just saw that. And that was very much like the film. Right out the gates in the beginning of this picture, you’re just blown to the back of your seat with the back-story, then you’ve got the fight on the wires and it all builds to the end in the desert. There were quite a few moments when I was like: Oh my! That’s so huge. I was very happy too.