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Raw force

Screen meets with the cast and crew of Sushi Girl - including the likes of Mark Hamill and Tony Todd - which receives its international premiere at Fantasia International Film Festival.

There’s a lot to be said about meeting one of the icons of your childhood. Hearing them say “and there’s a nude woman with fish on her; it’s win-win”, is probably not what I had in mind.

Those endearing words were courtesy of Mark Hamill, who is in Montreal for his latest film Sushi Girl which receives its international premiere tomorrow night (21) at Fantasia International Film Festival.

For a first-time director, Kern Saxton (who also co-wrote) had a formidable cast – including Hamill, Tony Todd (who also co-produced), Andy Mackenzie, Noah Hathaway (who came out of retirement to star in the film) and James Duval, as well as the likes of Danny Trejo, Michael Biehn and Sonny Chiba – to call upon for a film which, essentially, came out of necessity.

“Destin and I were working on another script with our producing partner Suren Seron, and it just got out of hand in terms of budget and size and scope. We regrouped and said we needed a smaller project and we came up with the idea that we put a bunch of crazy gangsters in a room, and do a Ten Little Indians-type story,” noted Saxton.

Co-writer/producer/actor Destin Pfaff explained that even with the designs on a smaller budget, the arrival of producer Neal Fischer changed that. “For what was originally going to be a $15-20K movie, we ended up getting the right location and a bigger budget. Then the cast we had envisioned originally, not just our friends, actually came into fruition.”

Sushi Girl sees five old acquaintances meet up for a dinner – technically, the aforementioned naked girl with sushi on her – that can only end one way: violently. However, actor/producer Tony Todd – who submerged himself in his character of crime boss Duke to the extent of sending his cast members texts as Duke – is keen to point out that it’s not a film which glorifies violence.

“We’re all very passionate about this and that’s what people need to understand, we’re not glorifying violence at all. We were just in that world of this particular set of characters in this situation. Everybody stepped up, and we love it and stand by it.”

It’s a theme that runs through most of the cast and crew’s beliefs, with Todd describing the project as a “relay race”.

Fischer added: “Everybody had the baton and supported each other. This was not a high budget movie. This was one of those movies where every cast member has to be there and they want to be there, and every single person on this cast wanted to be there.”

And while more time would have been beneficial – although Hamill is quick to add that “everyone says that; everybody could use more time” – Saxton doesn’t regret anything. “I think what we have is super fantastic, way better than I deserve as a first-time filmmaker, so I’m very happy with it.”

So what’s next for Sushi Girl? Given the one-set nature of the film – which was also shot sequentially – Hamill sees a potential spin off. “I read it and thought we could stage this in the theatre.”

“Sushi Girl: The Broadway Musical,” added Hathaway. “Starring Hugh Jackman [laughs]”

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