It’s the end of a busy day for Maki Horikita. The 21-year-old actress has just finished being a judge at the Suntory Cocktail Awards held at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo. Twenty-four cocktails were chosen for the final round of judging. “I’m not a big drinker, so I just sipped a little of each one,” Horikita says shyly, her cheeks showing a pinkish hue.
Born in Tokyo, Horikita got into showbiz when she was 14. A talent scout, who had seen her out and about, came knocking at her door. “They wanted me to audition for a movie, even though I had never done any acting. My parents were very surprised when I passed the audition and got the role. They weren’t really sure I could make it in show business. It wasn’t until I started to make a lot of appearances in magazines and on TV that they finally accepted it as my career.”
Since 2003, the busy Horikita has appeared in a stream of movies and TV dramas, winning several awards along the way, including best newcomer at the 2008 Japan Academy Awards for “Always: Sunset on Third Street,” and best actress at the 2008 Television Academy Awards for "Hanazakari no Kimitachie." In 2007, Vogue named her as one of 11 recipients of Women of the Year, and last year, she was chosen as “Best Leathernist” for looking the best in leather. On TV, Horikita has appeared in commercials for such companies as NTT DoCoMo, Shiseido, Honda, Suntory, Fujifilm, Nintendo and many, many more.
"The best thing about my job is that I get to know my own weaknesses,” Horikita says. “Everyone can see my work, so there is the pressure. I feel motivated to work harder and grow.”
Horikita’s voice is in demand, too. She has done voice acting for Doraemon animated films and the Professor Layton video game series (as Luke), the most recent of which was December’s animated feature "Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva."
“I really love the video game series,” she says. “The challenging part is that I have to act out the child’s cuteness, his carelessness and his naivety through my voice. Although I have been doing the voices for the video game series since 2006, an animated feature requires me to be more particular about the way I speak.”
Horikita has just completed her most ambitious project to date – a movie in which nearly half her dialogue is in English. "Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesia" is directed by Hans Canosa (“Conversations With Other Women”) and co-stars Anton Yelchin (of “Star Trek” and “Terminator 4” fame) and Emma Roberts (“Unfabulous”). Horikita plays a student at an international school in Tokyo, who falls down the stairs and loses four years of her memory.
“Leaning English was tricky at first; I had to get used to scripts that were written horizontally rather than vertically,” she recalls. “There was a lot of memorizing and I worked hard since I could not say no. I had some help from a dialogue coach, who was Japanese. Overall, it was a challenging few months but I feel a sense of achievement.”
On the rare days when she is not working, Horikita says she likes to indulge her hobby of photography, go shopping in Shibuya or just hang out at home. She keeps in touch with her fans on her blog throughout the day whenever she has time. Of the news issues which concern her most, Horikita says “the weather.” Not climate or global warming? “No, the weather, because that affects my day-to-day routine. If I have to do an outdoor shoot, and it’s raining, that makes a difference,” she says.© Japan Today