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Interview with Kite star India Eisley

We chat to India Eisley, star of the live-action remake of notorious Anime Kite

Following our review of Kite, we sat down and chatted over the phone to the film’s lead actor, India Eisley.

Hi Ms. Eisley! Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today
Thank you for speaking with me!

OK, so jumping right in: How did you hear about the project?
Simple really, the audition came up!

Had you seen the original [Kite 1998] in preparation?
It was very hard to find but I finally got a DVD of it. All that I’d seen when I Googled it was the kitchen fight but then I found the entire thing because I thought it would be good to know what I was up against!

Did you have to go through any training for the combat scenes before you stepped into the role, so to speak?
I did, yeah. While I was in Los Angeles, I worked with this stunt coordinator who unfortunately wasn’t able to work on [Kite], his name’s Jeff Imada. He did The Book of Eli, The Matrix, the Bond films, Hanna. He’s just brilliant, brilliant, such a sweet guy and I did martial arts and weapons training with him for three months leading up to filming.

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OK, so when you were on set, did the stunt coordinators have improvise scenes based on your location?
They did because a lot of the locations and places were not the most conducive for filming fight scenes! They did have to tweak them, you know, and just see as we went along.

Yes!  The locations themselves, I figured we were in South Africa [because of the South African film development fund logo in the film] but I have to say it’s one of the locations that feels very urban and also very wide open in certain scenes and shots.
Yes, very otherworldly!

Yes, very much so. I think the year before you were shooting Kite [actually it was 2010], the production of Dredd had been there for location shooting and I remember thinking “Oh, these will look similar.” But the two films, Dredd feels very open and barren whereas Kite feels, like you were saying, like the post apocalypse.
Yes, it does have a very disconnected [feeling], like it [has a] could be anywhere feel to it. Kind of an ultimate world, really.

Moving on to your castmates, you know who I am going to ask about. What was it like working with Samuel L. Jackson?
Absolutely wonderful! He is exactly how you would imagine him to be…cool! *laughs*…even when it’s three in the morning and everyone’s exhausted and he’s [there] and looks just great and cool and calm with everything. He just been doing it so long. [Really], he’s just the most kind, giving, professional person, he’s just a wonderful human being and I kind of wish I could be with him on everything [and] just randomly be in his films! *laughs*

KITE-1

For a lot of the film, you’re the central focus but in your scenes with Karl [Jackson’s character] it doesn’t seem like you’re having to square up to him in terms of your performance. It’s seems like the two of you are working on a level playing field. Was that how it was in rehearsals and not like “Oh my God, I have to scale up to Samuel L. Jackson!”
No, it actually makes everything much easier, working with someone like him, [where] they don’t even have to say anything, they just bring so much experience and professionalism and, obviously, talent! *laughs*. They just, I don’t know, it’s almost a comfort because they are so good what they do and he is so good at what he does. Obviously, it makes you want to be as good as you can be but it comes more easily.

Uh-huh, ok, well I’m trying not to spoil the film for those who haven’t seen it but about halfway through the film, the film shifts gears because Karl is no longer the only person you’re interacting with. You now interact with Callan Mcauliffe (who plays Oburi) so how were your scenes with him different? Karl comes from a kind of father figure whereas Oburi is contemporary and streetwise and the same level as [Sawa].
Yeah, [obviously] it’s completely different. Callan was a complete doll, sweet and funny and very hyper and full of energy!! *laughs* He brought a more youthful side of it and a kind of balance that was very nice. It was equally nice working with both of them but completely different!

In this film, other than Samuel’s interactions with you, you [kind of] have to hold the whole film up on your own shoulders, it’s about you, the camera spends the most time with you. How did you feel doing that, knowing that you’d worked on Underworld Awakening with Kate Beckinsale? In that film, she was to hold the film up on her shoulders as she had done for some of the other films. How did that feel shifting gears from being a supporting character to Kate to Kite and having to hold that up?
I tried to not think of it like that or I probably would have been too terrified to show up! *laughs* Completely daunted! I just tried to focus on the job and on the character and, *laughs* god this sounds really pretentious, I tried to stay as true to the character as I could be and make it real for myself. But, as far as carrying a film, again I tried to not think of it that way.

Towards the end of the film, people you had encountered and people who had been mentioned to you finally do make their appearance and you have to physically square up to them. I’m thinking of Carl Beukes (Vic) and Zane Meas (the Amir) and we’re talking about the Kitchen Fight scene. I have to say it’s kind of brutal to watch. You go from a position of being on the ropes to owning the scene. I remember someone watching it with me and it’s the moment where you pick up the meat cleaver –
Ah!

I remember saying “My God, she’s actually going to heft that!”
*laughs*

While there are smaller action scenes after this, that scene feels like a fight for your life sort scene, what was that like to do since you have to say your lines, you have emote but you also have to, basically, stab people a lot!
I loved it! Because there wasn’t much dialogue in Kite so it wasn’t difficult to do both and it ended up kind of flowing? The action complemented the tiny amount of dialogue so that wasn’t a problem at all. That meat cleaver was absolutely disgusting *laughs* because I remember [having to hold] kebab skewers and it still had meat on it, like raw lamb! It was *shudders*…quite disgusting! It got under my nails, it was just horrible!

