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Stirring up a hornet's nest

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By Chris Betros

Words like action hero and Seth Rogen don’t usually go together, so it was a big gamble for the 28-year-old pudgy Canadian actor to take on the lead role in "The Green Hornet." Rogen, known for playing mainly slackers and idiots in films such as "Superbad," "Knocked Up," "The Pineapple Express" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," slimmed down considerably for the title role in "The Green Hornet," and described the project as a passion that has taken him four years to bring to the big screen (he also produced the film and co-wrote the script).

“I have been a lifelong comic book and superhero fan and over the past few years, these types of movies have become more popular. I thought we could inject something new into the genre,” Rogen said during a brief visit to Tokyo along with the film’s French director Michel Gondry, 47, and Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou, 31, who plays Kato, the Green Hornet’s valet, sidekick, coffee maker and gadget guru. "The Green Hornet" is Chou's English-language film debut and he also sings a song at the end of the film ("The Nunchucks," a song he wrote 10 years ago about the martial arts weapon made famous by Bruce Lee).

When the trio (plus special guest, Japanese actress Ryoko Shinohara, 37, present for no apparent reason) arrived at a green carpet event at Roppongi Hills Arena, there was no doubt who was the most popular -- Chou. The singer has been a best-selling artist in Asia since 2000, but is largely unknown in the West. Reflecting his popularity in Asia, Kato’s masked visage is featured more prominently than that of Rogen in posters for the movie in Japan, Taiwan, Korea and Hong Kong.

"The Green Hornet" is based on comic book characters who appeared in a 1930s radio serial, and a 26-episode 1960s TV series, which launched Bruce Lee’s career as Kato. In the movie, an action comedy shot in 3D, Rogen plays Britt Reid, the party animal son of a media tycoon who dies mysteriously. He befriends his father’s employee, Kato, and the pair inadvertently become masked vigilantes after a prankish night out. Kato creates a car called the Black Beauty, equipped with everything a crime-fighting duo should have, such as grill-mounted flamethrowers, Stinger missiles, machine guns, front wheel anti-riot spikes, ejector seats, fax machine, turntable and an icemaker. Meanwhile, they both have the hots for Reid’s secretary, Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz), which leads their “bromance” to turn into knock-down fights between each other when they are not battling villains.

“He beat me up pretty badly,” said Rogen of his action scenes with Chou. “What I like best about the story is that no matter how much they spar, these two people need each other and it shows what they can do when they finally get along. I also think audiences can relate to Britt Reid more than other superheroes. They can look at me being a jerk and say ‘I’m a lot cooler than that guy.’”

Gondry ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind") said one thing different he wanted to do with the superhero genre was to make the Asian sidekick more hip than the hero. “Some people in Hollywood were really against that at the beginning,” he said.

The character of Kato has an interesting history. In the 1930s, he was Japanese but during World War II, his heritage was changed amid anti-Japanese feeling in the U.S. (although his Japanese name was retained). Chou said he was very nervous about following in Bruce Lee’s footsteps. “Whoever plays Kato is always going to be compared to Bruce Lee. He is like God to Asians. I just tried to play Kato my way and bring my own sensibility to the character.” His martial arts scenes probably resemble Jackie Chan more than Lee.

The actors said they loved the big action scenes but didn’t always know what was going on. “Michel would tell us to do something and we had no idea why we were doing it or how it would look later,” said Rogen. “We’d sit in a car in front of a blue screen for half an hour, pretending we were being chased and dodging attacks. But they did tell us that whatever we built for the movie, we could destroy, so you’ll see lots of explosions.”

© Japan Today

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6 Comments
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I hear the Green Hornet's lost its buzz.

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it was alright

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I liked it, the movie as far as character development was rushed but everything else was cool and hilarious. The big action scenes had you saying "how the hell are they going to get out of that!?"

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I thought it was a very funny spoof of the old Green Hornet series.

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"(plus special guest, Japanese actress Ryoko Shinohara, 37, present for no apparent reason)"

It is a movie premiere... it is common for socialites, actors and actresses to attend them, isn't it? Thus they promote themselves, the movie, and in this case possibly whatever cause the 'green carpet event' was held for.

Well, may check out the movie when it comes to the rental shop...

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"His martial arts scenes probably resemble Jackie Chan more than Lee."

This is totally wrong. Chou captured Bruce Lee's "Kato" very well even throwing in the famous one-inch punch. None of Jackie Chan's distinctive stunt action.

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