Rina Sawayama has made her feature acting debut as Akira in John Wick: Chapter 4.
Directed by Chad Stahelski, the sequel is the longest and arguably most ambitious entry in the franchise yet – with bigger action sequences and an expanded cast.
Speaking to NME, Stahelski explained that he contacted Sawayama after seeing her music videos. “I knew very little about her beforehand,” the director said. “I was exposed to her as we were casting the role of Akira.
“We’d seen her music videos and just something about her look and something about her performances in her music videos was… she seemed right out of an anime, and Japanese anime is a big influence for this.”
The director explained that he then got the singer on a Zoom call “24 hours after I’d seen her video” and invited her to fly over to Berlin.
“She flew over, met Keanu [Reeves], met myself, and her enthusiasm and professionalism… She was just great and she asked a lot of questions. We put her with the stunt team. Again, her enthusiasm just nailed it. We knew we had the right person.”
Asked if Sawayama had been given a warning about the tough stunt training, Reeves replied: “A little. She’s a dancer and a performer, so her control and her understanding of space and her body and what it does mean to train… but yeah, because I think she hadn’t really lifted weights.
“Chad set her up with a trainer, so doing exercises specifically for being able to do somersaults, rolls, kicking, punching and reactions. It takes time and prep, and she did it.”
Along with starring in the film, Sawayama contributed a song to the soundtrack titled ‘Eye For An Eye’.
Speaking to NME in September about landing the role, Sawayama said: “My team are all just so shook by the idea that we even got offered John Wick, so I think… none of us really know what’s gonna happen. We’re just like, ‘What does happen to people in movies?’”
In a four-star review of the film, NME wrote: “Chapter 4 doesn’t exude the wheel-spinning cynicism of a forever franchise. Stahelski may traffic in excess, but at least he understands it: how choreography, performance and style can make over-the-top spectacle cohere into pleasurably overwhelming action fizz, rather than congealing into a sweaty special effects overload. He also gets that after 169 minutes, some degree of closure is appreciated.
“There may well be a John Wick: Chapter 5, but Chapter 4 still feels like a movie giving its all.”