DISCLAIMER: All images copyright Tak Sakaguchi, Ryuhei Kitamura, Yudai Yamaguchi, Yuji Shimomura, and all respective owners whose work, support, distribution, etc contributed to the making of the movies, interviews, documentaries, etc. I do not know Tak Sakaguchi and have nothing to do with him (yet?). I am just here to admire his work. No copyright infringement is intended.

People To Keep In Mind
These guys appear again and again throughout Tak's movies. They bonded while shooting Versus and are all good friends, therefore an important influence in Tak's life. It's great fun to follow their relationships across movies.
Yudai Yamaguchi Yudai Yamaguchi: Writer/assistant director of Versus, director of Battlefield Baseball, Cromartie High, writer for Alive. As far as I can tell, Tak was friends with him before the others. They shot a short test film together that Yudai later showed Ryuhei Kitamura, which in turn promoted Kitamura to seek Tak out to star in Versus. Yudai is very particular about the filming, display, and timing of gore in movies.
Ryuhei Kitamura Ryuhei Kitamura: Director/writer of Versus, The Messenger, Godzilla: Final Wars, Aragami, Alive, the upcoming Versus 2, and director of Azumi. He was the one that gave Tak his big break by casting him as the lead in Versus. They are good friends and Tak sees him as almost a father figure. Ryuhei has Tak make cameos in many, many of his movies, so I guess they're a lot like Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell that way.
Yuji Shimomura Yuji Shimomura: Action director of Versus, Battlefield Baseball, Aragami, Samurai, director/writer of Death Trance. Yuji has his own action team, U'den Flame Works. Him and Tak have been close friends for many years. Yuji was action director for Devil May Cry 3, which makes me love and worship him 'till the end of time. Plus he's cute. ^.^
Hideo Sakaki Hideo Sakaki: Has co-starred with Tak in a number of films, most notably as his arch-nemesis in Versus (and the upcoming Versus 2), but also important characters in Alive (lead: Tenshu Yashiro), Battlefield Baseball (Hoichi the bandaged zombie), Azumi (Nagato), and cameos in Aragami, Godzilla: Final Wars. He is quite the ladies' man.

Everything I Like To Think I Know About Tak
There is very little information about Tak available in the English language, but I did my best to gather what I could. I list all my sources at the bottom of the page and reference them numerically throughout the text.

He was given the name Tak (Taku) by his grandfather, and it means "if there is no road, forge one."(1) He is from Kanazawa, the capital of the Ishikawa prefecture on the main Honshu island of Japan.(2) He has a mother and father, a younger sister, and an older sister who is a decent singer and sung for Battlefield Baseball and the Japanese release of Lion King 2.(3,12) He graduated the local high school and decided he wanted to be a performer - some say at age 19(12), others at age 20(11). His parents were sad to see him go, but he left for Tokyo to pursue his dreams and make his parents proud.(2) Not sure how things went in Tokyo, but next thing you know is he's talking about how he had no outlet for his anger towards society so he turned to street fighting.(4)

He was always good at fighting. He knows Judo, Kickboxing, all kinds of grappling, has a professional Boxing license, etc.(11,12) If his close friend/director Ryuhei Kitamura is to be believed, Tak has faced a crocodile, a bull, a bear - and won.(5) But Tak actually befriended Yudai Yamaguchi first. See, Yudai also went to Tokyo to realize his dreams. He was making short movies when he befriended Yuji Shimomura at an Indie film festival. They went out for drinks when Yuji told him that there's a guy he wanted Yudai to meet because he was certain they'd get along... So they went out for drinks, too!(14) Would this mean that Yuji knew Tak first?

Tak had been doing his own stuff before this, mostly as producer and director. This changed after he met Yudai."I saw [Tak] wearing a red shirt, but I thought he might be a good actor." Though Yudai was shy in front of strangers, and had a hard time getting friendly with people he only met once, he clicked with Tak instantly. He cast Tak in a sequel to one of his short films, but that didn't do too well, so Yudai decided to resurrect one of his old ideas. "I was walking in Tamagawa, and I had a runny nose. And it came running out when I was talking. So I said Tebana Sankichi." In other words, it involved a guy who catches criminals by shooting snot at them - and he wanted Tak to play the leading role!(14)

Tak was confused. "I thought this guy must be crazy," but he agreed to do it anyway because he wanted to work with Yudai again. Tak fondly recalls how they'd stay up till the morning working on the script, and discuss every little detail, and how they don't have time to do that anymore. This would be Part 1 of Tebana Sankichi, shot for one full day in 1998 and ended up 4 1/2 minutes long (to meet the 5 minute festival guideline). After it did well with audiences, they shot Part 2 six months later in 1999.(14)

