'Shogun' Star Anna Sawai Couldn't Audition for 'Suicide Squad'


It turns out that Anna Sawai, the breakout star of the hit FX series Shōgun, might have broken out even sooner had she not been denied an audition for a dream project.

The 31-year-old former J-Pop singer, speaking with The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast, revealed that she was forced to turn down an audition for the part of Katana in the 2016 film Suicide Squad — which was eventually played by Karen Fukuhara — because the company behind FAKY, the girl group to which she then belonged, forbid it.

In 2006, Sawai auditioned for and was signed by Avex, one of Japan’s major entertainment companies, which operates a music and dance bootcamp in the hope of turning out J-Pop stars. “After the training — multiple years of training — you are either lucky and join a group, or debut as a solo singer, or you’re gone,” she explained.

During her training, she was excused to play a role in the 2009 film Ninja Assassin, which she says led her to fall in love with acting. She says she was assured by her management, ahead of joining four other young women in FAKY in 2013, that being part of a successful girl group would help her to further break into acting — but soon thereafter found that extracurricular acting would not, in fact, be permitted.

When a “big audition” for an American movie [Suicide Squad] came up and the filmmakers “were looking for a Japanese girl,” Sawai recalls, “I was like, ‘This is my chance!’ And then I go to my manager and he’s like, ‘You can’t audition.’ They basically told me that if I’m gone for over a month, the girls [the other members of FAKY] are not going to have anything to do.” She protested that the group would be helped if she got the role, but the answer was final. “It felt like they were really tying me down,” she opined, “and because of my contract, I couldn’t leave until the time that I actually left [in 2018].”

Despite the years-ago heartbreak, Sawai has nothing but love for Fukuhara (The Boys), the actress who ended up landing the role in comic book adaptation: “She did an amazing job, and I respect her so much, and I love her,” Sawai said. “But also, I would have loved to audition for it.”

Shōgun aired its finale on April 23. Sawai said she watched the final episode alone in her hotel room in Los Angeles, and it was “very emotional” for her. “It was like just saying bye to your kid and sending them off to college, almost.”

For more of Sawai’s conversation about Shōgun and other projects — including F9 and Pachinkolisten to the latest episode of Awards Chatter and subscribe.



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