Tom Cruise Talks About "The Last Samurai"

Interview from the U.S. Premiere of "The Last Samurai"

Tom Cruise The Last Samurai
Tom Cruise at the U.S. Premiere of "The Last Samurai.". Photo By Rebecca Murray

In order to prepare for the role of Captain Nathan Algren in "The Last Samurai," Tom Cruise endured months of strenuous physical training while at the same time trying to get inside his character. Cruise's character Algren is a decorated veteran of the Civil War who's lost his soul. Hired by the Emperor of Japan to train Japan's first modern army, Algren finds a kindred spirit in the form of Samurai leader, Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe). Together the two men discover much about each other's culture and find that ultimately their lives are not so different as they appear on the surface.

Producer Marshall Herskovitz praises actor/producer Tom Cruise for his work ethic, dedication and incredible focus. "Tom threw himself wholeheartedly into the preparation. I've never seen an actor do as much research for a film. He had a library of information and was amazingly helpful. Ed and I have always challenged each other, that's the center of our creative relationship, but it's rare for us to be stimulated in a similar way by someone else. Tom became a part of our creative partnership and it's been incredibly enjoyable and rewarding," said Herskovitz.

TOM CRUISE ('Nathan Algren'):

You learned Japanese, you learned to fight with swords, you learned a little bit of everything. What was the most challenging for you?
The character was really challenging. I needed every bit of the months before shooting and every bit of the months during shooting to get to the character and work on it. Definitely the physically aspects of it were… At the beginning, I just thought, “How am I going to do this?” I didn’t tell anybody that (laughing). I told Ed Zwick, “Oh, I can do that. Don’t worry about it. I can do that.” But I just knew I had to be very, very disciplined about preparing for it. But also the physical transition and the character development at the same time, I just kept diaries while I was doing that. I knew that things were going to change and I was constantly looking for the character.

You’re in great shape. Is there a regular work-out routine you stuck with after filming?
No, I do so many different activities. It’s role-dependent, just to be able to do what I have to do. I’ve lost 25 pounds I had to put on.

Do you ever have any second thoughts about doing your own stunts?
No, no I don’t. I’m very safe when I go to do them. I’m meticulous and safe.

You described working on this as being like a full course meal. Can you elaborate on that?
Three countries, over 2,000 crew, different cultures. It was just beautiful is what it was, just beautiful. I loved it.

Why’d you pick this movie?
For me as a man, philosophically, when you talk about honor and integrity, that’s the way I want to live my life. It moved me. And also I’m just fascinated with their culture and this gave me the opportunity to explore it and to honor the things that I love most about their culture. And to work with Ed Zwick; it’s a very ambitious film. How can you say no to that?

Hiroyuki Sanada plays one of the samurai who initially doesn't accept your character. Sanada said that behind the scenes he helped you by giving you pointers.
He did. He’s tough, he’s good. He worked with me. I worked many months before shooting but then when I came in he was always very supportive and very helpful.

Several of your co-stars have mentioned you had Penelope Cruz and the kids on the set with you. What was that like having family there?
Fun. I always have family with me when I’m working. It just becomes part of the life.

Were there activities you could do with them during your downtime?
It was great in New Zealand because there was sea-kayaking and caving and all that stuff. It was a lot of fun.

The real Ron Kovic ("Born on the 4th of July") is here at tonight's Premiere. What's it mean to you to see him here?
Well for me, I’m really proud of this film and it’s just always good to see Ron. I was born on the 3rd of July and he was born on the 4th of July so that experience that we went through, that was a very powerful experience making that film. I’m just glad to see him and he’s doing well and he says he feels stronger and he looks really happy.

More interviews from the U.S. Premiere of "The Last Samurai:"
Ken Watanabe and Shin Koyamada, Masato Harada and Timothy Spall, Tony Goldwyn and Ngila Dickson, and Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz.