Joseph Gordon-Levitt The Wind Rises Interview

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is part of the American voice cast for The Wind Rises, the farewell animated masterpiece from acclaimed Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. Here’s what the 500 Days of Summer and Looper  star had to say about the new film:

On Hayao Miyazaki and taking on the role

I love really good movies and Miyazaki is clearly one of the living masters of filmmaking.  I’ve been a fan of his movies for a number of years and so when I got the call that I had the opportunity to do a voice in the English version, I jumped at the chance. I feel like when I watch his movies, like Spirited Away for example or Princess Mononoke, you just get that feeling when you remember what it’s like to be 4 years old, when the world is a magical place. Everything is wondrous and he sort of invites you in to see that way again.

On the story of The Wind Rises

Ultimately it is a story of a guy who leads a special life in some ways, but he’s not going off and meeting dragons or flying pigs or anything like that. He has a job he takes very seriously, he loves it and it’s an exciting job; he designs airplanes.  And he has his friends and his colleagues and his love and the things that we all have or hope to have in our lives.  But, the way that he sees them, whether it’s in waking life or especially in his dreams, because you spend quite a lot of time in his dreams in this movie.  I love that perspective on being a human being.

On Jiro as a character

You see the character in various moments in the movie appreciating not only airplanes but he has appreciation for poetry. He has an appreciation for music and I love a guy like that.  He’s not a vein person, he is not a flamboyant person, or someone who is really, you know, very decorative about himself but when it comes to the planes that he designs, he has such care and love for making them beautiful.

On the presentation of the love story between Jiro and Nahoko

I really like the love story in this movie because it feels real. And even though it has its moments… in fact, let me put it this this way, the whole thing feels achingly beautiful but if you examine it, it is not so much larger than life. It is just sort of a matter of perspective; at the way Miyazaki looks at things. It’s sort of these normal moments, like walking through the rain and the umbrella is leaking and we are both soaking wet. You could look at that as sort of a dull and annoying issue to deal with, or if you are Miyazaki, you could make a scene that’s just jaw-droppingly beautiful.

On the character of Caproni

Jiro really looks up to this famous aeronautical engineer, this very larger than life Italian guy, Caproni.  In our version of the movie he is voiced by Stanley Tucci, who is an actor that I very much look up to and have always admired.  We all dream of getting to speak with and converse with our idols or mentors.  I guess he is not even necessarily a mentor because he never meets him, but he becomes sort of a mentor because his work has such an impact on Jiro.

On Emily Blunt voicing Nahoko

Emily is really good in this movie, because she’s got both the ability to be very heartfelt but she is also very technically adept, and that’s what this process takes. Because you are going line by line and trying to fit a very limited amount of time that matches to the Japanese, it’s a very technical process. But you don’t want that technical aspect to swallow up the feelings. And she is really able to find that balance, so I think she has been perfect for it.

On The Wind Rises and Miyazaki’s past films

It’s different than the other movies of his I have seen before, because it’s a little more grounded in a human story, and the movies I know of his are sort of the kind of magic that has fantastical creatures and just bizarre things you’d never see in real life.  Whereas this is a very grounded story of real life but told with that same perspective of magic.

On the benefits of English Language version

I think what’s cool for English speakers, someone like me who doesn’t speak Japanese, about watching our version of the movie is that you don’t have to read.  And generally, like I say, I don’t mind reading subtitles, but Miyazaki’s movies are so visual, there is so much to look at, there are so many little details and every little thing in the frame.  If there is a scene of a crowd of people and you see 20 characters, every single one of those 20 people are going to have an interesting little moment on.  There are so many great little visual morsels to chew on, that it’s sort of a shame to be reading subtitles. So in that sense, I think it’s worth seeing the movie even if it’s not in its original language.

On The Wind Rises as a piece of art

Sometimes when I go to the movies I want to laugh and sometimes when I go I want to see something that gets me pumped up, but sometimes I just want to see something beautiful.  And this movie, and I am not exaggerating, is about as beautiful a movie as I have ever seen in my life. Miyazaki says it is his last movie and this guy is clearly one of the great masters ever in cinema.  And, this is a masterpiece.

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