The art of dying is dying, according to a recent article on NPR:
Now 69, Fukumoto recalls landing his first job in the movies as a stuntman and extra with Toei studios in 1959.
“When I was younger, our studio had some 400 stuntmen and extras,” he remembers. “I wanted to stand out. I wanted to be on screen. The best way to do that was to become a ‘chopped-up actor’ and to fight with the stars.”
Fukumoto’s art is known in Japanese as tate, a stylized sort of stage combat that combines elements of martial arts, dance and kabuki theater. Its use in Japanese film has influenced foreign cinematic styles from “spaghetti Westerns” to Hong Kong kung fu flicks. But few Japanese actors practice it today.
Here is an example recorded from Japanese TV, in which Kirareyaku (or “Chopped Up Actors) demonstrate their art, and their use of camera angles:
Dying for Your Entertainment
When an actor needs to die on stage, the performer and director should consider:
- What overall effect is necessary for this scene and the overall show?
- How long does it take to kill them?
- How long will the actor need to remain dead and visible on stage?
I’ve previously written acting tips for the dying: How to Die on Stage, so the specifics of acting several kinds of death are there.
More important to the show are issues of gruesomeness. The use of fake blood should be used for victims of villains, and the bodies that litter the stage after a war scene should not be casually ignored by “good” characters.
This is the reason why Mercutio is quickly taken off-stage to die, and why Romeo flees almost immediately after murdering Tybalt. Otherwise, the corpses ruin Romeo’s image.
Even if the hero needs to show determination and endurance in a long fight, we almost always want to see them use cleverness to win in the end. He should not merely be the last character with any strength left to slowly turn a dagger.
And it should be pretty obvious that in comedies and children’s shows, we let hurt characters leave the stage quickly or die in an elegant way, regardless of whether they were positive or negative roles.
More Chopped Up Actors!