Kimihiko Nakamura started his career as an actor mostly in V-cinema productions under the alias Salmon Sakeyama. His credits include 52 movies with titles such as “Girl Hell 1999”, “Blood Sisters” and “All Night Long: Initial O”. After winning an award for his script at the Hakodate Film Festival, he switched to directing using his actual name this time.

On the occasion of “Smoking Aliens” screening at Japan Filmfest Hamburg, we speak with him about the crazy story of the film, smoking, and shooting films in Japan.

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Can you introduce to our readers how you became a director and screenwriter?

With my experience as staff and as actor in various films and TV shows, I made my own plans and scripts. Because those were approved, I became film director.

Where did you get the idea for creating such a crazy narrative as Smoking Aliens?

In science fiction movies, is it often the case that the featured creatures are weak against unexpected things. Like the aliens in Tim Burton’s “Mars Attack!” who are weak against songs, and the monsters of Jon Wright’s “Grabbers” who are weak against alcohol. On the other hand, in recent Japanese movies and TV dramas, smoking scenes have been considerably decreased. That gave rise to the idea of killing aliens with cigarette smoke.

As a spectator, I would say that your narrative was influenced by other movies. Can you reveal some of your inspirations for this movie?

I wanted to make a movie about human-parasitical creatures such as David Cronenberg’s “Shivers“, Jack Sholder’s “The Hidden“, Robert Rodriguez’s “The Faculty” and Ishiro Honda’s “Matango” for a long time.

One of the highlights of the narrative is Yoshinari Dohi’s practical effects. How was the design of the aliens decided?

In Japan, there is a legendary snake called the “Tsuchinoko” [Child of Hammer] and at the planning stage, I was thinking of a Tsuchinoko-like form. But in order to express lifelike movements without using CG, Mr Dohi designed a sea-cucumber-like shape [for the alien]. We adopted this shape.

Can you give us some details about the casting process for the film?

This time, we decided from the beginning to make a movie starring Riri Kouda. We selected “Smoking Aliens” from several projects, wrote the script and after that we did the casting. Among the actors who previously co-starred with Riri Kouda, we selected actors that fitted the image of the role.

We can imagine that the filming of this narrative was extremely fun. Can you share some of the most memorable moments that happened during filming?

While most of the cast were smokers, most of the staff were non-smokers. (I am also a non-smoker). Because of that, most of the staff were wearing masks while shooting. Shijimi, who plays a smoker, is actually a non-smoker, so he often struggled to smoke.
While we had to be careful not to burn ourselves when filming action with cigarettes, it was fun because we were doing something unique, something not done in films of the past.

Not in every country, one is able to create this kind of narratives. Do you think Japan is more open to creating these quirky narratives? If yes, why do you think so?

We were able to make a movie that mixes smoking and science fiction precisely because we are an independent production. For one thing, movies with smoking scenes are much less than before. The other thing is that science fiction movies, when considered as commercial films, have difficulties passing the planning stages in Japan.

However, in Japan, a wide variety of expressions have been tried in the field of manga and animation, so I think that, depending on the way of doing, even in live-action films, new expressions will continue to appear.