Director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi shows students acting and directing techniques

Director Ryusuke Hamaguchi in the press room during the 94th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California on March 27, 2022.

Photo by Athanlee B. Mirador/Sipa USA; via AP Pictures

Playing is better when you don’t think about it, Hamaguchi tells students

“A lot of people assume acting is really about hiding who you are,” Academy Award-winning director and screenwriter Ryūsuke Hamaguchi told a select group of Princeton students at a Sept. 24 lecture.

Instead, he said, it’s about blending your life experiences with your role. “I would like you to share your own secrets with your character…. Remember that the character you develop wouldn’t exist if you weren’t in the world.

The acclaimed Japanese director, who won an Oscar for his 2021 film drive my car, led an exclusive four-day film-making workshop for students as part of a week-long residency at the University, hosted by Japanese Princeton lecturer Keiko Ono. Hamaguchi selected a screenplay written by Sabrina Kim ’24 from a group of student submissions, and he also chose a team of nine student actors and production assistants who rehearsed and recorded three shorts. The films were edited by Hamaguchi and presented at a public screening.

Hamaguchi, speaking to students and members of the public through translator Tara McGowan ’90, worked personally with attendees to share his unique filmmaking methodologies.

His signature style of preparing actors, the “line-reading” method—handed down and adapted by several notable directors—consists of actors reading their lines over and over in a completely monotonous, emotionless manner. It helps actors subvert stereotypical acting tropes and memorize text innately, and it allows the seeds of deep emotion to sprout from within.

“Really, it’s about expanding the scope of your unconscious mind,” Hamaguchi said. “No matter how good your game is, if you do it with intention, you’re going to look like you’re taking action. Unconsciously letting your body react…it’s the opposite [of] express the text. The text will bring out something you.”

Hamaguchi used the technique to achieve deeply naturalistic performances from actors in his films such as Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy (2021) and drive my car: the first is a trio of three distinct modern love stories, and the second follows a grieving theater artist directing Chekhov.

“Over time, saying it monotonous, then [emoting] just as we were shooting…you were slowly absorbing the role,” Laura Reyes ’25, who was attending the workshop as an actor, said during the screening.

“I think it’s clear from the movie that we were actually feeling the emotions, not just saying [the words]said studio actress Chloe Satenberg ’24. “It’s probably an acting method that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”

Hamaguchi’s directing style is precise and musical. He encouraged students to “develop a sensitivity to their own voice” and selected Kim’s script for the workshop because it “breaks the barrier between poetry and everyday language”. His actor-centric approach was noticed by students behind and in front of the camera.

“Hamaguchi-san is a master director, but he was so invested in us,” said Ethan Luk ’24, actor and production assistant. “It was not hierarchical: we felt like we were on the same playing field.”

For Kim, working with Hamaguchi came after months of admiring his films. This allowed him to relate his writing style to his.

“I have a special relationship with Drive my car. I wrote my screenplay with unrequited desire, love of place or ancestry, and the relationship between languages ​​in mind. I see these qualities of calm, time and agency in Hamaguchi-san’s work, maybe that’s why I appreciate him so much,” Kim said.

“For me, it was a really important experience,” Hamaguchi said of the workshop.

The students accepted.

“Besides the rigor of the workshop, I really enjoyed our conversations, our laughter and our vulnerability,” Kim said. “It was such a gift to make these films. I feel very lucky.


Watch the trailer for drive my car:

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