Rina Sawayama talks stunt training, new character Akira

Xavier Roger


A few years ago, Rina Sawayama auditioned for a role in “The Matrix Resurrections” alongside Keanu Reeves

Although she didn’t get the part, the pop star-turned-actress eventually landed another Reeves movie: the neon-drenched action thriller “John Wick: Chapter 4” (now in theaters). She plays Akira, a bow-and-arrow-wielding assassin who moonlights as a hotel concierge. 

“Clearly, it’s been destiny,” Sawayama says with a laugh. “It’s really crazy – I feel very privileged (that) this is my first film.” 

Sawayama, 32, spoke to USA TODAY about her grueling stunt work, favorite movies and how making “John Wick” helped inspire her latest album: 

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

"It was way harder than music," singer Rina Sawayama says of playing Akira in "John Wick: Chapter 4."

Akira and her father, Shimazu Koji (Hiroyuki Sanada), team up with John Wick early in the sequel to help fight off hitmen who are out to kill him. Sawayama learned archery, knife-fighting and hand-to-hand combat for her kickass scenes, which were shot entirely at night over 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 would even stand a chance – that was hard.” 

She was cast after Keanu Reeves watched her music videos 

Rina Sawayama, left, and Keanu Reeves at the Los Angeles premiere of "John Wick: Chapter 4."

“John Wick” director Chad Stahelski called Sawayama out of the blue about potentially co-starring in the film, after he and 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 huge fan of A24 movies 

Elton John, left, and Rina Sawayama at his Academy Awards viewing party in West Hollywood, California, earlier this month.

Sawayama was born in Niigata, Japan, and moved to London at age 5. Her mom 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.

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 “The Farewell,” “Minari” and “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” the latter of which won seven Oscars this month, including best picture. 


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