10 Questions For Rinko Kikuchi

Rinko Kikuchi's breakthrough performance as Chieko, a deaf-mute teenager in Alejandro González Iñárritu's Babel, was so convincing that co-star Cate Blanchett at first assumed the 26-year-old Japanese actress really couldn't speak. It's the kind of talent that has propelled Kikuchi from obscurity to an Oscar nomination—the first for a Japanese actress in 49 years. Kikuchi talks to Time's Michiko Toyama about Babel, isolation and her newfound fame.

What made you want to work with the director Iñárritu?
I saw Alejandro's Amores Perros and 21 Grams and loved them. When I learned he was to make a movie...

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