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An Interview with Vampire Director Shunji Iwai
Movie Features

An Interview with Vampire Director Shunji Iwai

We sit down with acclaimed Japanese writer/director Shunji Iwai to chat about his English-language debut, the horror film Vampire.

Vampire is Japanese writer/director Shunji Iwai’s first English-language film, having made a name for himself in his  native country with films like Swallowtail, Love Letter, All About Lily Chou-Cho, as well as several short films and even dabbled in song-writing along the way.

While you could easily classify Vampire as a horror film, Iwai’s take on the classic blood-sucking trope expertly blends elements of other genres to create a thrilling, suspenseful flick that’ll leave you scratching your head. It’s a unique take on the idea of vampirism, devoid of the “romantic,” sparkling schmucks of Twilight and modern films, and it’s a gory good time for fans.

We were lucky enough to chat with Iwai-san about the eerie popcorn flick and pick his brain about the whole ordeal. It’s worth sinking your fangs into hearing Iwai’s thoughts on breaking into English-language cinema, his inspirations, and what it’s like reinventing the vampire.

Check out the full piece below and don’t forget to read Chris Pandolfi’s review of Vampire right HERE!


Vampire follows the sinful exploits of a man who isn’t an actual undead creature, but a human being who simply enjoys the taste of human blood. It’s a massive departure from the “sparkly” American author portrayals and the like, and thus it’s a refreshing change. Where did you get the idea?

I don’t remember the exact moment. It occurred to me very spontaneously. However, I admit I’ve thought about how I would make it unique vampire movie, if I were to ever film one.. Almost all vampire movies obey the complicated rules, like vampires becoming ash when they are exposed to sunshine. Someone came up with those rules, and I didn’t want to just borrow them.

Obsession is also a major theme in men today. The blood could be a metaphor of anything we are obsessed about, like drugs, sex, television games, etc. Blood was the only way I could truly describe an isolated person. If it’s was one of those so-called vampire movies. I wouldn’t have named it “Vampire”.

Will you be working on any other English-language films after Vampire? The dialogue had a very natural flow.

My English isn’t good enough to over see dialogue. Fortunately, I have a good English supervisor. I also asked the actors to not follow the script too much, and to try to speak with their own natural feeling. This experience showed me the possibility that I have to make films in any language. Of course I’d like to keep making English films as well.

What are important aspects of a horror movie to you? Is it a chilling motivation like Simon’s or special effects? Would you rather create a terrifying atmosphere or show the audience why they should be afraid?

The most terrifying thing is something remaining too long. I love William Friedkin’s “Exorcist”. It’s not just a horror movie, so it’s really terrifying.

Was Kevin Zegers your first choice for the role of Simon? It’s quite a departure from his normal movie appearances, save for a select few. If so, why were you drawn to him in particular?

I met with a lot of actors for the role of Simon, but when I met Kevin, he fit the very image of my Simon. I wouldn’t be surprised if he saved blood in his fridge. And I love his sense of taste. Very soft and mysterious. I also liked him in “Transamerica.”

Would you consider Simon a serial killer since his sole motivator for having these women over is to consume their blood?

I think Simon only wants to figure out why he is living in this world. Blood is the clue for him to find that reason.

Vampire goes a long way to re-interpret the modern idea of vampirism and the notion that they all turn into bats and need to survive the daytime in their coffins. Was this intentional or were you going for another narrative thread?

Like I said in my answer for question #1, I don’t want to just follow the rules someone came up with. It’s like a television game. Someone created the game, and all you have to do is play it. I didn’t want it to be like that.

What are some of your filmmaking inspirations?

Fresh, cozy, fragile, and ethereal experiences…? Make any sense?

Do you have a favorite English-language director or film? If so, why is that?

I love 1970’s American movies. “Exorcist”, “Unmarried woman”, “Conversation”, “Badlands”, “God Father”, etc. The car actors are all ill in a way and I love them somehow.