With the new “Ghost in the Shell” live-action film coming out, I jumped at the chance to interview Chin Han, the actor portraying Togusa. Depending on the version of Ghost you prefer, Togusa is the “most human” of the Section 9 officers that work alongside The Major.
Chin was recently named one of Asia’s 25 greatest actors of all time by CNNgo and has played a role in a variety of major films and TV shows including Marco Polo, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Independence Day: Resurgence, Arrow, and The Dark Knight. Speaking with him, it quickly becomes clear that he is a true fan of the source material and brings along a refreshing level of passion and understanding for the narrative weight behind the Ghost in the Shell saga.
TCF: Thank you for taking time out to talk with us today.
Chin Han: Oh, it’s a pleasure. Where are you calling from?
I’m calling from Arizona.
Arizona, okay that’s about an hour ahead of L.A. right?
Yeah. Right now. We don’t have daylight savings, so we bounce around a little bit.
I know, it’s very confusing to me. I grew up on the equator, in Singapore, where it’s the same weather 365 days, and no daylight saving. So it’s very confusing for me to be here. I know the saying is “spring forward and fall back”, right? That’s all I need to remember.
Yeah, I’m familiar with that phrase, but we don’t really apply it here. I think the whole rest of the country’s crazy. Are you living in LA now?
I’m based in LA. But over the course of the last 10 years, I’ve been working on various projects that have taken me away. I think Marco Polo took me away for a good part of the year in Asia, shooting that. And then I think the year after that, I was shooting a movie in New York. And Independence Day Resurgence in Albuquerque. And then obviously last year for Ghost in the Shell, I was away in New Zealand and Hong Kong for a good part of the year as well.
Have you shot anything recently back in Singapore or China?
We had a movie that opened in China that I did with Michelle Yeoh, called, “Final Recipe.” But we shot it a while back, and that opened in China last year. So that was the last time I was in Beijing. It’s a very exciting and vibrant film market at the moment. Very robust and bustling.
What do you see for Hollywood in the future with this new influx of Chinese cinema stepping into the film world more?
The film business and with every business, what is produced is going to reflect the demand for it. So I think the future of film will be such that we have a globalized cinema, really. I think that more films will be made as collaborations between different industries in different countries. You’re going to get a lot of these co-productions in the future. Not just China and the US. You’re already seeing things like French/Asian movies. You’ll be able to find some French/Vietnamese movies. Or some Chinese/American movies. Australian/Singaporean movies. I think that’s the future of film. Gone are the days where you need to seek an art house out, just to see a foreign movie. And because of the various digital platforms, you are able to see almost anything at any time. Because of that, appetites will change, and as appetites change the demand for different kinds of products change, then our films will change as well.
“I think the future of film will be such that we have a globalized cinema… and more films will be made as collaborations between different industries in different countries.”
“Ghost in the Shell,” has been a very popular franchise. And were you a fan of the franchise prior to this film?
Yes, I mean the thing about, “Ghost in the Shell,” is that it’s such a massive platform of work. In terms of those who love, “Ghost in the Shell”, you have to specify which iteration of it are you talking about. Because some people love the Manga, right? And there’re some people love what Shirow did with – the creator of “Ghost in the Shell.” Some people love what Oshii did with his movie, which is based off of Shirow’s work. And some people love Kenji Kamiyama’s, “Stand Alone Complex.” Which is also based off of Shirow’s work, but completely different from Oshii’s movie.
So I was familiar with all of them. Of course the Shirow’s Manga, it’s such a dense piece of work. Which has philosophical musings on the future of cyber technology. It has elements of political intrigue. Bureaucratic corruption. And a general air of irreverence. So that was an interesting read. But I think it was Mamoru Oshii’s movie that actually got me really hooked on the franchise. Because that movie kinda captured the spirit of Shirow’s, but it also kind of made it into a very accessible, procedural action movie, cyberpunk, existential kind of anime. I mean, they’re so unique.
It defies description, which is why I think it’s such a seminal piece of work. So yes, I was familiar with them, but it was Oshii’s work that kinda sucked me into that world. And then just when we thought that you’re not going to be able to see something different, Kamiyama comes up with, “Stand Alone Complex.” Which is – in itself, is different totally, and it has exposed different stories as well, in the world of, “Ghost in the Shell.” And he did a fantastic job with that too.
On top of the fact that we actually haven’t even mentioned, “Ghost in the Shell: Arise.” Which is another series of animated shows. Which is completely different again. And some of which takes place before the timeline of Shirow’s, “Ghost in the Shell.”
“Come for the action, and stay for the philosophy!”
A lot of people that aren’t familiar with the series will have asked me, “What does ‘Ghost in the Shell’ mean? What does that title mean?” What’s your interpretation or explanation of it?
Well, when Shirow created the Manga, I think he meant it as a nod to Arthur Koestler’s, “Ghost in the Machine,” right? I think ultimately we’re talking about identity and what the soul is. Whether it operates independent of the body or not. And what happens when the body becomes cyberized, or when technology takes it over? Like in all the theories of singularity, right?
When technology becomes integrated into our body, what happens to the soul when our consciousness can access all of the web? What happens to your consciousness then? I think that that is the question that is raised by, “Ghost in the Shell.” What is a human identity? Of course, it is framed within a very action packed type of cyberpunk aesthetic. Which makes it very interesting to look at and to watch. But he does ask those questions. So as I always say, “Come for the action, and stay for the philosophy!”
Sounds great! Reminds me of the Matrix, which was ripping off or playing homage to a lot of these anime films, and a lot of the back story of, “Ghost in the Shell.”
Yeah, especially, “Ghost in the Shell,” yeah. Because even the Wachowski’s had mentioned that it was inspired very heavily by Ghost.
Watching some of the trailers that have come out, I’ve noticed elements, little flashes of images, that seem to reference different things in either the 2 main feature films or “The Stand Alone Complex.” Does this story kind of encompass all of it? Or does it borrow from one source more than another?
I think it has elements of all of them, Shirow’s Manga being the jumping off point for all of it. I think it’ll be fun for fans to spot Easter eggs from each iteration of, “Ghost in the Shell.” But I can’t say what it has more of. It does have the kind of feel of Oshii, which is more contemplative and serious, but also has the sense of adventure of “Stand Alone Complex.”
So I think it has – it has elements of all of them, in the right amounts. And ultimately, what we had planned to do with Rupert and the producers and the writers and the actors as well – is to create an iteration that is worthy of the canon. With iconic moments that everyone can delight in. But also enough new things that fans can enjoy as well. So I mean, hopefully it’s a piece of cinema that both fans and newcomers to the work can, can enjoy.
Wow, yeah. It sounds awesome. Thank you again for taking time out to talk with us today. I’m really looking forward to the film
Yeah, I hope you enjoy it! Thank you.