John Wick: Chapter 4 star Rina Sawayama talks Keanu Reeves and her film debut

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A few years back, Rina Sawayama auditioned for a role in “The Matrix Resurrections” alongside Keanu Reeves. Even though she didn’t land the part, the pop star-turned-actress eventually got another Reeves movie: the neon-lit action thriller “John Wick: Chapter 4” (which is now in theaters). In the film, she plays Akira, a bow-and-arrow-wielding assassin who works as a hotel concierge on the side.

“It’s clear that this was destiny,” Sawayama says, laughing. “It’s really crazy – I feel so privileged that this is my first film.”

Sawayama, who is 32 years old, recently spoke with USA TODAY about the intense stunt work she had to do for the film, her favorite movies, and how working on “John Wick” inspired her latest album.

Rina Sawayama plays Akira in ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’

Rina Sawayama plays Akira in ‘John Wick: Chapter 4.’ In the movie, Akira and her father, Shimazu Koji (played by Hiroyuki Sanada), team up with John Wick early on in the sequel to help fight off hitmen who are out to kill him. Sawayama had to learn archery, knife-fighting, and hand-to-hand combat for her action-pack scenes, which were shot entirely at night over the course of five weeks.

“It was a mental challenge to try and trick your body into doing stunts at 2 a.m. and not feel tired,” Sawayama says. “I didn’t have a problem learning the choreography, but it was about making it look powerful. Trying to convince the audience that you’re fighting this massive person and that you even stand a chance – that was hard.”

Keanu Reeves watched her music videos and cast her

Rina Sawayama was approach by “John Wick” director Chad Stahelski out of the blue for a potential co-starring role in the movie, after he and Keanu Reeves saw her music videos for “XS” and “Bad Friend.” Reeves “knew that it was my first movie and looked after me a lot,” Sawayama says. “I threw out my back during the first week and he made sure that everything was available for me to get better.”

She’s a fan of A24 movies

Rina Sawayama was born in Niigata, Japan and moved to London when she was five years old. Her mother enrolled her in weekend drama classes to help her learn English and overcome her shyness. “It really helped me come out of my shell,” Sawayama recalls.

As she was growing up, she loved Studio Ghibli animated movies and was “obsessed” with HBO’s “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City.” More recently, she’s been a fan of A24 films such as “The Farewell,” “Minari,” and “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which won seven Oscars this year, including Best Picture.

“I got up and cheered so hard,” says Sawayama, who watched the Oscars with her friend and mentor Elton John at his annual viewing party. “For that story and for Michelle (Yeoh) and Ke (Huy Quan) to be celebrate – it was just amazing.”

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