When it comes to Hollywood debuts, nothing gets quite as big as a Steven Spielberg action flick. That’s good news for Win Morisaki, a young actor and singer who is already a star in Japan, as he looks toward crossing over stateside.
Playing Daito, Morisaki comprises one-fifth of the so-called “High Five” in Spielberg’s “Ready Player One,” an adaptation of Ernest Cline’s best-selling dystopian novel opening March 29 in which humanity, seeking an escape from a desolate reality, spends most of its time inside a virtual world called OASIS.
The half-virtual, half-live-action film follows Wade (Tye Sheridan) as he unlocks clues toward a holy-grail prize hidden within OASIS by its creator, in a race against an evil corporation that seeks control of the world through the reward. Wade is aided in his efforts by his best friends Aech (Lena Waithe), Daito and Sho (Philip Zhou), as well as by Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), on whom he has a crush.
“You can be anyone in the OASIS,” Morisaki said. Inside of it, he voices Daito, a skilled and fearless Japanese samurai warrior; outside of it, in the real world, he is Toshiro, a zen, soft-spoken young man.
(Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)
Morisaki, who is Burmese, is the lead vocalist of PrizmaX, a J-pop boy band, as well as a familiar on-screen presence in both Japanese TV and film, in which he’s both leading men and teenage idol in titles like “Kujira no Shima no Wasuremono” and “Shelly.”
“In Japan, when I perform on stage with PrizmaX, I feel the same, so free and like I can do anything,” he said. “That’s how Daito is in the game.”
“Ready Player One” is stuffed with ’80s references and “Aha!” pop-culture moments, and Morisaki gets his when Daito transforms into Gundam — a longtime Japanese anime hero, and one of the most iconic robots of all time — to strike down a baddie.
The scene was a highlight for Morisaki, who said he would have never imagined, albeit virtually, piloting a Gundam. “I was so happy [when I read it],” he said. “I was shooting for that scene, and Steven was so excited. He was like, ‘Let’s do this!’”
Philip Zhou, left, and Win Morisaki in “Ready Player One” (Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros. Pictures)
Morisaki auditioned in Japan before flying to Los Angeles to meet Spielberg, whose staples like “E.T.” and “Back to the Future” were a part of his childhood. But it wasn’t until he really looked up the director that he realized just how much he’d already been influenced by Spielberg’s work, from “Catch Me If You Can” to “Saving Private Ryan.”
“He gave me a lot of advice,” Morisaki said, recalling a day they were shooting some of the live-action scenes. An animated Spielberg called out: “Win! We’re making a movie!”, he said. “I was like, ‘Yes sir! Rock ’n’ roll!’”
The actor-singer dreams big. One of them is more Hollywood projects: “In five years, I’m going to be the next Ken Watanabe. And in 10 years, I’m going to get an Academy Award,” he said, before adding that he would love to star in a musical film like “The Greatest Showman.”
Another is, one day, a U.S. album release. “I love Bruno Mars,” he said. “My dream as a singer is to do a world tour like Bruno, to go everywhere and perform everywhere.”