This Filipino-Japanese Actress Is Starring in the New Sadako Film

We got a one-on-one interview with the horror flick's female lead.


Japan’s most famous horror icon, Sadako, comes back to the big screen with a new movie called Sadako. The film is set in today’s world where digital culture, such as social media and video streaming sites, has taken over people’s lives.


The film is based on a novel entitled Tide by Koji Suzuki. This author also wrote the original stories of the other Sadako films where Sadako appears in modern society and her mother’s unknown past is revealed.


Elaiza Ikeda, who has a fear of horror movies, stars with Japan’s horror icon, Sadako.


The plot of the new Sadako movie revolves around Mayu, a psychological counselor. Strange things started happening around her after she was assigned to a young girl who is under police protection. Meanwhile, her younger brother Kazuma, a YouTuber who’ll do anything for views, sneaks into a burned down housing complex, where five people died, and starts a series of misadventures.

Filipino-Japanese actress Elaiza Ikeda succeeds Nanako Matsushima and Satomi Ishihara as the lead actress of this horror flick, taking on the lead role, Mayu, while Kazuma is played by Hiroya Shimizu. Director Hideo Nakata takes over this spine-chilling film 14 years after the release of the first Sadako film, The Ring.


Here, Ikeda shares with us her experience of preparing for the role, notable off-cam moments, and some instances during filming when she felt her heart rate spike.


A still from the film Sadako.

© 2019 “Sadako” Production Committee


Q: How did you feel when you first read the script?


Elaiza:
To be honest, I was so scared... it took me a while before I read the script. But as I continued reading, I learned more about Sadako’s upbringing, her strong will to live, and her relationship with her family. I realized that the film isn’t just another horror story. It will actually catch the feelings of the viewers. That’s when I decided that I wanted to be a part of this film.


Q: What kind of preparations did you go through to fit in the character of Mayu?


Elaiza:
I am very faint-hearted. I was really worried about seeing Sadako right in front of me and not being able to move out of fear. But Mayu is a brave girl who faced every challenge that came her way, that’s why I had to put myself in a stronger mental state. I dug deeper into Mayu’s tough character and reflected on how she thought about her brother as they grew up. In a dialogue, Mayu talks about her love for Kazuma and I thought about those lines quite a lot.

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The story apparently went through many changes throughout the filming.

“The first script I received had been battered by many stages of revision.”


Q: Did you have any difficulty in doing the film?


Elaiza:
I’m easily startled by sudden sounds, so I took advantage of that sensitivity during shooting. Those times when I didn’t know what was going to happen, I really felt the nerves all over my body growing hyperactive. I used that to show the most natural reactions as much as possible.


Q: How did you find the atmosphere of the set?


Elaiza:
The staff members were all friendly. Everyone was relaxed during the lighter scenes, although there was still tension in not knowing what to expect. During serious scenes, however, even the staff would hold their breath so we could focus on our acting since they are not easy to retake. They all had high morale.


Q: Was there a difference as compared to other projects you’ve taken?


Elaiza:
There was one time when I crouched down to the ground and just cried my heart out, and the staff comforted me by leaving me alone. I was so sure I looked creepier than Sadako in that scene (laughs).


A still from the film “Sadako”

© 2019 “Sadako” Production Committee


“Just being on set gives you creeps.”


Q: How was your relationship with Hiroya Shimizu who plays your little brother?


Elaiza:
At first, we were both really shy. As I tried to be conscious of how important Kazuma’s role is in Mayu’s life, Hiroya and I got a lot closer too. It was also a great coincidence that Hiroya has a similar build with that of my younger brother’s in real life. So, I kind of saw him as my real brother. Whenever he called me his sister, I felt the need to help him get stronger naturally.


Q: Somehow you do look alike, don’t you think?

Elaiza: Like both of us having inexpressive eyes? (Laughs)


Q: Not really! Playing Kazuma means he actually had to go to scary places, like when he goes to a burned down building to take videos of paranormal activity, right?


Elaiza: 
Aside from acting, Hiroya also had to shoot scenes as a video content creator. And I think it was really difficult. But those scenes actually made it easier for me to empathize. I was like, “What does my brother think he’s doing?!” His scenes made me realize that Mayu was saved a lot of times by Kazuma. Am I praising him too much? (Laughs)

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A still from the film “Sadako”

© 2019 “Sadako” Production Committee


Q: Shooting with Sadako is also a first for you, how was it?


Elaiza:
Since we use very minimal special effects, the set was really frightening. Just being there gives you the creeps. I think it’s a testament to how great Director Nakata is with creating the appropriate atmosphere.  I felt like my heart was in my mouth when Sadako grasped my arm during takes. It was overwhelming.


Q: Are you really that afraid of horror movies?


Elaiza:
I really am! I watched The Ring at home when I was young, and I was so terrified I covered the TV with a blanket (laughs). But I used to play horror games with my brothers. No, actually my older brother would play. Then my younger brother and I would watch him under the covers, so we could hide underneath when it gets too much.

A still from the film “Sadako” 

© 2019 “Sadako” Production Committee


Q: During the film, there was a scene where you were watching a horror video alone, can’t you also do that in real life?


Elaiza:
I also have a younger brother, and if something happens to him, I don’t think I can just sit around. I think l can watch. But I don’t think I can do it alone. I’ll probably ask my older brother to watch with me. This is mainly why I really respect Mayu for her courage.


Q: During shooting, I’ve heard that you saw Sadako even in your dreams?


Elaiza:
It was like I couldn’t switch Mayu off in me. Even after the director yells “cut,” I was stuck with this feeling of urgency of having to save my brother. My eyes were wide open the whole time during shooting, I may have looked like I was going crazy (laughs). But that’s just how engrossing the script and the set was. Looking back, I was really lucky to have been able to work with such a team.


Director Nakata guides actors to the smallest details.

“Director Nakata tells us what to do with so much passion that we try not to lose to his energy.”


Q: In the movie, your eyes would get 1.5 times bigger than the normal size. They were so big I literally wondered if human eyes could grow that huge!


Elaiza:
They do get surprisingly huge! (laughs) When I felt like there was something behind me, my eyes would just shoot open. Because, c’mon! Sadako was right behind me, you know? If you’re taking a shower and then you suddenly find Sadako right behind you, your eyes are definitely going to get 1.5 times bigger!

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Q: That is true. Even when the shooting is over, did you still feel like that for quite some time?


Elaiza:
Oh no, everything was brighter when it was over. Like, “Welcome back to the peaceful life!” (laughs). But with a sense of fulfillment, of course. It was strange. It was like everything was a lie, a bad dream that just ended.


Q: Your performance was realistic and horror film-worthy, that I think you will be given more opportunities in the same genre. If an offer comes for Sadako 2, are you going to accept it?


Elaiza:
Oh, no! But I do love the creative energy in that set. When doing “surprised” scenes, expressions have to be instantaneous, which is not an easy task. So to be able to deliver such reaction so naturally, in that environment, I just feel so lucky to be an actor. And I do hope to have a similar experience again. If I’m gonna do one more round of it, maybe I should train my eyes to get bigger! But please, let me take a break for a while (laughs).


Horror creeps up on video streaming sites, which have become a part of our daily lives in this generation. “(Since streaming sites is one of the themes) We hope to reach out to the younger viewers. They might find smartphones scary after watching (laughs).”


Sadako
has started showing in TOHO Cinemas Umeda and other TOHO Cinema branches around Japan since May 24.


Provided by Japan Walker™, Walkerplus™, and Kansai Walker™ (14 May 2019)


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