Chiaki Kuriyama is amused to hear she is a well-known star abroad. The 25-year-old actress says she is impressed when she gets fan mail from overseas, especially from young women who like to dress up as Go-go Yubari, the schoolgirl killer with the meteor hammer made famous by Kuriyama in Quentin Tarantino’s 2003 film "Kill Bill Vol 1."
“I guess because I have lived in Japan all my life, it is strange to hear that I am famous overseas or that guys like me because of 'Battle Royale' and 'Kill Bill,'” says Kuriyama sitting down for a chat at the office of Sony Music Studios. “Am I really a sex symbol in America? Maybe I should go and live there. It’s cool to have fans in many countries.”
Kuriyama recalls being hooked on showbiz when she was about 5. “I remember watching TV and wondering where the pictures were coming from. I wanted to get inside the TV set and play with the characters.” She was also captivated by seeing supermodels like Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell on TV and started doing magazine photo shoots for "shichigosan" (festivals that celebrate children aged 7, 5 and 3). That was followed by more magazine work and bit parts in TV programs and movies in the mid-1990s.
Kuriyama’s movie breakthrough came in 1999 with "Shikoku" (Land of the Dead), but it was "Battle Royale" in 2000 that put her on the international map. Interestingly, Kuriyama seems to achieve her greatest successes in films with violent or horror themes. “It’s not that I prefer dark-themed films or TV dramas. However, the impact of horror films tends to be stronger. I’ve done a lot of non-horror roles, too,” she points out.
The next few weeks will see a lot of exposure for Kuriyama. First, she sings the theme song for the anime feature "Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn," which marks her CD debut. “It’s a ballad but not a love song. Rather, it is a song that encourages people to be positive. I sing another track as well, a rock number. I’m very nervous about it because it was difficult for me, completely different from anything I have ever done.”
On TV, Kuriyama is appearing this month in a WOWOW drama called "Sonotoki made sayonara," which is yet another foray into the otherworldly. In it, she plays a mysterious woman who learns that she is linked to a widower and his son by two rings that they own. In the summer, Kuriyama will be seen in "Neck," about a university student (Saki Aibu) who wants to create a ghost in the lab. Kuriyama, who plays an editor, describes "Neck" as a “refreshing romantic horror movie that will make people laugh. You have never seen a horror movie like this before – it will make your heart beat with love,” she promises.
In between movies and TV dramas, Kuriyama is never far from the public light, appearing in the ad campaign for cosmetic maker Shiseido’s Maquillage brand, as well as Uniqlo’s eye-popping bratop TV commercial in which she gets dressed, walks out of her bedroom and segues onto the streets of Tokyo. “That ad has gotten a good reaction. People often ask me how we filmed it,” Kuriyama says. “The thing about doing these kinds of ads is that unlike movies, it’s not really acting. I can be myself.”
As for her own style, Kuriyama says she likes the Gothic Lolita look and often goes shopping at Shibuya and Harajuku, where she is recognized, of course. “People do come up and want to shake hands. If they ask for permission to take photos, I don’t mind, but some people just take photos without asking or follow me around. That’s creepy.”
Kuriyama says she has thought about doing a blog so she can interact with fans. “On the other hand, it’s hard to find the time to keep updating a blog. Maybe it is better not to have a blog and remain a little mysterious,” she says, adding that if she hadn’t been a movie star, she would have liked to try a “normal” life, such as working as an OL (office lady). And speaking of a normal life, how does she feel about getting married and what sort of men does she like? “I want to get married one day, but not right now,” she answers. “When I do, I want it to last for the rest of my life. The ideal man for me would be someone who likes anime and manga because I do.”
When she is not working, Kuriyama exercises by walking or an occasional visit to the gym. As a child, she used to do classical ballet but her schedule makes that difficult to do nowadays. “Sometimes, I like to have a party with people, but I also enjoy going out for dinner by myself. I think of that as a reward for myself, especially after the end of a job or movie shoot.”
Of course, whenever Quentin Tarantino is in town, she and other Japan-based members of the "Kill Bill" family get together for dinner – usually at Gompachi. “It’s fun hanging out with him,” she says. “I just wish I was better at English. It’s my New Year resolution that I make every year, and I never get around to it,” she laments.© Japan Today