Keynote

Yoko Narahashi

Casting Director, United Performers Studio

Yoko Narahashi
Casting Director, United Performers Studio

Yoko Narahashi is a Director, Casting Director, Producer and Lyricist.

The daughter of a Japanese diplomat, Narahashi grew up in Montreal and Ottawa, receiving her formal education in Canada. She graduated from the International Christian University, and trained at the Neighborhood Playhouse under Sanford Meisner in New York.

Among the plays and musicals she has directed are “Hair,” “The Magic Monkey” and the award winning “The Winds of God” which was performed in Los Angeles, New York (Strasberg Institute, Actors Studio, and the United Nations), Australia and New Zealand.

Narahashi’s feature film directorial debut, “The Winds of God” won her the Japan Film Critics Award for Best New Director. She was also involved in “Hold My Hand”, released in Japan in May 2016.

Narahashi has been a Casting Director for foreign feature film productions since she worked with director and producer Steven Spielberg on “Empire of the Sun”.

The films she has cast include “The Last Samurai”, (directed by Ed Zwick), “Memoirs of a Geisha” (directed by Rob Marshall), “Babel” (directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu), “Wolverine” (directed by James Mangold”), “Unbroken” (directed by Angelina Jolie), and “Earthquake Bird” (directed by Wash Westmoreland, in post production). She has also cast BBC/Netflix production “Giri/Haji” (in pre-production), directed by Julian Farino, and cast Charlotte Kate Fox as the herione for a Japanese morning series for national TV station NHK.

Films she has both produced and cast are “The Ramen Girl”, directed by Robert Allan Ackerman, “Emperor” (2012) directed by Peter Webber.

In 1974, Narahashi founded Model Language Studio, which teaches English through drama, and is now in 34 locations.

In 1983, she established the United Performers’ Studio, a production (film, theatre TV and video) and management company for professional actors. The company now focuses mainly on casting and production work for international film and television.

In 1998, she founded UPS Academy, an professional acting school with an emphasis on training actors for the international market.

In addition to participating as a juror on the International Emmy Awards, Narahashi is a member of CSA (Casting Society of America) member, and PD (playwrights, directors unit of the Actors Studio).

She has also published the “Pinch and Ouch” book series, among others, and most recently published a book in Japanese about her work called “Connecting Hollywood and Japan” (Bungeishujun Publisher).

Her numerous awards include the Arts Festival Award presented by Japan’s Agency of Cultural Affairs in 1991 (for “The Winds of God” stage version); The Award for Excellence in Art in 1993 presented by the United Nations’ Society of Writers (The Winds of God stage version), the Best New Director Award presented by Japan Film Critics Association (“The Winds of God” film version) in 1996, and the Bulgari Aurora Award in 2016.

Consciousness, culture and casting: the rise of Asian stars on global screens

28 August 2018

10:00 AM

Crazy Rich Asians is a global tipping point for Asian tales and characters, and demand for stories with global appeal is bound to soar as a result. Behind the scenes, the effort to drive more diverse casting and promote broader representation of Asian talent on a greater number of international productions has been going on for years. Often called Japan’s top starmaker and the country’s “Ambassador to Hollywood”, Japanese producer, casting director, writer and director, Yoko Narahashi, talks about the evolution in consciousness, culture and casting from before she worked alongside Steven Spielberg on "Empire of the Sun", through to persuading Edward Zwich to look at Ken Watanabe for "The Last Samurai" to casting Mutsuhiro Watanabe in Angelina Jolie’s "Unbroken".