Netflix and Universal 1440 have just released their latest offering this season, Blade Of The 47 Ronin from director Ron Yuan. My review is currently available here while as of last week, I was offered an opportunity to get a word in with one of its cast members, actress Luna Fujimoto, who stars in the film as a member the “Onna-bugeisha”, a clandestine unit of female warriors led by modern-day Samurai lord, Shinshiro, played by Mark Dacascos.
In our interview, Luna discusses her upbringing in the arts and what it took to land the role, and ultimately working with the likes of Yuan and his team. She’s actually been making the interview rounds for a while now and I’m honored that Film Combat Syndicate just happened to be her latest stop along the way, and after seeing her on screen, I look forward to seeing even more of her on screen and collaborating with ad many of our favorite website mentions as possible going forward.
For now, here is Luna with her story, and you can also follow the actress on Instagram and Twitter for future updates. As you read on, you’ll eventually spot the connection that inspired the headline I chose this interview, as I felt it would be complimentary to Luna in the course of her pursuits. Enjoy!
To start, tell us all how you got into acting and movies.
At first, I wanted to be a ballerina, so I went to ballet class six days a week from a young age. I also grew up watching films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and many other Hong Kong and Chinese movies, and enjoying the works of stars like Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi. I was also a fan of Angelina Jolie’s performance in Tomb Raider, which made me want to become an actress. She was so cool, attractive and badass and I was literally blown away. As a kid, I felt I wanted to do something like that too.
I grew up in Japan and I wanted to be an actor in America, so I moved to New York to study English. Ultimately, however, I felt that there were more opportunities in China, particularly since I wanted to do action movies at the time. I’m half-Chinese and half-Japanese and I was already fluent in Mandarin, so I thought it was a good idea. I moved to China, and I auditioned for the acting department of Beijing Film Academy which is one of the most famous film schools in China. Sometimes casting directors would visit us. Thankfully, I managed to get cast first acting job on Monster Hunt 2, and I was able to continue acting in Japan and America after Covid.
I haven’t seen Monster Hunt 2 yet, but I did catch the first film and loved it. Talk a little bit about working with director Raman Hui on that sequel.
As a newcomer, the whole process was new and exciting to me, especially because of all the CGI involved. In China, things change frequently on the day we shoot, so usually, actors and staff are required to be very flexible. But Raman was very well prepared and knew how to communicate with his team. He was very lovely and respectful to work with.
Your latest role in Blade Of The 47 Ronin sees you teaming up with Ron Yuan at the helm. How did you manage to audition for the film?
I submitted my self-tape through my L.A. manager. I really liked the character, so I put everything into the audition. I hadn’t heard back for about five months and I thought that would be it until stunt coordinator Brett Chan sent my reels to the director, and it was after that he then reached out to me.
Your reel on IMDb is amazing, by the way. Tell us about your own training experience and regimen, and how you were able to incorporate that with your fight scene rehearsals.
Thank you for the compliment! [laughs]
I’ve been doing ballet for a long time so I had the flexibility and the ability to catch up with the movements and choreography fast, and surely enough, it helped but in long haul. Screen fighting a different form of art, and I also felt strongly that I needed to learn some kind of martial arts to look like I’m actually fighting, instead of dancing. So, I took up Wing Chun and Japanese sword fighting.
I was also lucky to get to work with legendary action director, Kenji Tanigaki on Monster Hunt 2. He taught me a lot of important things, including how he thinks being a “real martial artist” or a “fighter” is not the most important thing for action movies. That was one major eye-opener for me. He believes at the end of the day acting is the key element in action scenes. He once said, “A lot of times, actors look more like professional fighters on screen than real martial artists, because they can act.”
According to Kenji, film action is quite different from real martial arts. It’s a different language, and so through this philosophy as a modifier, I could incorporate what I learned in martial arts class with the choreography Zack [Roberts] and James [Newman] gave me during the rehearsals. They took great care of the actors, and were also able to bring out each character’s charm.
Aside from the physically demanding action scenes, was there anything else to research in preparing for the film?
I researched if Onna-Bugeisha actually existed or not, as well as how they lived. In the movie, the three sisters of Onna-Bugeisha – Onami, Mai and Aya – are not blood-related, but instead, share a close bond in the story. So I wanted to spend as much time as possible with Teresa and Chikako to build that sisterhood feeling and help reflect that on the screen. They are both are so sweet and kind.
What was the most challenging part of the production for you? And by that same measure, what was the most fun part?
I did not have my stunt double for this film. I was honored that the director believed I was good at doing everything by myself. There was still this sense of pressure to make sure as not to mess up my fight scenes [laughs], but Ron made the experience very easy to handle. He created a family-like atmosphere that I have never experienced on set. We, the cast, trained and spent a lot of time together. We got very close to each other which helped me to relax and focus on acting on set. That was the most memorable and fun part.
How do you normally go about choosing a role?
By instinct. I don’t mind if it’s a lead or supporting, and challenging roles are always fun to play.
Do you have any other favorite films in mind you can share that have influenced you as an actress?
I also loved Reign Of Assassins which stars Michelle Yeoh! As a child, I truly loved watching female characters doing action scenes, and I hope there will be kids who watch my movies and dream about becoming an actress one day.
What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned along the way in your career?
Simply put: Be nice, be open minded, put yourself out there and have the courage to try. Just take a step out of your comfort zone.
What do you hope audiences will take away the most from Blade Of The 47 Ronin?
I think it’s very encouraging to see women in action front and center. Don’t think too much about what you’re watching, just simply enjoy and have fun with it! It’s entertaining and humorous, and it’s got some badass action scenes – but don’t try these action scenes at home, or anywhere without professional supervision if you’re a beginner! [laughs]
As we approach the New Year, what are your plans going forward? Care to tease anything for our readers?
Actually, I just finished one American movie in Malta and I am going back to Japan for another movie. It’s been almost two years since I last worked in Japan, and I am very excited about it.
Special thanks to Al’n Duong for making this interview possible. Photo assets courtesy of Luna Fujimoto.
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.