A Samurai Tale in Hollywood

The Last Ronin

The director and stars of “Saigo no Chushingura” were in Los Angeles yesterday for the movie’s ‘Hollywood’ premiere. It is the first major Japanese-language project taken on by Warner Brothers, and so it became the first ever Japanese movie to be screened in the Steven J. Ross Theater at the company’s headquarters. Director Sugita Shigemichi (67) and stars Yakusho Koji (54) and Sakuraba Nanami (17) received a standing ovation from the audience of 500 industry professionals, including a rare public appearance by WB Chairman and CEO Barry M. Meyer. The movie is scheduled to open in Japan on December 18.

Titled “The Last Ronin” for its U.S. release, the movie is the latest in a long history of adaptations of one of Japan’s most famous historical events. A remake starring Keanu Reeves (46) is also said to be in the works. It tells of the 47 Ako Roshi (masterless samurais of Akou) and is the quintessential tale of the “bushido” or samurai code. The story is often used to relate the Japanese world-view as it relates to honor and loyalty. The 47 samurai are left leaderless when their master is forced to commit “seppuku” (ritual suicide) for raising his sword against an imperial court official. The ronin plot their revenge though they know it will inevitably lead to their own deaths.