You would think that being the first Japanese actress in 57 years to be nominated for an Academy Award would be enough to make Rinko Kikuchi a household name in Japan, right? Bizarrely enough, international success has not necessarily translated into domestic popularity for the movie actress who is starring in Guillermo del Toro’s latest film, Pacific Rim, coming to theaters this month.
There are various theories on why Kikuchi is not popular with housewives or, really, even any demographic in Japan, the most popular one being she did not make a name for herself the way normal celebrities in the country usually do. While she acted in a few dramas, she did not appear in a lot of TV shows, variety show programs or commercials. And then suddenly, she gets cast as a deaf high school girl in Alejandro Iñárritu’s critically acclaimed film Babel, alongside stars like Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. After her Oscar nominated turn in that film, she gets cast in another Hollywood film, opposite Keanu Reeves. But still, not having a huge fan base in Japan meant more people outside the country knew about her.
She appeared on the iconic afternoon variety show Waratte Iitomo! in 2010, but with disastrous results. Netizens declared she should never appear on talk shows again, as she seemed either awkward, nervous or shy (or even all of the above). Despite being a seemingly stylish girl, and the face of Chanel, she failed to make a good impression or win over fans. A thread about her on 2ch, Japan’s most popular online message board, was particularly brutal. They said her looks are not appealing enough for the Japanese audience, or that her nude scenes in Babel left a bad taste in the mouth. Even more unfortunate for her, some people commenting didn’t even know who she was.
With positive reviews already pouring in for Pacific Rim, where she plays one of the “pilots” of the giant robots created to fight against huge monsters, this might just be her big break in Japan. But maybe her publicist just shouldn’t book her for any variety or talk shows, just to be sure.
[ via Kotaku ]