Benecio Del Toro was asked an unusual question by a female fan while he was in Japan recently. She wanted to know if he was a “herbivore” man, in reference to Japanese guys who are not interested in sex, love or marriage, or whether he was a normal “carnivore.” After having the reference explained to him, the quietly-spoken 43-year-old Puerto Rican actor simply said with a grin: “It depends on the woman.”
Considering he is promoting his latest film, “The Wolfman,” carnivore is probably an apt answer. “I think I’m still in Wolfman mode. Once all the PR is done, it will be out of my system,” said Del Toro during his third visit to Japan.
Directed by Joe Johnston and produced by Del Toro, “The Wolfman” is a remake of the classic Universal horror film starring Lon Chaney Jr, but with several changes, including a different ending. “Since the story hasn’t been told for nearly 70 years, I thought it might be a good time to remake it, especially for audiences who might not be familiar with the original. Our version is more visceral and aggressive.”
Del Toro plays Lawrence Talbot, a New York Shakespearean actor who returns to his family’s ancient home in England after the grisly death of his brother. There he meets his estranged father (Anthony Hopkins), unaware that he has a frightening family legacy. Well, you can guess the rest. Full moons, bloodthirsty deaths, silver bullets, a babe (Emily Blunt) in danger, a dogged Scotland Yard inspector (Hugo Weaving) – all the familiar ingredients are in the mix. “Unlike movies such as ‘An American Werewolf in London’ or ‘The Howling,’ which had a contemporary setting, this one is a period piece set in the late 1800s. I think the writer did a great job and if we’ve done our job right, fans of the original will enjoy the new version.”
The makeup is by the legendary Rick Baker. “I had a love-hate relationship with Rick. I loved him in the morning when he put it on, which took four hours, and then I hated him in the evening when he scraped it off. That would take two hours and everyone else had already gone home for the day. He did an outstanding job. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I looked like my St Bernard.”
Del Toro said he enjoyed working with Hopkins. “I’ve been a fan of his for decades. When he arrived, it was like seeing Hannibal Lector or Nixon or the butler from ‘Remains of the Day’ walk into a room. It’s as if you are sitting in the front row of a basketball game watching the pros.”
Del Toro, who grew up in Pennsylvania, first came to movie audiences’ attention as a killer in the 1989 James Bond film "Licence to Kill," but it was “The Usual Suspects” in 1995 that really propelled his career. He followed that up with films such as “The Fan” (1996), “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (1998), “Traffic” (2000), “21 Grams” (2003), “Things We Lost in the Fire” (2007) and the mammoth two-part “Che” in 2008.
He has slowly built up a big following among Japanese women who frequently ask him what he does to be so sexy. “They make me nervous when they ask me that,” he says shyly. “I don’t work on being sexy. What is sexy, anyway? Interestingly enough, there are plenty of people who find beings like werewolves and vampires sexy. I think it goes back to the ancient Greeks, but in almost every culture, there are legends of men turning into beasts in one way or another. Do you have anything like that in Japan? I guess there is a bit of attraction to the supernatural deep down in all of us.”
Del Toro has four films already lined up, including a huge gamble – he will take on the very risky role of Moe Howard in the Farrelly brothers’ movie about the Three Stooges, though he declined to discuss it during this trip.
"The Wolfman" opens in Japan on April 23.© Japan Today