Preview by: Jack Foley
HOLLYWOODS filmmakers appear to be going the way of the
Samurai, with a glut of new films due to pay homage to the fighting
prowess of that ancient culture.
The Matrix sequels,
for example, boasts a lengthy Samurai sword fight sequence, while
Quentin Tarantinos return, Kill
Bill, features Uma Thurmans Bride laying waste to a
room full of 80 villains, with only a sword, in a scene to be
choreographed by the Crouching
Well, Tom Cruise appears to be going one step better, appearing
as Captain Nathan Algren in director, Edward Zwicks The
Last Samurai, which has been scheduled for a worldwide release
in early 2004.
According to Variety, the Mission Impossible star will play a
colonial swordsman who arrives in Japan to train the emperors
troops in the art of modern warfare, thereby eradicating the samurai
warriors who have traditionally been paid to protect the territories
of their feudal lords.
As the country dishonours and then systematically wipes out the
samurai, however, Cruises protagonist gets to witness close-up
the honour and contradictions of the warriors and is forced to
make some tough choices.
The project has been described as a dream-come-true thing
by Cruise, who claims to have long held a deep respect and a strong
feeling for this culture of Japanese people, as well
as the elegance and the beauty of the Samurai spirit.
As a result, his character will become impressed and influenced
by their ancient code, even as he is charged with ridding Japan
of their practises.
For Zwick, whose other credits include the Oscar-winning Glory,
as well as Courage Under Fire and The Siege, the film marked the
best birthday present that anyone could ever have, given
that the director turned 50 on the day marketing began, near Osaka.
The ensuing shoot will have taken the crew from Japan to New Zealand
and America before it wraps in time for its 2004 release.
The Last Samurai will co-star Japanese actor, Hiroyuki Sanada,
as Algren's fencing master, and the likes of Billy Connolly and
Timothy Spall. Sanada's past acting credits include playing the
fool in King Lear with the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1999,
while Spall has previously teamed up with Cruise to admirable
effect in Vanilla Sky.
It is the films intention to pay homage to the samurai
spirit, according to Cruise, and to celebrate the
beauty and elegance of that portion of your [Japanese] culture.
With that in mind, however, the film has already run into controversy
during the New Zealand part of the shoot, as sections of the Maori
community claimed sacred sites had been desecrated during filming.
Others feel they should be paid compensation for the use of images
of their sacred mountain, Mount Taranaki, which will feature prominently.
The New Zealand film industry body, howeve,r has simply referred
to the dispute as a storm in a teacup.