When Yudai later met Kitamura, he showed him these shorts. The director knew Tak was the one to star in his upcoming movie and was set on finding him. "He was a lot heavier then, but I knew anyway."(6) He felt Tak had a charismatic presence, the rare combination of being cute yet ferocious, and had a beautiful smile. It was after one of Tak's street fights that Kitamura approached him and said, "Your fists are not being put to good use. Why don't you put them to use in my movie?"(4) Tak felt he could trust this man with his life, became his bodyguard on the set, and saw him as a father figure.(4)

Thus he was cast as the lead in Versus (2000). Well, first he got turned down by the producer during casting for his bad acting, so I'm guessing Kitamura pulled some strings and stood firm, and THEN he was cast as the lead in Versus.(1) They told him to lose at least 10kgs for the part. He ended up losing 12kgs (26.4lbs).(4) He seems to do that a lot... lose weight for movies. Anytime they're not shooting he's munching on something during interviews. I think it's cute. ^.^ The character he played was a combination of the personalities of the director and Tak himself. For example, Kitamura hates it when women in movies stand around and scream helplessly during a fight, so he had Tak knock out the heroine. Tak, on the other hand, hates it and gets angry when someone treats women badly.(5)

The characters in Versus got killed off in the order Kitamura personally disliked them, so Tak did anything the director asked of him.(1,6) He didn't want to get medical treatment for either his broken tooth or his broken ribs that he got during his stunts because he didn't want to interrupt filming, and he didn't tell his co-stars because he didn't want them to hold back on him in fight scenes.(6) So the pain he shows in Versus? Real pain. The fear he shows? Real fear. As the cast says, "That's the beauty of Tak, he's an idiot," meaning that no matter how stupid or dangerous something is, he'll do it.(1) "If someone said to me 'You can do it, right?' I'd automatically say 'Of course I can!' But really, I was nervous."(6) Kitamura assured him that "As long as you don't die, something can be done about it."(1) Tak worked very hard on the many ways to spit up blood.

His mannerisms in audio commentaries and interviews change between movies. In Versus he tended to be shy and quiet. He barely talked in the group commentary unless the others prodded him to. At one point they were saying something about his scene and he nodded, so the others told him that you can't just nod in an audio commentary, you have to speak up.(1) That was cute. ^.^ When he did pipe in with a comment, it was usually unrelated to anything the others were talking about. This makes me believe that even though he was quiet, he was constantly thinking. And thinking is a sign of intelligence... right? He must have a fascinating mind. The rest of the group simply said that "Tak is a little odd," and "if things don't make sense, it's usually Tak."(1) The Versus audio commentary, by the way, ranks up there with Conan the Barbarian and Evil Dead as one of the most entertaining commentaries of all time.

After shooting Versus, Yudai and Tak went back to make Part 3 of Tebana Sankichi in 2001. They were so pumped about it, and had such a clear vision of what they wanted to do, that they wanted to shoot Part 4 right away. But it was then that they had to do Battlefield Baseball (2003) and Sakigake!! Cromartie High School (2005), as well as several movies independent of each other, so their plans for Tebana Sankichi got postponed.(14)

In Battlefield Baseball Tak talks a lot more in the commentary, makes jokes, and develops more of an attitude. He has been working together with the team for years and they have become like a family, so he learned to trust them and relax around them. He even asserts more authority around co-stars, and coaches them in their acting. Like the time he was trying to teach one of the zombies how to suitably express the idea that the baseball bat is new... by teasing, throwing cups, and spitting water at him after trials he deemed unworthy.(2,8) But, uhh, isn't that just normal friendly antics between guys? ~_~; For what it's worth, Tak says a co-star told him that Tak was the only one he could trust to hold the rope while he was suspended from a roof.(8) Tak couldn't do that, though, because he had to be at the bottom talking to him for the scene. Tak was still kind of shy in interviews with strangers.(8) My guess is this means he's careful about who he opens up to, and that's a good thing.

He was incredibly random, though. Everything from irrelevant comments to outright lies. Obvious lies mostly meant to be amusing - and they were! I was never bored listening to him, but damn was it confusing. He also says in the audio commentary that he's Christian, but at the 50/50 rate he was going, who the hell knows??(3) It was a very bizarre, nonsensical movie... perhaps he was staying in character. XD A lot of the extras were staged and/or blatantly scripted to be funny. The first featurette has him mock interviewed by a child, they both read from flashcards, and the questions/answers and accompanying footage often contradict each other.(2) In the second he is explaining with a straight face how he never uses stuntmen while one is sitting right by him.(8)

