Japanese Legend Hollywood Style
U.S. Release Date: 12/25/13
When he heard about an 18th century Japanese legend – which tells of 47 Samurai (also known as Ronin) who set out to avenge the murder of their leader – Carl Rinsch figured the tale needed a little something extra to bring it to the big screen.
“It was our goal to maintain and respect the fundamental emotions and themes of the true history,” says Rinsch, director of 47 Ronin, “but to view it through a lenses that made it relevant to contemporary audiences. The global audience of movies today speaks in a vernacular of fantasy, science-fiction and superheroes.”
So the filmmaker, in upping the fantasy element, studied creatures of Japanese folklore and mythology.
“We learned about the Oni, a large ogre and bird warriors called Tengu warriors.
There’s this menageries of fantasy characters that gave us such exciting directions to explore.”
As it has passed down through the generations, the tale has been told over and over again, through Chushingura – fictionalized accounts of the history via Japanese film, theatre and other media.
“For myself,” adds the director, “the intent was to take Chushingura and give it a broad international reach by presenting it in a fashion that utilizes this new Hollywood palate.”
Now enhanced with seductive witches – endowed with nightmarish powers – mythic beasts and a secret organization of demon monks, thanks to Rinsch’s adaptation, the legend of the 47 Ronin is a beloved staple of Japanese society – schools and bank close annually in honor of the warriors that gave their lives for the country.
The story concerns Kai (Keanu Reeves), an agile fighter, once rejected from his home village for being a half blood, who teams up with then Samurai to unleash vengeance upon Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) – the man responsible for the death of Kai’s master and leader of the Ronin.
“I related to it as a Westerner,” says Reeves. “It’s a film that has big universal themes such as honor, revenge and love.”
Reeves, says Rinsch, is collaborator on all levels.
“He’s somebody whom I can turn to and ask a question, get a thoughtful response, and it doesn’t necessarily have to do with his character.”
Kai’s forbidden love interest is Mika (Ko Shibasaki), whose father Lord Asano (Min Tanaka) rescued a thirteen year old Kai from the forest. Mika, it turns out, will do everything to protect Kai, who has been shunned by everyone on the village.
“Japanese people tend to be shy and don’t always express their feelings openly,” says Shibasaki. “Carl always encouraged me to feel and express things more, and to bring out my natural expressions. He’s a kind, broad-minded person, which is why I think it was so easy to dive right in and take risks.”
Studio: Universal Pictures
Director: Carl Rinsch
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada Tadanobu Asano, RInko Kikuchi, Ko Shibasaki, Min Tanaka and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa
Screen Story: Chris Morgan and Walter Hamada
Screenplay: Chris Morgan and Hossein Amini
Producers: Pamela Abdy and Eric McLeod
Executive Producers: Scott Stuber, Chris Fenton and Walter Hamada
Source: Universal Pictures Press Kit
Image Info: Keanu Reeves in “47 Ronin.” Copyright © Universal Pictures 2013. All Rights Reserved.