Helldriver: Interview with Director Yoshihiro Nishimura and Actress Eihi Shiina

NEW YORK, April 28 – In his latest film Helldriver, director Yoshihiro Nishimura (西村喜廣) stitches together a mind blowing zombie epic with his own brand of gore and humor. Although it has all the hallmarks of his previous works, the film stretches his mastery of special effects over a much larger canvas. It also reunites the director with actress Eihi Shiina. Shiina, known for her role as Asami in Audition (オーディション), plays the role of an abusive mother to the film’s teenaged heroine. Over the course of the narrative, her character develops into the main antagonist.

James Leung: You started your career as a fashion model. How did you make the transition to film actress?
Eihi Shiina: At the beginning of my career I met a film director, he asked me to be in a film. So, I starred in the film and continued to work in the industry.

JL: Was that film Open House?
ES: Yes.

JL: Helldriver is the second film that you’ve worked together as a lead and director. How was it different working together on this project compared to Tokyo Gore Police?
Yoshihiro Nishimura: We’ve also worked together on Vampire Girl Versus Frankenstein Girl.

ES: A small role.

JL: Of course, but Shiina’s role was more of a side character than a lead [in Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl]. How was it to direct her as one of the leads in this film?
YN: When it comes to Tokyo Gore Police, she plays the hero. So, she actually has a good role. In Helldriver, she’s the villain, a bad mother, from the beginning until the end. That’s the difference.

JL: Was it easier to work together because you’ve had that experience in the past?
ES: Actually for Tokyo Gore Police, we were able to make a really good film so there was a strong sense of trust cultivated through that experience. In the instance of Helldriver, I had to play a role on the opposite end which is the bad mother. But I was able to enjoy it and wasn’t concerned at all because I really trust him. I was really able to play my role to the fullest extent with a sense of excitement. So, yes… I really enjoyed the process.

YN: So, who is the real Eihi Shiina? Is it Tokyo Gore Police or Helldriver? Which one is the real Shiina? [laughs]

ES: Both, both. [laughs]

JL: As a director, I know Nishimura loves to use a lot of blood, gore, and fast paced action. Do you like playing these physically challenging roles with the difficult action sequences?
ES: One thing about working with Nishimura, there is no rehearsal. So, we just do it. In comparison to other directors, it’s very different. There’s a strong sense of excitement. It’s a real thrill. Actually, I gotten used to that… You have to have this explosive energy. You just explode on screen and just do it. So nowadays I’ve gotten quite used to it and his approach.

JL: Nishimura, you’ve increasingly integrated more and more sophisticated computer graphics into your films. How do you feel about your use of CG in this film?
YN: When it comes to the plot of Helldriver, the scale of the story is very big. Due to a catastrophe, half of Japan basically goes down which is quite similar to what is happening today. Because of the earthquake, half of the country is in paralysis. Of course this is something I didn’t know back then. It wasn’t something I predicted. Because it was a large scale story, I had to employ a lot of CGI in this film.

Left to Right: Yoshihiro Nishimura & Eihi Shiina

JL: Did you use a lot of green screen for CG?
YN: Yes, green screen.

JL: How was it like acting in front of a green screen?
ES: It’s really fun.

YN: When Shiina watches the film, she’s always amazed at her performance. [laughs]

JL: Do you have to imagine the entire scene or do you use props?
YN: We have a lot of storyboards.

ES: But there are no details. Until I watch the final product on screen, I don’t know how the details are worked out.

JL: Did you see the dailies?
ES: I didn’t get to see it until they do the [full] preview screenings.

YN: For Helldriver, in the final climactic scene, Shiina is standing on an incredibly huge object and the entire scene is CGI green screen.

ES: It’s very cool.

Translation by Fumiko Miyamoto. Special thanks to the Japan Society and Sushi Typhoon.

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