Hanzo doesn’t like the actor playing him. “I was never that pretty,” he says gruffly. With the help of makeup artists, the international superstar Keichi Iwaki looks like Hanzo after some liberal photoshopping and a taste for manga. He imitated a better version Hanzo’s features: bigger, shinier eyes, thinner, straighter nose, smoother jaw.
Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise. Despite their superficially similar faces, Keichi's elegant looks are so far away from anything Hanzo has ever considered himself to be that it gives him no discomfort to watch the young man on screen, acting out what Hollywood supposed Overwatch to be.
It was on his ninety-third birthday and the sixth anniversary of Jesse’s death that he had received word of this project. He had been weeding the zucchini when the call came from Goldshire. A major motion picture. Action. Romance. CGI. And the studio would just love to have his official endorsement, since after all, Hanzo himself was the subject…
In his younger days he would have threatened the representative with an arrow through the eye and a lopped-off ear. Now he’s an old man who knows court orders are more effective.
But that was three years ago, and if it had worked, he wouldn’t be sitting next to the director, trying his best to veto any and everything that comes his way. Keichi had been one of those vetoes, earning Hanzo the reputation of the on-set saboteur.
He’s come to terms with the embarrassment. The scrutiny. The complete bastardization of everything he’s ever known and loved. And he’s always come to terms with the fact that only he can prevent it from getting even worse than it already is.
He can’t stand watching the day’s takes. He can’t stand watching much of anything, really, so he wanders off to the hull of the giant building they call a studio. He ends up taking his blood sugar in one of the many forgotten rooms, filled with clutter and old paper. The reading (136 mg/dl) appears on the screen with a beep, just as the door opens.
“Mr. Shimada. I’m sorry, do you have a minute?”
Hanzo doesn’t bother looking up. He knows the husky voice- it’s the actor playing McCree, a man named James… James something. “No."
That “something” comes to sit by his side. “They told me you’d say that, sir.”
“What do you want.” Hanzo finally acknowledges the young man by looking up. He knows he must be an unwelcoming sight- this elderly white-haired assassin, wrinkles as deep as water cutting through canyons, ropey, knotted muscles under spotted, papery skin. People tend to not make eye contact with him on a daily basis. He prefers it that way.
But James-something came here with a mind set on something. “I wanted to talk to you.” He’s persistent- that much, Hanzo will acknowledge. And that the young man is a skilled actor- no, an excellent one. On screen, he’s a tornado- a wild and reckless force that guffaws too loud, slaps too hard, pulls the trigger too freely. A firestorm in human clothing. The McCree. But off the set, he is quiet and bookish, and pensive in a placid, slow way. He eats pizza with a knife and fork, and washes disposable utensils. A great actor. They used some facial prosthetics in addition to the makeup, because in front of him, Hanzo sees Jesse’s face. It’s close enough to be uncanny, especially when the voice that comes out isn’t McCree’s, and the person behind it isn’t the man he came to share his life with. It’s strange. It’s something like frightening. But still the mouth that isn’t Jesse’s mouth moves, and it speaks: “I wanted your feedback on… On what I can do.”
“You can quit right now, go home, and pray with me that this movie does not make it past Hallway 3A.”
James begins to laugh before he realizes Hanzo is serious. “I mean my acting. My take on Jesse.”
He feels unbalanced. It’s strange, seeing McCree’s face, his clothes, being worn by this quiet young artist. And it’s been a while since Hanzo has heard anyone say that name in front of him. To his surprise, the first feeling he can identify is more like a laugh- something like amusement. Or rather, he’s amused that Jesse would be amused. Jesse probably would have pushed the director off his canvas chair on Day 1- Hanzo can imagine the cowboy’s slow southern drawl: “And take that gun outta that holster boy, you don’t know the mission’s done yet! No, you get back there, you do not turn your back on a wounded man. Get back!”
“What is your question,” Hanzo asks tiredly.
The young man is silent at first, trying to form the words in his head. “It’s not a question. I like… I just… I want to do a good job,” James explains quietly.
“You are. You are a good actor,” Hanzo says gruffly, turning away.
“I mean a great job. I mean, for you too.” He follows Hanzo into the hallway between the sets. “Look. I’m sorry. I know that you didn’t want… Well, I mean, I read that you didn’t want the film being made.”
“I do not. I am only here to make sure that they do not do me too much disgrace.”
“I know. So… How do I do this right for you and Jesse?”
Hanzo pauses, shuffling a foot across the worn carpet. But he tells him the first thing that comes to mind. “You can be… You can try to be ‘cooler.’”
James hesitates before slouching back, a hand on his hip and lazy squint in his eye. He stays like that for five seconds, before standing straight again. “I’m sorry. I’m probably really not as cool as-“
“No. Jesse was not ‘cool.’” Hanzo scowls. “He thought he was. He was dumb. But I think he would have liked it, if you… Made him… ‘Cool.’” He pauses before adding, “…He would have laughed.”
