TOKYO – Richard Gere stars in a Hollywood remake of Japan’s long-cherished story of Hachiko, a faithful dog that died at a train station waiting for its master. But “Hachi: A Dog’s Story” is more about the dog than about Gere, the 59-year-old actor said Wednesday.
“On this movie, I was definitely second-class,” he told reporters at a Tokyo hotel.
The movie premiered in the U.S. at the Seattle International Film Festival in June, and opens in Japan in August.
The story of Hachiko is a legend among Japanese, a pet-loving nation that honors self-sacrificing loyalty.
Hachiko, the story goes, always used to wait at Shibuya train station for its master, a professor at the University of Tokyo.
Even after the professor died, the dog waited every day at the station for a decade, until it died in 1935.
People were so moved they built a statue of Hachiko at the station, which remains a popular rendezvous spot for Japanese today.
The story of Hachiko was made into a 1987 Japanese movie. Gere’s version transports that story to a station in Rhode Island.
Gere said the Japanese breed of dogs called Akita used in the movie are close to wild dogs and very difficult to train. In the beginning, Gere was instructed not to even look at the three dogs that played Hachi.
“They only do something because they want to. You can’t really buy them with food,” said Gere, last in Japan four years ago for another remake of a Japanese story, “Shall We Dance?”
Gere said the new film evokes the artistry of silent movies.
Often, the crew would film the dog for 12 hours, and take just 10 minutes to shoot Gere’s segments, he said.
“We were capturing something that was organic and real that was happening between me and the dogs,” he said.
By YURI KAGEYAMA, Associated Press