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With a career spanning four decades, Koji Yakusho has been both a star overseas (“Memoirs of a Geisha,” “Babel”) and an award-winner at home, most notably for his 1996 breakthrough “Shall We Dance?” But through it all he has maintained a Tom Hanks-esque nice guy image.

That has been my own impression, at least. In 2009, I was set to interview Yakusho about his directorial debut, “Toad’s Oil,” but misread the directions and arrived nearly an hour late. Yakusho was waiting patiently, though, and answered my questions thoroughly, to my eternal gratitude.

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