Monday, May 4, 2009
Hiroshi Watanabe is on his way to becoming a major star - not just in the Asian coumunity - but in mainstream middle America, too.
Last night the face of the unlikely Hollywood hopeful flickered across the silver screen in an off-beat role in the hilarious comedy feature - "White on Rice" (roughly translated as "stuck on you") - and cinched it for me.
While Mr. Watanabe's comedic timing was impeccable, it was his instictive grasp of the complexities of the medium (and their potential) that I found mesmerizing.
And, that face!
Like the greats before him - Skelton, Gleason, and the Marx Brothers - his lovable mug won't soon be forgotten once the right role throws the spotlight in his direction.
The role of "Jimmy" may just be the launch I am referring to, once the independent feature secures distribution and worms its way around the country.
On the red carpet, Watanabe was outgoing and down-to-earth.
When I quizzed the talented actor about challenges he faced during the short fast shoot, he reflected on the question for about a secord or two, then recalled a curious phenomenon that unfolded beyond his control which was triggered by the two-language scenario foisted on him by the director.
"When I attempted to switch from my native tongue to English, I was forced to pause a second or two, shift gears, then switch into another mode of thinking before continuing with the dialogue," he noted in so many words.
The off-the-wall comedy - about a man-child traumatized by the thought of growing up and taking responsiblity for his life - was directed by Dave Boyd.
"Dave speaks better Chinese than I do," he chuckled.
Aw shucks, Boyd seemed to be grumbling as he stood on the sidelines, and humbly denied the claim.
There is a lot of side-splitting slapstick-style schtick in the independent feature which keeps the madcap screw-ball piece rolling along at a fast and entertzaining clip.
In fact, "White on Rice " is one of the funniest (slickest) films with mainstream appeal to come out of the Asian Community since the tennis spoof - "Ping Pong Playa" - premiered at the Festival last year.
I expect that due to films like "Dim Sum Funeral", "Departures", and "White on Rice" screening now at the Festival's Silver (25th) anniversay, Asian filmmakers (and stars) will be basking in the glow of success once the economy picks up.