40 years as a subtitle translator … Natsuko Toda talks about “The Lovable Faces of Hollywood Stars That Only I Know | FRIDAY DIGITAL

40 years as a subtitle translator … Natsuko Toda talks about “The Lovable Faces of Hollywood Stars That Only I Know

Natsuko Toda, the charismatic "interpreter" who worked on "Mission: Impossible," "Titanic," and "Star Wars," may be retired, but she is still at the forefront of her field!

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Interviewed wearing a Burberry scarf given to her as a birthday present by Tom Cruise

Work is my reason for living. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be many people who would work until they were 87.”

The movie “Mission: Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One” is a smash hit, grossing over 5 billion yen at the box office. Natsuko Toda, 87, a subtitle translator, has been involved in the translation of subtitles since the first film in the series in 1996.

In a movie like “Mission: Impossible” (MI), the action is the main attraction, so the dialogue is just a statement of fact. We need to translate the dialogue so that the facts are easily understood.

For example, the word “Entity” appears frequently in the latest film. For example, the word “Entity” appears frequently in his latest work, referring to “something unidentified” that destroys digital systems and runs amok.

Not many Japanese can understand the meaning of “Entity. In the dubbed version, it is “Entity″ as it is, but in the subtitled version, it uses six letters, which is more than the number of characters! I translated it as ″it″ to shorten and simplify the meaning of “unidentified mysterious entity.

For more than 40 years, Mr. Toda has worked as an interpreter for interviews with Hollywood actors and actresses, in addition to being a subtitle translator. Last year, however, he announced his retirement from interpreting. He explained what led him to make this difficult decision.

Unlike subtitle translation, which you can do at home at your own pace, interpreting requires instantaneous, on-the-spot response. But at my age, I sometimes find myself at a loss for words. Tom Cruise (61) always puts his best foot forward in his stage appearances, but it would be a shame if the interpreter was at a loss for words and couldn’t convey his thoughts properly, wouldn’t it? So I thought it was time to move on.

Interaction with Hollywood Stars

Through her work as an interpreter, Ms. Toda has made friends with many stars. In fact, she shares the same birthday as Tom, and every year on his birthday she receives flowers and messages of congratulations from him.

The scarf I am wearing today was also a gift from Tom. He is kind and service-minded not only to me but to everyone. He is always working out even when he is not filming, and he doesn’t drink alcohol. For “MI” and other films he has appeared in, he is sometimes involved in everything from planning to editing the trailers. In terms of professionalism, I think he has something in common with major league baseball player Shohei Otani.

Another actor, Richard Gere (74), once came to visit Mr. Toda at his home in Tokyo in the ’90s.

He said, “My condo once cost me 2 billion yen during the bubble period, and I told Richard about it. When I told Richard about it, he thought, ‘He lives in an unbelievable mansion. He said, ‘I’d like to visit,’ so I invited him over and was surprised to find that it was smaller than the entrance to his house. Later, there was a scene in a movie he was in where he visited a dirty little house in a back alley in Beijing, and he said, ‘This scene reminded me of your house. Isn’t that terrible? (Laughs)”

I first met Harrison Ford (’81) when he came to Japan to promote “Star Wars” (’78) and I served as his interpreter. He was almost unknown at the time and had no aura of a star, so no one would recognize him even if he walked down the street in Ginza with me.

In ’91, I went to visit Harrison at his home in Los Angeles. It was a large, but not flashy, wooden house with a relaxed atmosphere and furniture that he made himself. He was good with his hands, and when he couldn’t eat from his acting job, he worked part-time as a carpenter. He had offers to appear in pornographic films, but his pride in his profession as an actor made it difficult for him to make a living, so he refused. When I heard that story, I felt it was very typical of the earnest Harrison.”

He and Robert De Niro (80), whom he nicknamed “Bob,” had traveled together to Hakone and Kyoto in 2007.

He asked me to show him around because he was going to Japan with his family. I’ve never been a travel coordinator before, so I had to run around arranging bullet trains and hotels. Bob and his wife and three sons flew in by private jet, but they had more than 30 pieces of luggage, so we had to arrange a bus for them on short notice. At a ryokan in Hakone, Bob took the same open-air bath as the other guests, and in Kyoto we visited Nijo Castle, as he wanted to ‘show the children the corridor covered with Japanese nightshade. Looking back, it’s a good memory, but we were in a state of flux during the trip (laughs).

Over the years, he has seen Hollywood stars up close and personal, and has sometimes felt that the stars have grown up.

Brad Pitt (59) came to Japan for the first time on the condition that he would be accompanied by his director, saying, ‘I can’t give an interview by myself. Even though he was a newcomer, he was over 30 years old. He also said he was afraid of being surrounded by his fans, so he stayed in a hotel and ordered room service, which was a strange combination of miso soup and sandwiches (laughs). The following year, when he came to Japan for the film “Give My Regards to Joe Black,” he did the interview alone, but he couldn’t keep up with the words and gave me, his interpreter, a look that said, “What should I do?

A few years later, however, he was a different person and handled the interview with aplomb. Today, he is not only an actor but also a producer, has produced many hit movies, and is involved in philanthropic activities.

He is now not only an actor, but also a producer and has produced a number of hit films, and is involved in philanthropic activities. He still thanks me, saying, ‘You really helped me a lot back then.

Toda’s Secrets of Work Life

Toda used to be extremely busy, translating movie subtitles at the rate of 50 per year, or one per week, but she is now working at a somewhat slower pace.

I’ve done nothing but work, so I don’t know anything about the world,” she says. I haven’t seen any movies by Yujiro Ishihara or Hibari Misora, and I don’t know any popular songs at all. Recently, I finally found some time to watch “Otoko wa Tsuraiyo” (Men Have It Hard). Is that the secret to your health? Don’t do things you don’t like, don’t accumulate stress, and eat good food! I also want to go on my favorite overseas trips soon, which I have been holding off on because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Ms. Toda is still active on the front lines. His life as a subtitle translator and his interactions with Hollywood stars will continue – and continue to do so in the future.

Tom Cruise has been a friend for more than 30 years, and he calls Ms. Toda his “Japanese mother. He trusted her so much that he always appoints her as his interpreter when he comes to Japan.
Leonardo DiCaprio: He recalls meeting Leo at the Tokyo International Film Festival, where “Titanic” had its world premiere in 1997.
Brad Pitt Brad Pitt, who has never been good at interviews and has always looked to me for help.
Clint Eastwood Director Clint and other directors including George Lucas and Steven Spielberg trusted him
Robert De Niro: I had a preconceived notion that he was a great actor with an overwhelming presence, but when I met him, I found him to be a friendly Robert. After that, he became such a good friend that he traveled with his family.
Harrison Ford: We first met when he came to Japan for “Star Wars” in 1978. Mr. Toda describes Harrison as “the first and last person to rise from the bottom to the top.
Charlize Theron: She sang and danced to ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” at karaoke! She kept holding the microphone and showed off her beautiful voice.
Natsuko Toda, 40 years as a “subtitle translator”: “The real faces of Hollywood stars that only I know and love”.
Natsuko Toda, 40 years as a subtitle translator.
Natsuko Toda, 40 years as a subtitle translator.

From the October 6, 2023 issue of FRIDAY

  • Interview and text Miho Otobe PHOTO Takehiko Kohiyama (1st photo) Star photo (courtesy of the artist)

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