The last we reported on the Samurai epic 47 Ronin, we heard that it would be shot in 3D as opposed to being converted after the fact. The film will star Keanu Reeves and will be shot under the direction of first-time feature director Carl Erik Rinsch (you may remember he almost directed the scrapped Alien prequel and recently chose 47 Ronin over the Logan’s Run remake).

Thanks to an official press release from Universal Pictures we now know that 47 Ronin will start principal photography in less than two weeks time on March 14th. The last we heard, the film was set to be released on November 21st, 2012, and if that date is still correct, then it gives those involved in making the film plenty of time.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the project, and adaptation of “Japan’s most enduring tale,” here is the synopsis given in the press release:

Keanu Reeves leads the cast as Kai, an outcast who joins Oishi, the leader of the 47 Ronin. Together they seek vengeance upon the treacherous overlord who killed their master and banished their kind. To restore honor to their homeland, the warriors embark upon a quest that challenges them with a series of trials that would destroy ordinary warriors.

We also learn from the press release that four Japanese stars (some would even say superstars) have joined Reeves in the cast, and we even have details of who each of them will be playing:

  • Hiroyuki Sanada – He is best known for his roles in the original Ringu and its sequel; the Tom Cruise east-meets-west action film The Last Samurai; Danny Boyle’s sci-fi epic Sunshine; and fans of the TV series Lost will remember him as the mysterious Dogen in the show’s final season. Here he will play Oishi, the clan’s chief samurai.
  • Tadanobu Asano – He is most known for playing Kakihara in director Takashi Miike’s brilliantly twisted Ichi the Killer; as Genghis Khan in Mongol; and he will soon be seen in this summer’s Thor. Here he will play the evil overlord Lord Kira.
  • Rinko Kikuchi – She garnered acclaim (including an Oscar nomination) for her performance in Babel, and starred as a mostly silent con artist in The Brothers Bloom. Here she will play the mysterious lady Mizuki who executes Lord Kira’s every request in his search for ultimate power.
  • Kou Shibasaki – She is probably most known internationally from the original One Missed Call and the brutal Battle Royale, but has starred in a number of other films, most recently The Lady Shogun and Her Men. Here she will play Mika, the daughter of the clan’s master and the love of Kai’s (Reeves) life.

As an added bonus to this news, we also have a photo taken of the cast together with director Carl Rinsch at a press conference in London:

As strange as it is having Reeves lead a story hailed as Japan’s “national legend” (read: Reeves isn’t Japanese), it’s great to see Japanese talent of this caliber assembled for what will hopefully be an interesting and enjoyable action-adventure – one which utilizes 3D in the best way possible (by being shot in that format). I’ve admired those four actors for a while now (particularly Asano and Sanada) and I very much look forward to seeing them together onscreen.

47 Ronin also sports an impressive team of people behind the scenes, including cinematographer John Mathieson (Gladiator, Robin Hood); editor Craig Wood (Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, The Ring); production designer Jan Roelfs (Alexander, Gattaca), costumer designer Penny Rose (Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, Evita); special effects producer Paul Corbould (Mamma Mia!, The Wolfman); and visual effects producer Garv Thorp (Your Highness, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor).

Evidently this is going to be a huge production with a lot of talent working both in front of and behind the camera. Can they do justice to such an enduring and well-respected tale of courage, loyalty, honor and sacrifice? Who knows at this point, but so far things are looking up.

As stated, 47 Ronin is set to start production on March 14th this year and has a planned release date of November 21st, 2012. We’ll let you know if that changes.

Source: Universal Pictures