'Lost': Hiroyuki Sanada reveals what he was thinking when Dogen kicked Sayid's butt
Is Dogen really dead? Of course, The Times did not get to the bottom of that mystery (another one!) during a phone interview with Hiroyuki Sanada, the actor who plays him, or an e-mail exchange with executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse. “Lost” fans saw Temple Master Dogen drown at the hands of the infected Sayid (Naveen Andrews) in Tuesday’s episode, but whether viewers will see Dogen again -- well, that’s a question for the birds at this point.
What Sanada did share is what was going through his mind during his awesome action sequence in the temple with Sayid: two romantic heroes pummeling each other, Sayid losing for the first time. “Lost” fans couldn’t get enough of it, according to the Internet chatter after the episode aired.
“I heard the voices of Sayid’s fans screaming, ‘Don’t do that to my Sayid!’” Sanada said. “I heard that in my head when I was fighting with him.”
With plenty of experience under his belt as on-screen warrior, Sanada (“The Last Sumarai,” “Twilight Samurai” and “Rush Hour 3”), said neither he nor Andrews were injured in the filming of the big temple scene. In case anyone was worried.
“The choreographer is a good friend of mine, and we had a great relationship,” Sanada said. “We had one or two hours of rehearsals one or two days before shooting and then just ‘Go! Go! Go!’ It was so smooth. We shot a lot more, but it was edited very well.”
When “Lost” producers cast the role of Dogen last year, the Japanese actor was their first choice.
“We were big fans of his work from the movies ‘Twilight Samurai’ and ‘The Last Samurai,’ Cuse and Lindelof wrote in an e-mail. “We needed someone as the Temple Master who conveyed real strength and presence but also had an underlying vulnerability.”
Dogen, as it turns out, made a pact with Jacob in Osaka, Japan, after he got drunk and got into a car accident that critically injured his son. Jacob offered to heal the boy if Dogen agreed to go to the island to work for him and never see his son again.
“He has dignity, and also weakness, and a lot of love,” Sanada said. “That’s why I love that character.”
With no script to read when producers first called him, Sanada agreed to meet with Lindelof and Cuse to learn more about the character. They explained that Dogen was the guardian of the temple and was said to be the only person capable of keeping the Man in Black/Smocke out.
“But I needed to know why does a Japanese man come to the island? Is it about Japanese culture? Is political? Is it religious? It’s a very delicate thing for us,” Sanada said. “They answered very clearly and were very understanding about my cultural concerns and were very respectful. So I felt I could believe them without a script, and I decided then.”
What came next was a month-long marathon of watching the first five seasons of “Lost.” The actor, who incidentally had worked with Matthew Fox on “Speedracer,” took in five or six episodes a day until he caught up.
“I really examined how great a show it is and what a great role had just come to me,” Sanada said. “I kept saying, ‘Oh my God, oh my God! I’m going to be in here! In the final season as a new character. Oh my God.”
In Los Angeles, Lindelof and Cuse did their own version of the “Oh my God” dance.
“He's a huge movie star in Japan, so we consider it a real honor that his first foray into television was on our show,” they wrote. “ He's incredibly compelling on screen and has genuine charisma. Not only that, he can kick [butt].”
Of course, Sanada and the producers wouldn’t address whether Dogen’s drowning is final, whether that mysterious pool of water heals him, or if we will, at least, see him in more sideways flashes. Dogen appeared in Jack’s (Matthew Fox) parallel story-line in last week’s episode.
“From the beginning, I heard that he would be a sacrifice to the island,” Sanada said. “A good death is what they said. But I didn’t know I would be in the sideways flashes. That was a big surprise for me. That’s all I can say about that.”
In case it turns out that the magic water can't resurrect Dogen and Sanada is forever gone from the show, new fans can find him in James Ivory’s “The City of Your Final Destination,” which will have a limited theatrical release next month. Based on the Peter Cameron novel of the same title, the cast includes Anthony Hopkins and Laura Linney.
From mystical guardian of the temple to Hopkins’ longtime lover, Sanada said working on the film in Argentina was “like a dream.”
“I was so nervous, but Anthony Hopkins, he’s like a gent, and he made me relax,” Sanada said. “It’s good timing and good contrast between the movie and ‘Lost,’ so I hope that the audience enjoys the contrast.”
-- Maria Elena Fernandez (follow me on Twitter @writerchica)
Upper photo: Hiroyuki Sanada as Dogen on "Lost." Credit: ABC
Lower photo: Hiroyuki Sanada and Naveen Andrews as Dogen and Sayid on "Lost." Credit: ABC