Bullet Train Star Andrew Koji Shares How Bruce Lee Changed His Life
ANDREW KOJI can take a beating. After all, the 34-year-old actor’s breakout character was a Bruce Lee–inspired martial artist on the show Warrior, for which he went through months of arduous training. Although Koji studied tae kwon do in his teens, this was another level of intense fight work—and it paid off. Soon after, he landed a string of steady gigs: Peaky Blinders, American Gods, the G. I. Joe prequel Snake Eyes.
And then came the action-thriller movie Bullet Train (out August 5), shot at the height of the pandemic. “Normally you get to know your cast members, but we had the double masks and social distancing,” Koji says.“It was claustrophobic.”
The British Japanese actor channeled his nerves into his character, Yuichi Kimura, a troubled gangster who boards the title train and collides with lethal adversaries. “I just used that anxiety for the character,” he says. “It worked because he’s a bit of a mess.”
Plus, Koji had a decent scene partner to work with: Brad Pitt. “When we were going over this scene, he said, ‘We’re sculpting it and we’re sculpting it. It’s never perfect. We’re fine-tuning it and making it better, ” Koji says. “I really respect that. He cares so much about trying to make it as good as possible. He’s a craftsman.”
Next, Koji will enter another round of martial-arts training in South Korea to prepare for Warrior’s third season. With little room for downtime, he unwinds with video games, reading, and meditation. And he sticks to comfortable clothes that he can relax in.“During my screen test with Brad, he was wearing casual sneakers and a jumpsuit thing,” Koji says. “Brad said to me, ‘Once you get to a certain age, it’s about comfort.’ That’s how I feel, but I’m already there.”
We talked to Koji in a bit more depth on Bruce Lee’s legacy, Warrior‘s third season, and why he stays offline.
Warrior Season 3 has officially begun production. Is there anything you can share about the new season?
I don’t know too much at this point. I know we’re picking up a couple of weeks or a month after season 2. We feel very blessed to be working on this again, and hopefully find a way to finish the story at some point. Because I think for the Asian community and Bruce Lee’s legacy, it’s something that’s really important.
It’s gonna feel strange going back to Warrior. It’s been three years since we last filmed. I’ll be back and more experienced, maybe a little bit rusty, but more experienced overall.
What’s it like building Bruce Lee’s legacy?
I grew up watching guys like Jackie Chan and Jet Li, but studying Bruce Lee, I learned he was such a deep man. He was such a profoundly intelligent and incredible person for what he did at the time as well.
If Bruce Lee hand’t written down those eight pages about the Chinese-American experience in the 1800s, which was the foundation of Warrior, I wouldn’t be here right now. I feel weirdly, strangely connected to him in a way. He’s indirectly changed my life.
Read more: Bruce Lee Training Workout
Before Warrior, you were on the brink of quitting the industry. If you weren’t acting, what would you be doing?
Sometimes I still question it now. But if I did leave, I’d probably be doing something to help other people. Maybe doing zen, meditation, or become a monk. Something that helps humanity.
Or I’d just be producing my own independent films and helping other voices get heard and told.
Independent films are a big passion of yours. What other types of movies do you want to work on?
I love what [entertainment company] A24 is doing now. I like what the Coen Brothers have been doing. There’s so many great old Hollywood film noirs that could be remade for today.
I just want to make sure I don’t get boxed in as the action dude. And I want to play characters that feel like they leave an impact in the world, and rather than just a good pay check. That’s what I prefer to do, that’s what’s really useful for humanity.
Read more: Best Action Movies
You’re not on any social media. Can you talk a little about staying offline?
For me, it’s just something I really vibe with. I heard a lot of studios say that they want you to have one, which is a bit ridiculous, because I think it should be about the right person for the right role. I mean, social media can be used for good, but I think it can be quite toxic for mental health, and for connecting to society. You see so many people on their phones all the time, and we’re disconnected from society for a bit.
Staying offline lets me better experience the moment and my surroundings, rather than sharing it on social media. That’s my philosophy behind it. But at some point if some big studio tells me to be on Instagram, I’d definitely consider it.
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