Finally, in 2005, Yudai and Tak made Part 4 of Tebana Sankichi. It was the longest and most controversial of the segments, including incest, patricide, and a suicide attempt. Even Tak says to Yudai that "About part 4, I think you might have gone too far." Although he does admit that "If we work together, we really go too far, and nobody is there to stop us." They certainly have a very interesting sense of humor! =D Part 4 had a bigger budget and more locations. While filming in Yubari, Tak caught some disease from someone and his eyes were bloodshot in several scenes.(14) He got better.(14)

Tak also realized that he sucked at winking now. "Well, let me explain, I've been an actor for a very long time so I felt winking wouldn't be much of a problem. But the wink I did in the first film just looks innocent. It looks cute. Same thing in Part 2, I look very innocent in that one as well. That's because I wasn't even an actor. The Innocent-looking wink performed by a guy who came out of Ishikawa prefecture has gotten drab after coming out to Tokyo. (Yudai: I can see that. I can see you getting corrupted.) I just became more mature and... (Yudai: he's a boaster now.) I'm not a boaster! Don't be ridiculous!"(14)

Tak was back to being more mellow in Death Trance (2006), maybe because he was interviewed by a stranger again. He was both lead actor and the action director for the movie. Even back in Versus, he never had particular qualms about hitting actors or stuntmen in fight scenes, but he was prepared to take hits in return.(1,4,6,7) He would not ask of anyone anything he would not be willing to do himself and does all of his own fighting stunts.(1,2,4,6,7,8) He didn't really take injuries seriously and was the only one besides Yudai who thought it was funny when one of the zombie extras hit his face against a tree during a roll off a hill.(1) Of course, Tak took the biggest battering in Versus, what with breaking his tooth, ribs, getting stabbed, etc. In Death Trance he explains how he felt it was necessary to make actual contact with hits in order to make the fighting appear more realistic.(7) He seems to enjoy this, but he doesn't want people hurt. His action team is called Zeros, and he explains that this stands for "zero casualties."(7)

In Battlefield Baseball Tak would spout off in the commentary about how great of an action star he is, even though it was just joking between friends.(3) He is more humble in Death Trance. When asked about his thoughts on exposure overseas, he simply says, "It's not like I'm thinking of making a huge impact on the world. I'm not that kind of person. I'm just a country bumpkin, born in Kanazawa. It's just that... if I can just keep going after the kind of action scenes that I dream up and want to try out, then I think one day I'll win recognition for that."(7)

Here we also see his long trend of being innocently vulgar. He could be having a mature conversation and then throw in a swear word out of nowhere. Well, the Japanese language doesn't really have swear words, but he manages. And he'll be completely well-meaning about it, too. When asked about his close friend/director Yuji Shimomura's action team U'den that helped with Death Trance he replies, "Oh, right, that team. The crappy team. That crappy little team worked its butt off, you know..... Wait, I shouldn't say crappy. They were a bunch of fucks. But I'll give them their due. I like U'den. I really like that team a lot..... So one day soon, if these two teams could become one... if they could merge into one team called Zeros... that would make me really happy."(7)

Tak tends to not read scripts until the last minute and doesn't do camera tests. He goes by instinct. "He gets it right in one take nearly all of the time," claims director Shimomura, "He's a genius."(7) Tak himself doesn't think he has much of an attention span and estimates it to be about 30 seconds.(6) He believes this helps him relax, which improves his concentration once the cameras start rolling.(6) But it proved frustrating for his female co-star in Versus, who wanted to practice lines with him.(6) He only knew them right before a scene. It also didn't help that he kept making her laugh before every take.

Tak likes to joke around and make people laugh. This works wonders with kids. One time he volunteered to dress up as Santa Claus and went to a children's church gathering to give away presents and... beat back... some weird costumed thing... attacking his reindeer. Anyway, the kids were pretty happy. ^_^;(2) He does a lot of volunteer work and is a member of Amnesty. When he was shooting Versus, he would donate to Unicef after every take because "Here I am filming, but there are people out there who are so poor they have no food."(9) His co-stars were baffled by this behavior. As he later explains in Battlefield Baseball, "I've been sending money to save refugees, so that I feel good. But no one has actually been saved. So... People in front of me, kids in front of me - I thought those were the ones I should make happy."(2)

In the Versus interview he apologized for making donations, saying he knows that's not very "Dark Hero" of him, but that he can't help it.(9) He appears quite conscious of the fact that an actor's appeal is highly dependent on the image he projects to the audience. Maybe some of his more questionable behavior, when not written off as the quirks of male bonding, could be attributed to this constant pressure. It seems he's not worried about maintaining his "cool" image outside of official interviews, though. Those that met him in public say he's sweet, shy, and always very nice. At the premiere of Battlefield Baseball when he was lost in a sea of fans signing autographs, he meekly comments "I didn't know I'm this popular," then quickly apologizes.(10)

