As of this writing, we don’t have a great shot of Michael Pitt in Rupert Sanders’ live-action Ghost in the Shell movie. That’s by design. Since the Paramount Pictures adaptation is not simply translating the 1995 anime’s scenes shot for shot, the creative team behind the Scarlett Johansson-starring actioner could take some liberties with the characters: Motoko Kusanagi is now known simply as The Major (Johansson), the plot borrows elements from the franchise’s various films and TV series, and the villain is a patchwork assembly of the best that the worst had to offer.
Collider’s own Steve Weintraub participated in a roundtable interview with Sanders during a Ghost in the Shell event in Japan recently, where it was once again confirmed that Pitt would be playing the antagonist, a cybernetically enhanced individual by the name of Kuze. That name and the character it belonged to should be familiar to fans of Ghost in the Shell, but Sanders has promised a new version entirely. Kuze’s story as we know it will likely play a big part in this iteration, so we won’t be retelling it here to avoid possible spoilers.
Be sure to keep an eye out for more from this interview, but for now, here’s what Sanders had to say about Kuze and Pitt’s performance:
It didn’t really click for me how this was going to be an origin movie until I saw the trailer. It definitely made sense why you used Kuze as the villain. I know you’ve been keeping him mostly a mystery, but was there any point where you were considering doing the Puppet Master storyline directly from the anime?
SANDERS: No. To be honest, Kuze borrows a few facets from different characters in the series, he’s not just Kuze and he’s not just the Puppet Master. So he’s a kind of amalgamation, so the way he moves through the network and stuff is borrowed from other elements. He’s kind of our own creation, and Michael Pitt was incredibly immersed in that world. He went fully in there, he was living in a shipping container next to the set so he could smoke and punch punching bags simultaneously. He’d be like constantly skipping rope, he was incredible. He and Scarlett [Johansson] together were like these incredible specimens, but he was scrawling and drawing and he really immersed himself in the violence of the man and I think it’s an incredible performance.
That jibes with what producer Avi Arad said previously during Steve Weintraub‘s set visit:
“We’re not doing Puppetmaster. It’s not Laughing Man. It involves Kuze. The Kuze story. The big thing we are doing here is that we’re not necessarily doing an origins backstory, but we are addressing [The Major’s] sense of self and resolving how she defines herself in terms of memories. That’s one of the main thrusts in the story. Inspired by that episode of Affection in Second Gig. It’s bits and pieces of those mixed together.”
He went on to say that they didn’t feel like they had the time in this first film to do the Puppetmaster storyline justice, though he stopped short of ruling it out for a possible future film. According to Arad:
“The villains in the story are people that are abusing this brave new world. The movie certainly addresses this whole idea of, in the future, if you think about everybody’s biggest fear around technology is about getting your identity stolen (which is really just your credit record) as opposed to someone hacking your brain, that could happen here. The more technology gets inside of you and the more it’s woven into your life the more that people can abuse it. So there are characters, both at a criminal level and a governmental level, who are abusing technology and doing scary things.
Ghost hacking is a big storyline in the movie and in some ways we take it even further. This idea of if someone could change your memories, what would that do to your sense of self?”
Ghost in the Shell has some heady philosophical concepts to tackle in its live-action adaptation as well as more than two decades worth of fandom; fingers crossed that it’s up to the task!