Miyazawa Rie (Tokyo, 1973- )
In a sense, Miyazawa Rie is old news. Certainly she is not the kind of
media darling she once was. But she is a survivor who has developed into a
talented actress and hers is an interesting story.
Born of an ambitious Japanese mother and a Dutch father she never
knew, Miyazawa had a distinct kind of beauty from an early age.
At the age of 12, she was one of the first bishojo, beautiful young girls who
were used to promote products to the
over-indulged offspring off the Japanese bubble years. Increasingly
big-ticket TV commercials, including one with Arnold Schwarzenegger at his
peak, rather than any pop idol success made her one of
the best-known faces on the small screen. With this kind of marketing
power, Rie-mama - as her mother was known - set up her own talent agency in order
to retain control of her daughter's career. At the age of 18,
Miyazawa was making 400 million yen a year from endorsements alone.
She made her big-screen debut in Bokura no Nanokakan Senso (Our Seven Days War)
in 1988, for which she won the Japanese
Academy Award for Best Newcomer the following year. Success followed
success on the big and small screens but things reached a new
level with the release of the nude photo book Santa Fe
(above - click for larger picture) in 1992.
The elders of NHK were shocked enough to drop Miyazawa from the New Year
Kohaku special but her ever-increasing fanbase loved it. The book sold
over 1.5 million copies in 3 months. Though it started a whole
new trend, it remains the most famous and best-selling nude photo
book in Japan.
And when the engagement was announced of Miyazawa to young sumo
superstar Takanohana in October of that year,
the media went epileptic. Entertainment
news couldn't get any bigger than this. Except that early in 1993,
relations soured between the two families. Various theories were
spouted but it was generally believed that the young starlet was
not ready to give up her career to become a traditional sumo wife.
That's where everything started going wrong. Not helped by the
intense media glare and speculation, Miyazawa tried to kill herself
in 1994 (though officially it was an accident) and her relationship
with her mother became more and more fraught. Despite putting in
a solid performance alongside Takakura Ken
in Chushingura and having several other projects in the works, an increasingly
gaunt appearance had the media speculating about an eating disorder.
Miyazawa cancelled all projects and went to LA in early 1996 for
help with her acknowledged problem with anorexia.
After her return to Japan in May of that year, Miyazawa started to rebuild
her career. She reported for TV on the Cannes Film Festival and appeared in the
successful Kyosokyoku drama that year. Several other low-profile
roles followed and in 1999 she starred in the annual NHK Taiga historical
drama series. With the beginning of a new century, Miyazawa's career as a serious
actress really took off. She appeared in a couple of Chinese movies, including
Peony Pavilion (2001) for which she won a best actress award at the Moscow Film Festival.
Then in 2002, she starred alongside Sanada Hiroyuki
in Tasogare Seibei (Twilight Samurai), the year's hit movie that took a raft
of awards at home, including ones for the lead actors, and was even nominated for an Academy
Award as best foreign language picture. It was the first samurai movie by director
Yamada Yoji, better known for his Tora-san series.
2004's Tony Takitani - a rare adaptation of a short story by bestselling author Murakami
Haruki - received critical acclaim, with Rie playing two roles alongside Ogata Issey. The film,
which was entered at the Sundance Film Festival, has been described as a "a perfectly controlled
minimalist film masterpiece."
She seems to be over her anorexia, though she is still a slight figure, and she seems to wear
the trials and tribulations of her topsy-turvy life on her mature but beautiful face. Perhaps it
is these experiences that have elevated her above the often trivial nature of the Japanese
entertainment world to become an actress with real soul.
Just before Valentine's Day 2009 she sent a fax to the media saying that she was engaged to be married. The fact that she was already six months pregnant
can be seen as a plus or minus to that happy news, given how such marriages often work out in Japanese showbiz.