Set in a futuristic, cyberpunk world of artificial intelligence and artificial bodies, Ghost In The Shell is the science fiction masterpiece by Masamune Shirow that is revered by fans globally. It follows the exploits of Public Security Section 9, a special operations task force led by the cybernetic human Major Motoko Kusanagi, and has been adapted into numerous anime, manga and video games since its debut in 1989.
And Chin Han, Singapore’s greatest export to Hollywood, reckons that the Republic would fit right into the world of GITS. After all, he’s said that he’d love to see different iterations of the story, set in various cities and filled with various ethnicities.
“Singapore is an incredibly right place for it,” said the 47-year-old over the phone from Los Angeles earlier this month. “I’ve always found that Singapore is such an early adopter of new technology. From the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP), for example, when a lot of developed countries were still using toll booths, [to] Internet banking. Those things Singapore had at a very early time.”
Other than the fact that a GITS world with ERP would be terrifying, Chin Han is thoughtful and eloquent during our interview, a seasoned pro by now after spending almost a decade full-time in Hollywood. Best known for playing the schemer Lau in The Dark Knight, he’s built a career out of geek movies and TV shows like Arrow, 2012, Marco Polo, Contagion, Independence Day: Resurgence and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Along the way, he’s worked with A-list names such as Morgan Freeman, Marion Cotillard and James Spader.
Now he’s playing Togusa, the only fully human member of Section 9, in the live-action Hollywood adaptation of GITS, led by Scarlett Johansson as The Major. Having undergone months of “intense” martial arts and paramilitary training, it’s clear that this will be an action-heavy role for him. Not only does Chin Han get to run around firing an old-fashioned Mateba revolver, he’s also sporting a mullet, just as Togusa does in the source material.
“We discussed this at great length. We worked hard to try and find the right look for him, which is like the suits and the skinny ties, and even a digital Casio watch that we found for the character. As the only human in the group, Togusa is not augmented or enhanced like the other members. He is suspicious of technology, which makes him very interesting in the world of Ghost In The Shell. Mostly he has to rely on his wits and his detective skills to work on these cases that come their way.”
But while it was the “heavy questions” raised by GITS that attracted him to the project – “Where does the human soul reside? Is a person’s soul just a collection of memories, or a storage of information which you can separate from the body?” – Chin Han points out to Geek Crusade that they are framed within a “massive, big action movie”.
“I keep saying, you come for the action, but you stay for the philosophy,” he adds with a laugh.
The buzzword in Hollywood these days is of minority representation, which is clearly a boon for Asian actors like Chin Han. But does Tinseltown know enough about Singapore now, or do they still get confused when they see Chin Han at auditions?
“No, no. I think there’s enough representation of Singaporeans all over the world now. The talk of the town is Joseph Schooling, obviously, and I’m very proud of what he has done. I think there’s enough representation around the world that people are not as perplexed as before. I think that if anything, they are very curious about the country and what it’s like. That’s my feeling.”
Ghost In The Shell opens in Singapore on March 30. Look out for Geek Crusade’s movie review, coming very soon.