Ken Watanabe: Don't think too much about failing

PHOTO: Naho Kudo/The Yomiuri Shimbun

This is the second instalment of a series of interviews with the movers and shakers who have won renown on the global stage. This interview is with Ken Watanabe, undoubtedly the most famous Japanese actor in the world.

Q: You played the leading role in the Broadway musical "The King and I" this year. Though you are already a successful actor in Japan, why do you keep taking up new challenges?

A: I decided to appear in works in other countries without much deep thought. Once you start worrying about risks and thinking, "What should I do if I fail?" you will become unable to move even an inch. Also, I never think, "I will have a big success with this." I feel tempted to act in any work, regardless of whether Japan or another country makes it, once a needle on the meter of my curiosity goes up. In the case of "The King and I," that needle went up high. I decided to play the role of King Mongkut of Siam, though even in Japan I've never appeared in a musical, because Bartlett Sher, the director, sweet-talked me into it: "I do not need a good singer. I do not need a good dancer. I need a king!" Maybe I'm too adventurous.

Q: Why do you think you can be successful abroad?

A: The needle of my curiosity probably has moved in tune with the needle of the audience's interest. Or the needle of my meter in choosing a job has been in tune with a film that was destined to succeed. You may say my batting average is high, but of course, there were some movies not well-tuned to my needle.