With Ghost in the Shell set for its UK home entertainment release on Digital on July 24th and on August 7th on DVD and Blu-ray, we chat to actor Pilou Asbaek about his role in the film as Batou, and working with Scarlett Johansson who portrays the character of Major.
Were you familiar with the source material for Ghost in the Shell?
I saw some of the anime in the 90s but I can’t say I was a fan. It was a part of my history, but I wasn’t like one of those die-hard fans.
How did you become involved in the film?
It’s actually an interesting story. It’s a very long story so I’ll try to make it short. I worked with one of the producers in a little indie film before that. And he introduced me to the director of Ghost in the Shell, Rupert Sanders. And I was so lucky I was given a chance to do an audition, one back home in Copenhagen in my living room via Skype, and one in LA, a month or two later. I did a film called A War, which was a Danish film that got nominated for an Academy Award and this guy, he’s a soldier and half the film is set in Afghanistan. The other is set at home. And he’s not a very talkative character. He’s showing a lot of emotions with his eyes and his body and I think that kinda appealed to Rupert that he saw some of Batou in that character. So maybe that’s the reason why they considered having me doing an audition.
Were you excited by the idea of playing Batou?
It’s incredible. It’s awesome. It’s fantastic. You have to remember I come from the Danish film industry where a big budget Danish film is like 3 million dollars and that’s the big one. So all of a sudden being part of this machinery which is just so incredible where everything is possible, only the imagination is going to stop you, is definitely for me a dream come true. This whole process, it’s been a gift to a young Danish actor.
Who is Batou and how does he fit into the story?
Batou is a part of the Section 9 group. Major is the leader and Batou is the second in command, even though if you ask me personally, I think he’s the leader and she’s second in command, but that’s one of those fights between those two characters that we really like for this film. He’s a combat expert, he is an old military guy, he is a killer but in my humble opinion, he’s also the heart and soul of Ghost in the Shell. He is the character that people would relate to. That’s one of the reasons why it was so important for me that he eats pizza, he drinks beer, he loves dogs, these basic things that I personally can relate to and hopefully the audience can as well.
Can you talk about the process of working with Scarlett Johansson?
She’s incredible. I love working with Scarlett. We only had a couple of days in Lucy together but in this film we were together for like four, five months and she’s just such a good colleague. She’s a great, great, great actress and I honestly feel blessed with working with her because she’s very generous and she’s extremely talented and – what is it called in English? Un-snobbish? You know? She’s down to earth, she enjoys working and she’s got extremely good taste. She has a little tiny bit of my heart.
What does Scarlett bring to Major?
It’s a very difficult character to portray and there’s been a lot of talk about her portraying that character. She nails it big time. She’s done an incredible job and people just need to watch the film to see just how good she is. To work with her is, it’s like going back to school man, everyday you learn something new. I kinda like that. It’s also a journey, not only a job, and I think it’s the same with Scarlett. We’re not only sharing a career, we’re not only sharing a film, but we’re sharing a life.
Is there a love tension between Major and Batou?
Maybe Major is the one who got away from Batou, you know. It says so much about Batou that he falls in love with a cyber, he falls in love with a ghost in a shell. And that she’s the only one he can connect with and vice versa – that she can only connect with a guy who, you know when they say your eyes reflect your soul, but he doesn’t have any eyes and so he must be a soulless person but he’s not. He’s full of soul. He’s full of heart, he’s full of warmth but he’s most hardcore killer in Section 9. And the easiest thing would be to make a love story between those two but then we would give into something that we shouldn’t give into. You know, if you look at the anime and you look at the manga, the strongest love is the unspoken love. So I don’t know, watch the film and see if they look like they’re in love.
The film has a very international cast.
That’s kudos to Rupert. That’s kudos to the director. I love that there’s like two or three European actors. There’s a couple of Americans, Asians, Africans, Middle Easterners. Just so many different types that we actually represent, you know, a big city in the future. I love his casting choices.
Based on the internationally-acclaimed sci-fi property, “GHOST IN THE SHELL” follows the Major, a special ops, one-of-a-kind human-cyborg hybrid, who leads the elite task force Section 9. Devoted to stopping the most dangerous criminals and extremists, Section 9 is faced with an enemy whose singular goal is to wipe out Hanka Robotic’s advancements in cyber technology.
Ghost in the Shell is directed by Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman), with Scarlett Johansson (Captain America: Civil War) leading a cast that includes Beat Takeshi Kitano (Battle Royale), Juliette Binoche (Chocolat), Michael Pitt (Hannibal), Pilou Asbaek (Game of Thrones), Rila Fukushima (The Wolverine), Kaori Momoi (Memoirs of a Geisha), Chin Han (Independence Day: Resurgence), Danusia Samal (Tyrant), Lasarus Ratuere (Terra Nova), Yutaka Izumihara (Unbroken) and Tuwanda Manyimo (The Rover).
Ghost in the Shell – See It First on Digital on July 24th.