Everyone on a film set has a job. Lots of people are all around, but everybody does one little thing to make sure the whole operation works smoothly. And — I can’t believe I didn’t already know this — in the case of The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, one guy held the prestigious job of “get arrested pretending to be the director.”
I bumped into this story from two days ago put up by ScreenRant that explains how getting filming permits in Tokyo is hard, getting them in the popular tourist district of Shibuya is harder, and getting them as an up-and-coming Western director was basically impossible, so the movie studio went about things the only way it could. Per ScreenRant:
The studio was well aware of the difficulty in acquiring film permits in Japan; in fact, most movies set in the city are shot at other locations and reproduced to look like Tokyo. Ever since the James Bond 1967 film, You Only Live Twice, laws and regulations have become more strict. The process is expensive and frustrating, so Tokyo-set movies are rarely authentic. Some directors went to great lengths to shoot on-location, like the case with Sofia Coppola negotiating heavily to film 2003’s Lost in Translation. Lin, however, was still a newcomer at the time, so he took the risk. Universal then hired a “fall guy” who remained on set if trouble arose. Shortly after shooting in Shibuya, the crew was kicked out of the area by law enforcement. When the police attempted to arrest the director, the fall guy claimed that he was Lin and spent a night in jail.
ScreenRant also notes that a lot of the actual famous scene uses CGI, which is pretty clear when you watch it again:
Now, this story doesn’t actually source anything, but luckily enough for me, Justin Lin actually talked to the press about this incident when the movie was coming out, so I can pull this from DigitalSpy, posted the day before the movie’s release in 2009:
Lin told DS that Universal hired a “fall guy” to accompany him in Tokyo because Japanese authorities refuse to give out permits for location shoots.
The director explained: “When we went to shoot in Tokyo it’s a very different culture. They don’t give out film permits. We would be setting up a scene and people would just walk right through the set. I had this one guy, I thought he said he was me. I didn’t know what that meant.
“I wanted to shoot in Shibuya, which is the most crowded place in Tokyo. The cops, they’re all so polite, so it takes ten minutes for them to come over and kick you out. They shut us down, I’d gotten all my shots, but I didn’t know they were going to arrest me. Another guy stepped up and said, ‘I’m the director.’ I found out that it was his job to take the fall for me. He went to jail for the night and I’m forever grateful.”
This still seemed a little weird that the “fall guy” never gets a name in these stories, so I kept looking and found this from 2014, posted by Moveable Feast. It was a summary of comments made by Justin Lin at a film festival screening of Tokyo Drift, discussing some little-known facts about shooting. In it we get a hint at who the guy was:
Film permits weren’t an option for the production since they don’t grant them in Tokyo, so Lin had to run-and-gun in the city, particularly any time he filmed at the famously busy intersection Shibuya Crossing. The crew learned they’d have about 20 minutes of shooting time before police would arrive to stop filming and when the police would ask who was the director, one member of the crew (who would also play the bathhouse attendant in the film) made it his job to announce himself as the director so he would be carted off for a night in jail instead of Lin. “He was the Japanese me,” said Lin.
OK! The bathhouse attendant. I remember that scene. Our hero goes to collect some money from a man in a bathhouse, who turns out to be Konishiki! Konishiki was born in Hawaii and became the first foreign wrestler to reach the second-highest rank in sumo, ōzeki, which is some serious shit. Less serious but equally impressive: people would call him “Meat Bomb.” Very rad.
In any case, here’s that scene:
Only one guy in there could really be called a “bathhouse attendant” and it’s this dude here:
But sadly he appears uncredited and unlisted in IMDB’s full cast and crew page.