As of today, the legendarily prolific Takashi Miike has nearly 100 directorial credits to his name on IMDB. It’s a staggering number of projects—and an amount that will likely increase by the time you finish reading this article. Born and raised on the outskirts of Osaka, Japan, Miike has produced a steady stream of galvanizing, blood-soaked feature films since the early ’90s—a body of work that ranges from extreme horror (Audition) to samurai action (13 Assassins) to dark musical comedy (The Happiness Of The Katakuris). And by the sounds of it, he doesn’t seem to be taking his foot off the gas pedal anytime in the immediate future. At 55, Miike was boisterous and youthful in his conversation with The A.V. Club about his new movie, Yakuza Apocalypse, his paradoxical disdain for violent cinema, and why, for his next project, he’d really just like to helm an installment of the Ted series.
The A.V. Club: How do you make so many movies?
Takashi Miike: I think the reason why I have so many movies to my credit is that I never say no to any project, I never veto anything. I sort of challenge myself to do stuff, even if it’s something that I’ve never done before. So, I go with the flow. It’s really sort of a natural result of what I’ve been doing.
AVC: Have you ever said yes to something you didn’t want to do?
TM: No, it’s never happened to me. You can’t really make something or make a movie and feel all through the process that it’s a painful thing. It’s not possible to do that. I try to take interest in whatever comes my way. Another aspect of this is [that] if at the beginning it seems like something I don’t want to do, I ask myself why I don’t want to do this and why I feel this way. It’s perhaps rooted in the fact that I’m trying to avoid something, and what is it? And if I’m running away from something, I try to make myself face it and overcome that initial fear. As a director, I don’t think it’s possible to make a movie that you really don’t want to make.
AVC: Do you use filmmaking as a form of therapy?
TM: I don’t know if I would call it therapy, but filmmaking is really the only thing I know how to do. Before I started in the film industry, I was sort of an introvert, a reserved kind of guy. When I became an assistant to a director, I really had to change the way I was. I needed to talk to people, I needed to get into conflicts, to confront some people. That was a really necessary step I had to take. And when I became a director, then I started telling people what to do, giving them advice. You can then sort of start making people do what you want to do. For me, making movies is a way to bring on change for myself, and I really enjoy that part.
AVC: In your day-to-day life, are you now more extroverted because of directing?
TM: Well, not really. You can’t really change somebody completely, deep inside your nature. But I think what I did was admit to myself what kind of a person I was, and sort of get into the idea that that’s who I was. And I think preserving that part of myself really helps me make movies. It’s one thing I became more aware of, as far as my nature is concerned.
AVC: Let’s backtrack for a moment. Having made so many films, you must be more proud of some than others?
TM: Each movie has memories about them, but it’s very rare for me to be completely satisfied with any of my movies. When you are completely satisfied with what you have made, you’re pretty much done as a director. So when that happens, that’ll sort of be the end. When I started out making movies, I was just happy making them. I started out that way, my skills were not that great at that time. But the movies I made when I started out, you can watch them now, they have a vitality of that time. I think it’s very important to reset myself, to go back to that kind of mind frame when I just enjoyed making movies. It’s not really important to make skillful movies. I think expressing yourself really well, skill-wise, is not as important. I want it to be sort of raw and rough but new and fun to watch.
AVC: Does violence in cinema speak to you more than anything else?
TM: Me, personally, I’m not a big fan of violent movies, it’s not something I like to watch. And it’s not my aim or goal to make a violent movie. My characters are very important, so when I’m trying to depict a certain character in my movie, if my character is violent, it will be expressed that way in the film. You cannot really deny what a character is about. The more I try to make the character come to life in the movie and depict what he’s really about deep inside, that’s when the movie tends to become violent. To repeat, my movie end up becoming violent, but I don’t start with the intent of making violent movies.
AVC: You said you don’t really watch a lot of violent movies. What movies do you tend to like?
TM: The most recent movie that I watched and enjoyed was Ted 2.
TM: I heard that Ted 2 was not such a great commercial success in the U.S. compared to the first one. But the Japanese, myself included, we really love those fuzzy, cuddly stuffed toys, and the contrast with that, the exterior look, and the fact that he acts, no holding back and really sort of expressing his true nature, I think that’s what I really liked about that movie.
AVC: Would you be interested in making a movie like Ted?
TM: Yes, I would.
AVC: Have you told someone in Hollywood that you would like to do that?
TM: Well, actually, I’ve had the experience in dealing with Hollywood people and trying to make movies with them. It’s happened with two or three movies that I was very close to doing, and then it sort of gets canceled at the last minute. For me, trying to expand the energy to make one movie in Hollywood would be the equivalent in terms of energy to making 10 movies in Japan.
AVC: Why’s that?
TM: Anything that we discuss has to be through lawyers. To me, everybody is trying to avoid risks and cover their behinds, basically. The Japanese people, it’s not really in our nature to negotiate in that fashion. We like to keep things very ambiguous, things are done through handshakes. Because that’s not allowed when you’re dealing with Hollywood people, it creates a tight, tense atmosphere through the whole thing. And I don’t like to work in that kind of atmosphere. I like to make my movies in a kind of relaxed atmosphere, so I guess that’s why it would take so much energy. There are so many directors, very good directors from all over the world, that are vying for a piece of the pie. It’s a huge competition, and that also adds to the tension. And it can be good sometimes, but I personally don’t like that.
AVC: And so what about this latest movie? What brought it to life?
TM: More recently, a lot of my movies were made and they were expected to be a commercial success, to appeal to a wider audience. They were shown in many theaters, so obviously the budget was higher, but with that comes the expectation that it has to appeal to a wider audience. And that’s interesting, making those kinds of movies. It’s challenging. But also, I thought back on the times when I used to make movies that were with a lower budget, nobody was expecting it to be a hit, and nobody was paying attention to what I was doing, and it was a free type of creative process. So, I thought one way to reset myself is to go back to that kind of moviemaking.