Ghost in the Shell EXCLUSIVE: Major vs Kuze: A Conversation with Acclaimed Actor Michael Pitt
In the near future, Major (Scarlett Johansson) is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals.
When terrorism reaches a new level that includes the ability to hack into people’s minds and control them, Major is uniquely qualified to stop it.
As she prepares to face a new enemy, Major discovers that she has been lied to: her life was not saved, it was stolen. She will stop at nothing to recover her past, find out who did this to her and stop them before they do it to others. Based on the internationally acclaimed Japanese Manga, “The Ghost in the Shell.”
In our interview Micheal talks extensively about his time working on Ghost in the Shell, filming with Scarlett and his stunt double…
How did you get involved in this film?
I got a phone call from, from Rupert. I got a phone call and he said, I sent you this thing. I was like, yeah, I know, I looked at it. I was like, do you want me to do it and he said, yes, I would like you to do it. I was like, when would I have to be there? And he was, he was kind of like, well, I was hoping like a week and a half. And I said, okay, I’m gonna go pack.
It happened that quick then?
It happened quick, yup.
When Rupert called you, were you at all familiar with the manga or the anime?
Yeah. Yeah, of course.
Was it something that you’re a fan of?
Yeah. Yeah, Ghost in the Shell was kind of, you know, it’s, it’s one of the, between that and Akira, those two were extremely influential to everything, to Hollywood movies, to graphic art, to tattooing, to industrial music, to you know, it’s…
It’s actually quite amazing how much it influenced things.
Yeah. I mean, everyone’s been ripping off Ghost in the Shell for like, you know, 25 years.
Yeah, it’s true, even the Matrix.
Yeah, maybe ripping off is not the best choice of words, but like the influence, everyone, you know, it’s been extremely influential. I think, if I remember correctly, you know, I saw the, I saw that, that first film, the animated film. I think I was maybe 14 or 15 and I think I saw it on VHS.
What do you remember about it?
Well, you know, it was, it just, yeah, I, I kinda had never seen anything like it and a lot of the people, a lot of people who I respect and artists that I respected were really in, into it.
Talk about the character Kuze.
I think, I think Kuze is a, a combination between the puppet-master, the laughing man and Kuze the character from the animated series, stand-alone complex, and I, my guess is that they sort of did a you know, an integration of these 3 characters so that you, so that the audience could see Ghost in the Shell and see all the things that they knew but see it in a different way, and so that’s my guess. Is he a villain? I don’t, I, I don’t know. I mean, I think, I think that, I think one of the most interesting things about the script that makes it really unique is the fact that he is sort of viewed upon as, as the villain in the first half of the movie and maybe less in, in the second half.
What’s it like working with Scarlett?
She’s a nightmare. She’s just, you know, like, really demanding, she gives me line readings. She’s never there for my coverage, she’s always complaining about everything. I’m just kidding. She’s been lovely. She’s been really wonderful, really generous and yeah, I think, I think we had a good chemistry. I think it was, because it’s really obvious when there isn’t, when there isn’t, so.
Ghost in the Shell takes place in the future. Describe this world and what the norm is in terms of how people alter themselves?
Well, I, I re-watched the original film and I was really surprised on, on how current it was still. It was, it was almost, you know, it felt very much like you know, it just felt completely current. So the world is complicated and scary and extremely exciting and full of evil and full of good. I mean, it’s, it’s, you know, like the world we live in.
The set that we’re sitting in is part of what is known as the Kuze lair set. It’s very dense and very specific, lots of details. Did the production design help you with your performance, being in the space that’s created just for your character?
Well, the production design on, on for Kuze sets and for all the sets have been, yeah, I mean, definitely you get, you get into it when you see how much has been put into it, also the prosthetics, the make-up, the wardrobe, I mean, everything, everything will, will help you get into character.
So you’ve been down in New Zealand for about a month?
I think, I think that it has the, you know, my hope is that it will, is that it will be a really entertaining movie, a movie that you will want to see in the movie theatre. I, I think it has the potential to be a movie like that and also, I think it has the potential to move people because you know, essentially I think it’s about this woman figuring out you know, who she is, you know, what it is to be human and then ultimately deciding to, to fight for humanity. So I think, I think it, it, it has a potential to be really exciting and really moving. That’s what I hope they get out of it.
How difficult is it to meet the director’s expectations and already having your own preconceived ideas about who it is that you’re gonna play?
I think, it’s, it’s always challenging you know, it’s always challenging to, to stay focused. This, this character was, was really challenging because I realised that, it’s interesting when, when you’re, when you’re developing a character for sci-fi, it’s kind of like an open door. I mean, you can do anything so, so there’s a lot of, a lot of variables. But with, with Kuze, you know, I worked a lot on his voice, how he would speak, I worked a lot on how he would move, so I made some rules about the way he could move, and certainly his back story. You know, I wrote pages and pages and pages of back story because he, he was such a strange character that I, I just didn’t, I didn’t know any other way to do it.
Talk about working with your stuntman Neil.
Oh yeah, no, he was great. Yeah, no, he was, he was great and they were cool. You know, I, I said to them like, I know that there’s gonna be certain stunts and I just wanna make myself available so that we can work together because so much of it had to do with movement, that if there’s some, I was gonna be doing certain things, I didn’t want them to be out of character.
Talk about working with Daniel. He was really appreciative of the time that you spent with him.
Yeah. I think, I always think it’s… yeah, so what did we do? I mean, basically I just called him and we met on the set and I kind of said, I, I, you know, I think, I think I know what I’m gonna do with this character and we just sort of went into the tent and I just sort of did some of it for him, no one had seen it yet and he was into it and then he picked, he picked up on it really quickly, which was, which, which, which was great.
You mentioned some artworks and paintings that you were gifting to Richard Taylor. Talk about that.
Yeah, well, I just, it’s artwork, it’s kinda like junk art.
Isn’t that art that’s on your costume?
They, they, I had made a drawing and then Rupert had taken a picture of it and then I found it, found out that, then it was on the Weta costume, which I wasn’t aware of, and then he asked for some more artwork and so I did some quickly. They’re, I don’t know, I mean, some, sometimes when I’m finding a character, if I, if I pick actions, you know, things to do as the character, it, it helps you when you’re on set and there’s 300 people there and there’s talking and you know, and people are asking about lunch and stuff, I mean, you know what I mean?
So then it’s, it’s, it’s really, it’s in you, you know? It’s muscle memory, you know, it’s practice, basically. And so I did some, I did some artwork as the character, which was helpful, which was helpful for me.
Was the boxing something you did on screen or was that more of a warm-up type of thing?
A lot of that is just about focus and some of the, the movements, the way that Kuze would walk I based on that and some modern dance and some ballet, so it was like boxing, ballet and modern dance. And I would just listen to Massive Attack all the time, basically.
Ghost in the Shell – See It First on Digital on July 24