To Hanzo’s shame, James-something’s face changes, loses its professional veneer as he realizes that he’s not talking to source material- he’s talking to an old, tired man grieving over an old, dead cowboy.
“I’m sorry. This is too soon for you,” he observes, and Hanzo resists the urge to slap the sympathy off his face.
“It will always be ‘too soon,’” he growls, turning to walk away again. And once again, he stops and mutters, “Do not adjust your serape. He never did that. If it droops let it go.”
James hasn’t moved from his spot on the carpet. “Yes, sir.”
“Smoke your stupid cigar with your left hand,” Hanzo mumbles. “You need the right hand to draw and fire.”
“Do not snap your fingers.”
There is something in the film that he dislikes the most of all, but there isn’t any tactful way to bring it up. “And.. The kiss scene. The first one. In the weapons storage.”
James winced. “Yeah, I had a feeling you were going to bring that one up…”
Hanzo looks around- the hallway is deserted save for the two of them, but out of habit, he walks back into the storage room. He doesn’t sit down, but leans against a bare drywall. James follows him in obediently, waiting.
He remembers that evening. It did not occur in the weapons storage- it was in the pantry. McCree did not have those witty one-liners- only cheesy puns. There had been a lot more awkward silence and spilled coffee beans. But none of that was important.
“It didn’t happen like that,” Hanzo finally tells him.
The shock is evident on James’ face, but the old man continues.
“Jesse… Jesse wasn’t… I understand the movie. But I see you come on the set. You kick the door. Go in strong and you go in to win.” Hanzo looks away from James in futile shame, but he can’t stop the words. “Jesse didn’t do that. He was-“ It’s mortifying, speaking to the stranger who only looks like McCree, but he soldiers on, his throat closed and aching. “Jesse was gentle.” The last statement comes out plaintive and confused.
James is silent.
“Forget it. Hard to explain. Do whatever you did before,” Hanzo grunts, and prepares to push the younger man aside.
“Thank you, sir.”
The words ring genuine, and as soon as they escape his lips, they stop the old man in the storage room.
“Come… Here,” he commands. “It’s… The weapons storage. Scene 52a.” He leans against the wall like he’s seen Keichi do. “The confrontation.”
James isn’t as slow on the uptake as he seems. Gently, he obeys, and assumes the pose he starts the scene in- leaning in over Hanzo and trapping him against the wall with one arm.
Hanzo shakes his head. “Do not lean in so close. You are trying not to scare him away.”
James backs up a little.
“No. Back up more. Okay. Come in again- no, slowly. Careful. Like you are trying to touch a bird.”
James tries again, keeping more distance between him and the old man before closing in, much more slowly this time.
Still, something’s wrong. “No- more gentle,” Hanzo snaps.
“I don’t know what you mean, sir.”
Hanzo exhales slowly, gathering his thoughts under the shadow of the taller man. “You are trying to touch a bird,” he repeats. “Not catch it! Only touch it. It is… A wild bird. It is lost and scared.” His shoulders drop, and he sighs again. “But for some reason it lets you approach it. It doesn’t trust you, but it doesn’t trust itself either. So… Be gentle. …Be kind.”
James backs up. “Action,” he says simply, and recites his lines, a great deal more differently than he had before. His voice is quiet, gruff as he approaches again. “‘Ey. Talk to me, partner.”
Hanzo dutifully plays the part of Keichi. “I am not your partner,” he states.
“Either way, reckon you’re havin' something to say.”
“Does silence bother your sad empty skull?”
“No, but-“ James’ hand goes towards Hanzo’s face, but his fingers only brush the drywall. “-You looking at me all the time like that sure does. So, Hanzo, what do you have to say?”
Maybe the silver screen isn’t called magic for nothing. It’s only the makeup. The prosthetics and the makeup are too good. He looks too much like Jesse McCree. James is too good an actor. And Hanzo is too… He doesn’t know what he is “too” much of. But through the smell of latex and adhesive, hair spray, and metal, something hazes over, and Hanzo sees McCree. Part of him is well aware that it’s just a sad illusion, but Hanzo sees not young James, but something familiar, something he knows all well as himself. It’s his cowboy’s serious brown gaze, the little wrinkles around his eyes. The quiet love in them, the unspoken “darlin’” waiting behind his slightly parted lips.
And Hanzo says, “Jesse, I miss you.”
Suddenly, it’s James pulling away in surprise, and the two men trying to avoid each others’ eyes. “That’s not the line, sir.”
Hanzo rears back, instinctively throwing his face back into a scowl. “I forget the lines. You can’t make a memorable script out of this. I told everyone that from the start.” Crossing his arms, he gives James a surly glare. “You should be back on that cursed set.”
It’s a dismissal if there ever was one, but for a moment, James looks like he’s about to argue. The young man squeezes his eyes closed and opens them again, and raises a hand. “Sir. Mr. Shimada, I-“
“Get back,” Hanzo snaps, shoving James aside with a sharp shoulder and striding out the door. He takes off as fast as dignity will let him, in any random direction down the hall.
He had always known this movie was a bad idea.