All of the action scenes were like the kitchen scenes, but I really enjoyed it because it was..there was blood everywhere and everyone was just sweating away and there was nothing glamorous about the whole thing! I thoroughly enjoyed it! *laughs*

I know you haven’t seen the [final cut] yet but what are you most proud of with the film now that you’ve finished it?
Unfortunately, I have two scenes with Sam that, in the edit, they chopped them to bits or at least that’s what I’ve been told that hopefully might be on an extended cut on the DVD. There were a few takes that were emotionally, [scenes] between the two of us were emotional, that I don’t think made the final cut. That would have been my favourites!

There are some adaptations of Asian and Anime properties that are, they won’t and then they don’t work. I’m thinking of the Oldboy remake by Spike Lee with Josh Brolin that before it was even shown, there was universal disdain for it. Again, without spoiling it, there are differences between your version of Kite?
Yes.

that are night and day in terms of the original one. Do you think that it’s a better approach for you do to an adaptation of another language film where you couldn’t quite get it to fit if you did scene for scene?
Yes, I think with this anime because it was so…risqué and racy that in order to get the rating they wanted to get, I don’t think if they had kept those things [in] that they could be able to keep that rating. There are, obviously, huge massive differences between the anime and the live action [Kite’s], so that if someone was doing a film based on an anime and set out to make it exactly like the original, it would just look comical. So you have to tweak it to make it more human. So it was kind of inevitable. There are massive differences, the main one that none of us are Japanese, to be completely honest, but to make it live action there have to be changes.

Looking back on the project, I’m probably going to have edit this so we don’t say “we’re trying not to spoil it for you!” *laughs* But so long as certain plot points are written in a certain way, would you come back for a sequel if they thought there was enough business [from the first one]?
Ohhhh, it depends. I’m thinking to, I don’t know how they’d do it because Kite Liberator [sequel to original Kite anime] was another thing where they’d have to tweak it immensely. On a shallower note, I loved the characters wardrobe in the sequel! *laughs*

KITE-13

Yes! *laughs*
So if they kept it close to that, that would be cool with the coat and gloves! But, yeah, I don’t  know. It’s a really good question, I haven’t heard anything about the sequel…yet.

Yeah, I think the [first] film’s too new to think about a sequel but if they went with the Kite Liberator adaptation, would you come back if they asked you to play Sawa again?
I think I’d have to wait and read the script but I probably would. I love to work and I love doing action bits so, yeah!

OK, before I let you go, one of your upcoming projects: Social Suicide. I read the IMDB description and I’m wary of using plot summaries since they can change. But how does it feel working on a version of Romeo and Juliet feel after your mam (famed actor Olivia Hussey) played the role and from a totally different angle?
Yeah, it’s something completely new to me, I’ve never played the pretty one, the love interest! Obviously, I felt a little awkward going into that, because I’ve never thought of that, never played the love interest *laughs* But that was good I think that was something completely new to tackle. But as far as being compared to my mum! You know, she was gorgeous and stuff in the original and seeing pictures of myself next to hers, yes there is the proud daughter thing and then it sets in of: “Ah.” *laughs* I don’t think anyone can compare to what my mum did but I think that the fact it’s modern day, it’s not a period piece, it’s not a direct remake of Romeo and Juliet, that helps. Because I wouldn’t touch what my mum did, I would never attempt [it]!

Yeah, what did your mum think, because she’s in the film cast as well, since presumably they approached you first? How did you break it to her “OK, Mam, I’m kind of doing a version of Romeo and Juliet…
No, no, actually! Sorry to interrupt, they originally called for my mum!

So it’s the other way around?
Yeah, they originally called for her and she asked “have you cast the daughter yet”? They were [saying], “no we haven’t found anyone”. So she said, “why don’t you take a look at India for it”? So that’s how that happened! She knew before me! *laughs*

Oh, OK! *laughs* So when you were preparing for it, did she give you any pointers or did she let you do it on your own terms?
No, she said I’m sure that you’ll be fine! Because at first I was “I can’t play the love interest! Are you insane?!” And she said “it’ll be fun, just give it a go and don’t think of it”. She’s got a  very comforting thing, she doesn’t say much but she says “you’ll be fine” but that she’s probably right!

That sounds like a very Mammy thing to say: “You’ll be fine!” Ms. Eisley, thank you so much for talking with us today!
Likewise, thank you for talking with me!

Kite is available on DVD & Blu-ray 13 October from Anchor Bay Entertainment. Enter our competition to win Kite on DVD!

easternKicks would like to thank Ms. Eisley and Kia Blue from ar:pr for setting up this interview.

About the author

Phillip O'ConnorPhillip O'Connor Phillip O'Connor
A fan of anime, it helped me to find Hong Kong Action films and later Japanese and Korean cinema. Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Chow Yun Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Chung, they all became my guides to Asian cinema. At the same time, HKL reawakened in me the desire to watch films again... More »
Read all posts by Phillip O'Connor

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