Tao Okamoto and Hugh Jackman in 'The Wolverine' (Photo: 20th Century Fox)
"The Wolverine" is set to claw its way into theaters on July 26, but while Hugh Jackman as the titular mutant is a familiar face (he's been playing him since 2000's "X-Men"), less familiar is the woman playing Mariko Yashida, Wolverine's love interest.
Her name is Tao Okamoto, and if it rings any bells, it's because Okamoto's a huge star in the fashion world, especially in her native Japan. You can get a closer look at her in the new "The Wolverine" trailer, but here are 6 things you should know about Tao before catching her in her film debut:
Tao Okamoto (Photo: TaoOkamoto.com)
Tao Okamoto (Photo: TaoOkamoto.com)
Okamoto started modeling in Japan when she was just 14, but her career took off when she moved to Paris in 2006 to pursue fashion more seriously. And boy, did she get her wish: she's walked the runway for brands like Chanel and Ralph Lauren and covered every kind of fashion mag around the world. She's so influential that a special issue of Vogue Nippon was dedicated to her, and designer Phillip Lim once styled an entire show after her quirky bowl haircut.
2. She originally turned down the film audition…
…but upon learning that Jackman was involved, Okamoto changed her mind: "Because I’m a huge fan of him. I wasn’t even sure if I really wanted to do acting, but then he just opened the new door for me and I met Jim [Mangold, the film's director] in L.A. for an audition and camera test. I just fell in love with what he thinks and what he teaches me and everything. I was just like, 'I really want to do this,' and I got it."
Watch Tao Okamoto and Hugh Jackman in an exclusive clip from 'The Wolverine':
3. She almost made director Jim Mangold cry.
Mangold, best known for directing Reese Witherspoon to an Oscar win for "Walk the Line," gave Okamoto strict instructions not to undertake any acting lessons after she won the role. And apparently, his faith in her natural abilities paid off. When sharing her favorite moment on set, she said, "There was a scene I worked on for my audition, which was a long speech. I had some confidence about it and James gave me different ideas on every take so I could play with that. When I finished it, he came to me and said, 'I almost cried, you've grown up so much in this journey.'"
4. The role of Mariko was built around Okamoto's casting.
After being cast, Okamoto read the comics with her character in it, but Mariko's role in the comic books was originally that of a princess needing to be saved. For the movie, the character got revamped to be both more active and more like the woman portraying her. Okamoto revealed, "Recently [Mangold] told me this role didn’t make much sense to him before but since he met me, he built up the character more through myself."
5. She helped make sure that all the Japanese details in the film were correct – down to the translation of the script.
Okamoto was one of three Japanese actors who took it upon themselves to make sure the film's distinct cultural landscape was authentic: "Sometimes things looked a little Chinese and the producers were always asking me and they always kept making fixes along the way. I felt very important because they asked me over and over and listened." The Japanese actors even re-translated the script to make sure it was accurate as possible.
6. If she didn't stay in the film industry to act, she'd be a set designer.
Though much of the film was shot in Sydney, Australia, Okamoto was dazzled by the film's Japanese sets: "It’s so impressive, it’s perfect, I’m so interested in all the set designs. It’s just so amazing. I keep saying, 'I want to do one of the set [designs].' I was asking the people, 'Would you hire me?'"
See photos of Tao Okamoto on the catwalk as a fashion model:
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- Hugh Jackman
- Mariko Yashida