Sing your heart out, dance your socks off...
it's time to let yourself go!

"Ere...make me one of them posh Maiko, won't ya?"
(transl.) "I wonder if I might prevail upon you to allow me to become a "Maiko" geisha-trainee?"

One day, in the traditional heart of Kyoto, a rough-hewn country lass turns up in search of the impossible. Through her impenetrable accent...a mix of deep Southern and far Northern, she begs to be given a chance to become the epitome of cultural sophistication; a Kyoto geisha.

When a good-natured professor of linguistics rises to the challenge of helping her, we embark on a roller-coaster ride as the girl struggles through the harsh training and stern discipline required to make the grade. After a 20 year gestation in the mind of that master of entertainment, Masayuki Suo ("Shall We Dance?"), this project is a fun-filled delight. This Autumn, be sure to watch out for the incredible performance of absolute newcomer, Mone Kamishiraishi.

Greetings and welcome to this peek into the exclusive world of geisha entertainersI

Eighteen Years after "Shall We Dance?"
an entertainment-packed return to form a Musical-Comedy?

Masayuki Suo's keen eye for human foibles and incredibly thorough research skills have delivered consistent laughs and surprises and made him into one of Japan's most entertaining directors. Be it a city boy turned trainee Buddhist monk in "Fancy Dance" (1989) or a reluctant student joining in the tribulations of a struggling Sumo club in "Sumo Do, Sumo Don't" (1992), his underdog heroes have never failed to win audience's hearts. The success of "Shall We Dance?" (1996) hardly needs mentioning. The story of the initially hapless would-be ballroom dancer not only brought in an incredible $35 million at the domestic box-office, it also created a nation-wide dance boom and went on to be the subject of a big budget Hollywood remake which put Suo in the international spotlight.  2007's "I Just Didn't Do It" took Japan's legal system to task in an examination of perils of false accusations and was rewarded with 30 major film awards. In 2009, his documentary "Dancing Chaplin" captured the eternal charm of ballet. "A Terminal Trust" (2012) pitched darker in its portrayal of love at a time of terminal medical care.
And now, after 20 year's gestation, his latest project, "Maiko A Lady?(tentative title)" has finally made it onto film. Initially conceived as the third in a loose trilogy of "Fancy Dance" and "Sumo Do, Sumo Don't", Suo says he was motivated to make a film about women striving to succeed against all odds. His mind hit upon the cloistered world of apprentice geisha or "Maiko". Although he set about finding the right girl to carry the role, he was unsuccessful and the project went onto the back burner. Many years later, he was to have an encounter that inspired him to get the project back into production.

The girl Masayuki Suo waited 20 years to meet; Mone Kamishiraishi

Casting for the lead role began in earnest in April of 2012. Over 800 applications, all well-versed not just in acting but singing and dancing, flooded the production office. Of these, 140 girls were selected to go through four rounds of grueling auditions spanning six months. As Kamishiraishi performed during the 35mm film test of the last remaining candidates, Suo said to himself, "I can start filming the movie right this minute!". With that thought, he knew his 20 year search was over.
Like the character Haruko from the movie, Kamishiraishi, age 15 is also from Kagoshima in Southern Japan. Her fantastic voice and incredible presence reminded Suo of the proverbial diamond in the rough. Her dedication to the journey to become an actress under Suo's tutelage is a real life reflection of Haruko's devotion to th e art of the geisha.

Director: Masayuki Suo

After a childhood spent living and breathing movies and baseball, Tokyo-born Suo entered Rikkyo university to study French Literature. It was there he took a lecture by esteemed movie critic, Shigehiko Hasumi which inspired him to become a film director. His initial foray into independent films was then followed by an appeal for work to director Banmei Takahashi who happened to be a regular customer at a bar where Suo's friend was working. Starting with unpaid employment at the telephone switchboard, he went on to become an Assistant Director on as many as 10 movies a year for Takahashi as well as other directors such as Koji Wakamatsu and Kazuyuki Izutsu.
When Takahashi switched gears, in 1982 Suo took the opportunity to open Unit 5, his own filmmaking collective with young colleagues of that era, Itsumichi Isomura, Yoshiho Fukuoka, Toshiyuki Mizutani and Akira Yoneda. He was soon churning out scripts and in 1984 his debut as a director was made with "Abnormal Family - My Brother's Bride", a well-received homage to his hero, Yasujiro Ozu. This film put him on the map and offers started to flow in. In 1986 he directed "Salaryman Classroom" for TV. Another big break came with the making of a behind-the-scenes documentary charting the filming of Juzo Itami's "Taxing Woman" in 1987. This led him to team up with former Daiei employee Shoji Masui who produced his "Fancy Dance" in 1989. This film debuted the super star actor, Masahiro Motoki and gave Suo the clout to take on "Sumo Do, Sumo Don't" in 1992 which won Best Film at the Japanese Academy Awards. He was now a major figure on the Japanese film scene and he and Masui created their own production company, Altamira Pictures in 1993. 1996's "Shall We Dance?" swept nearly every category of the 20th Japanese Academy Awards and became a social phenomenon. 2007's "I Just Didn't Do It" won a raft of awards and helped catalyze a shift in attitudes within Japan's legal system. "Dancing Chaplin" in 2011, while a low-budget documentary about ballet, had a record long-run in cinemas. In 2009, he reunited the two lead actors from "Shall We Dance?" after 16 years, in the love story, "A Terminal Trust" to wide acclaim.
And finally in fall of 2014, Maiko A Lady? (tentative title) will be a brilliant comedy-musical focused on Geisha trainee from deep country.