Ralph Fiennes at Tokyo Film Fest Opening: "Films Are Vital in a World Which Is Falling Apart"

Ralph Fiennes - Getty - H 2018
Vivien Killilea/Getty

The actor added a much-needed dash of star power to the festival’s opening night, with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga conspicuously absent as 'A Star Is Born' kicked off the event.

Ralph Fiennes and Japanese screen legend Koji Yakusho added a splash of star power to the opening of the 31st Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) Thursday evening.

"Filmmaking is a fragile business. Every single film is a struggle to make. You must not take films for granted," Fiennes said in an impassioned speech following the screening of opening film A Star Is Born. "They are hard to make, they are difficult to make. Films are made because people have passion and purpose."

Continued the star: "Films have the power to ... inspire and show us our common humanity. They are vital in a world which is falling apart. We really must prize our common humanity, it's very important." He concluded by saying: "My toast is to the common humanity recognized by filmmakers everywhere." Fiennes, whose film about ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, The White Crow, is in competition, was the biggest Hollywood name at the opening-night festivities since Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper weren't on hand for the Star Is Born screening. With nobody in town to represent the opening film, the festival had local actress Shinobu Terajima share her impression of Lady Gaga's performance and Cooper's directorial debut on both the red carpet and at the opening ceremony.

There were also fewer domestic and regional big names on the guest list than in previous years, with no A-list stars from Korea or China on the red carpet.

Fiennes also appeared onstage at the opening ceremony, followed by Japanese actor Koji Yakusho (Babel). Yakusho's films — including 1997 Cannes Palme d'Or winner The Eel and Shall We Dance?, which was remade in 2004 with Richard Gere taking on his role — are being showcased at the fest.

The jury for the main competition, led by Filipino auteur Brillante Mendoza, brought a little sparkle to the event. Mendoza was joined onstage by director Stanley Kwan from Hong Kong, American producer Bryan Burk (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Westworld) and two actresses: Iran's Taraneh Alidoosti and Japan's Kaho Minami.

One Cut of the Dead director Shinichiro Ueda and 20 members of his cast and crew made an energetic appearance on the red carpet. Ueda had foregone the T-shirt and sweatshirt of his film — which he has been appearing in for the past few months — and put on a tuxedo, still keeping his signature crimson bowler hat. He told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview before the event that walking the carpet at the Tokyo Film Festival, representing his micro-budget film, had been beyond his imagination.

Joining the two directors and two of the voice cast of the animated Godzilla: The Planet Eater (which will close the festival) was the monster itself, or at least someone in a rubber suit that harked back to the monster's earliest films.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was absent again from the opening after last attending in 2016. He was on his way to China to meet President Xi Jinping.

The festival runs at Roppongi Hills and other central Tokyo venues until Nov. 3.

Patrick Brzeski and Georg Szalai contributed to this report.