Japanese model Tao Okamoto felt rejected growing up

Tao Okamoto, who stars in the new Batman V Superman film, says the hairy hero's vulnerability makes him attractive

Japanese actress Tao Okamoto at Louis Vuitton's fashion exhibition, Series 3, at Marina Bay Sands.
Japanese actress Tao Okamoto at Louis Vuitton's fashion exhibition, Series 3, at Marina Bay Sands. PHOTO: LOUIS VUITTON

Japanese model Tao Okamoto may be new to acting, but she has already acted alongside the world's most famous superheroes.

She romanced the titular hairy hero in her debut movie, The Wolverine (2013).

In her latest role, she plays a villain's personal assistant in the upcoming film, Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, due for release next year.

When asked who her ideal man is among Wolverine, Superman and Batman, she says she would go for Wolverine.

Speaking to Life last Friday at the opening of French luxury house Louis Vuitton's fashion exhibition, Series 3, at Marina Bay Sands, the 30-year-old says in English: "Wolverine wasn't born to be a hero. He's not perfect and he's vulnerable, but that's what makes him attractive."

She says that American director Zack Snyder contacted her to be in his movie, Batman V Superman, after seeing her in The Wolverine.

"He wanted me to star in his movie. It was great that somebody liked my rookie performance."

Because Okamoto was formerly from the "rival team" - Wolverine is a character from American publisher Marvel Comics, while Superman and Batman are from competing American publisher DC Comics - she says it must have been a challenge for the director to cast her.

"He really fought for me (to be in the movie)," adds Okamoto, who is based in New York.

She plays the tough cookie bodyguard, Mercy Graves, whom she says uses her brains rather than her brawn to assist her evil boss, Lex Luthor.

While grateful for the chance to portray a different character from her debut role, Okamoto says she related better to her role as Mariko Yashida, a damsel in distress in The Wolverine.

The genteel Mariko's vulnerability reminded her of her real-life experiences.

She says: "I found some similarities. Mariko didn't belong anywhere. Growing up, I used to feel rejected. I was very tall for a Japanese girl, being different was tough for a teenager. I wasn't confident about myself."

At age 14, the 1.77m-tall Okamoto was scouted off the streets of Tokyo and embarked on a successful international modelling career.

She has walked the runway for high-end fashion brands such as Louis Vuitton and Chanel and fronted advertising campaigns for Dolce & Gabbana and Kenzo.

Last year, she signed on as a cast member of the TV series, Hannibal, in which she plays Lady Murasaki, the aunt of titular character Hannibal Lecter.

Now, she hopes to set aside more time to pursue her newfound passion for acting.

She says: "I'm passionate about acting and hope to do more of it. I'm new to the world of acting.

"Every day, I'm learning. I want to be better."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2015, with the headline 'Her ideal man is Wolverine'. Subscribe