The relationship between the samurai film and the gun-slinging western is undeniably deep – stretching back as far as the ’50s – but typically that relationship focused heavily on American audiences being treated to western genre adaptations of popular Japanese samurai films. Most notable among those adaptations would be The Magnificent Seven, a retelling of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, only with prototypical cowboys replacing the titular katana-wielding protagonists.
Now, we have news of a similar remake situation occurring, only this time it’s headed in the opposite direction across the Pacific Ocean. Warner Bros. Japan has pegged Unforgiven, the 1992 Oscar-winning western starring Clint Eastwood, to be remade into a Japanese samurai film called Yurusarezaru mono.
Warner Bros. Japan has tapped Ken Watanabe to assume the Clint Eastwood role in the film, which was originally a grizzled bandit but will now be an aged samurai. Similar to Eastwood’s character, William Munny, Watanabe will play a reclusive but noted swordsman who is tempted by a large bounty. Obviously the film won’t be set in Wyoming and Kansas, but will take place on the island of Hokkaido.
At the helm of the remake will be Director Lee Sang-Il, whose most recent film was the award-winning Villain. Akira Emoto and Koichi Sato will be joining Watanabe in the film, but their roles are unknown.
Watanabe has certainly made a name for himself not only in his native Japan, but globally, starring in major blockbusters like Batman Begins and Inception. He, like Clint Eastwood, was even nominated for an Oscar, for his role opposite Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai. There are no plans for it yet, but given Watanabe’s notoriety and of course if this remake proves successful, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the samurai remake get a domestic release here in the states.
Some loyal fans of Eastwood’s original film – one of many where the prized actor took on a role in front of and behind the camera - might cry foul of an Unforgiven remake, but given the amount of success that adapting Japanese samurai classics for the western genre generated, it’s worth letting the opportunities flow the opposite way. Eastwood and Watanabe both worked together on Letters from Iwo Jima – the second part of his WWII compendium – so it won’t surprise us to learn that Eastwood gave his blessing to the project.
Warner Bros. Japan’s remake of Unforgiven, “Yurusarezaru mono,” will begin shooting in September.