Although Kitamura sometimes had Tak take over directing Versus when he wasn't on the set, Tak's first real directorial debut was Sakigake!! Otokojuku (2008).(1) Tak adapted the screenplay from the manga by Akira Miyashita. That's right, Tak also wrote the screenplay... and was the action director... and starred in it. On top of that he only had two and a half weeks to shoot it, which was enough to test his physical limits.(17,18) But even with a $400,000 budget, Tak still favored old school methods.(18) He pushed his Zeros action team to new extremes by actually having one of them get hit by a speeding car!(17) He really has no mercy for these guys. At the 2008 Fantasia Festival in Montreal, he promoted the movie by beating up his stunt guys again, and again, and again. Sakigake!! Otokojuku also has a reference to Christianity. After Gekko chisels out Toramaru's name on a traditional Shinto gravestone, Toramaru exclaims, "I'm a Christian!" and fights fiercer than ever. Taking into account that Tak wrote the script, I'm inclined to believe that he is Christian after all (unless he got that line from the manga).

Tak continued his directorial streak in Yoroi (or "Samurai Zombie," to be released in 2009), where he teamed up with Ryuhei Kitamura as his writer. Here one of the Zeros gets hit by a truck.(17) Tak also was the action director for Tokyo Gore Police (2008), which I hear lived up to its name. But that's not to say that he's given up on his acting career. He stars as Shiomi Takaya in the film United Red Army (2008), a much more dramatic role with lots of dialogue.(17) He's also planning a samurai period piece which he anticipates will be his ultimate action film! The title has not been determined yet.(17) 

Lets see, other things. I know he likes manga, and probably anime (but who doesn't?). In the Versus featurette there is a shot of a room full of film crew avidly planning the movie when Tak comes back carrying a stack of manga. Kitamura scolds him for wasting time and mock beats him up over it. All Tak could say was "I'm sorry. I swear to God, I wasn't reading manga."(6) He wore a hidden leaf village headband to ComicCon 2005 in San Diego - during interviews - so I would venture to believe he likes Naruto. It's so adorable that he'd wear that in public!(13) ^.^ He likes movies in general, and likes Jet Li better than Jackie Chan,(3) and is a fan of the Japanese actor Nishio (dunno his full name, Tak just said "Nishio-san") because he doesn't read scripts, either.(6)

He looks very different from movie to movie, and even more different off-camera. It might not be the made up perfection of a movie set, but I still love it. So you hear that Tak?? I don't care if you wear hats, pay no attention to your hair, put on a few pounds, or whatever else you do to look average and/or scare away stalkers! I can see right through that and I still want you!! And when the end of the world comes, I promise I will save you! How many other girls can offer you THAT, Tak?? Not many!!

He is the prettiest human on Earth. Absolutely gorgeous on his own, and if you just add eye shadow, reaches heights of flawless beauty that defy the laws of reality. He has the loveliest voice in the world, and I can listen to it for hours. I love his personality and would probably marry him in a heartbeat. He is Dante from Devil May Cry incarnate and he looks just like one of my favorite characters from my own world: Raven/Trellion. He is the first person to make me desperate enough to discover the screencapture feature of my InterVideo WinDVD, and is therefore the first one on my site with an image gallery (besides me and my cat).

Whew! That was a lot longer than I thought it'd be..... O.o;; Did I miss anything? ^.^; Oh yeah, he can't cook(1) and he can't act after midnight because he gets sleepy.(15)

(1) Versus audio commentary.
(2) "Making of Featurette 1" in Battlefield Baseball.
(3) Battlefield Baseball audio commentary.
(4) "Making of Versus" documentary.
(5) Ryuhei Kitamura interview on Midnight Eye.
(6) "Behind Versus: Part 1" featurette.
(7) Death Trance interview.
(8) "Making of Featurette 2" in Battlefield Baseball.
(9) "Behind Versus: Part 2" featurette.
(10) "Premier Footage 1" in Battlefield Baseball.
(11) Cast - Versus (horribly translated)
(12) Channel Tak (horribly translated)
(13) Yumemi Reiko's Livejournal.
(14) "Round Table" featurette from Tebana Sankichi.
(15) Tebana Sankichi audio commentary.
(16) "Sakigake!! Otokojuku" movie.
(17) Tak Sakaguchi interview on Twitch Film.
(18) Internet Movie DataBase.

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DISCLAIMER: All images copyright Tak Sakaguchi, Ryuhei Kitamura, Yudai Yamaguchi, Yuji Shimomura, and all respective owners whose work, support, distribution, etc contributed to the making of the movies, interviews, documentaries, etc. I do not know Tak Sakaguchi and have nothing to do with him (yet?). I am just here to admire his work. No copyright infringement is intended.