You use jazz songs throughout the film, and the title is even a reference to a fairly popular one. What did this strong connection do in shaping the film?
I usually do not use music in my films, and in this one music is not used just as soundtrack but as a kind of identity or biographic detail about the character. I didn't want to give too many obvious details about the character but I wanted to have hints of his life and background with this kind of indirect information. It also has a universal aspect to it. In Iran I was brought up listening to jazz, you as an American consider it from your country, and this Japanese man also relates to the same kind of music. So it's here to give some depth to the character, a past, an identity, but it's also a way of putting a link to the different cultures.
What’s your perspective on the movie/trailer ‘Innocence of Muslims’ and the uproar that followed?
I think violence can never be justified. At the same time, nobody's culture or beliefs should be insulted, that's not something I can accept either. But I cannot justify or accept any violence at all. The news that I found quite comforting was that the reactions were quite violent in all the Muslim countries except in Iran, where the reaction was more civilized. They did protest, but in a more quiet and peaceful way. This for me was a comfort because at least it shows that people can react in a pacifistic way.
A large part of the film seems to be a look at two very different generations and their dependency on one another.
My purpose was not to make a point about any generation or say some general things about them. That's what cinema gives to us, to have a view which is a collective view of the generational co-existence that you're referring to. Cinema gives you the opportunity to be both a grandparent and a grandchild whereas in life you cannot be both at the same time. It just allows us to identify with them without making a point or without being harsh or judgmental of them.
The elder actor, Tadashi Okuno, is fantastic but seems to have very little credits to his name. Where did you find him?
To start with, when he came he told me that he earned a living in films for 50 years by being an extra. He had never uttered a line in his whole career and had always been in the background. Although I had already cast him, if I told him he would be my main character he'd be too intimidated so I told him that I had a very small role in the film. He wasn't given a script, I would just give him the lines that we were shooting at the time and he had no general view of the film.
How did your relationship go after that?
I would talk to him a bit through an interpreter, but after that I would talk to him very personally in Farsi telling him what I really felt about him: that I meant to make a film 20 years earlier about this character, but I hadn't because at the time I wasn't able to understand his state and his age. Now we were both ripe for understanding each other. There was something special and non-verbal that happened between us.