A tribute to Eastwood: Watanabe, Sato costar in an adaptation of "Unforgiven"

A tribute to Eastwood: Watanabe, Sato costar in an adaptation of "Unforgiven"

JAPAN - "Yurusarezaru Mono," an adaptation of Clint Eastwood's 1992 monumental western "Unforgiven," will be released on Sept. 13. The new film, directed by Japan-based Lee Sang Il, stars Ken Watanabe and Koichi Sato, and depicts the turbulent times right after the Meiji Restoration in the late 19th century.

The film is set in Hokkaido in the early years of the Meiji era (1868-1912). Jubei (Watanabe), a former samurai assassin for the Tokugawa shogunate, reforms himself and starts a family. However, he loses his wife and ends up living with his children in extreme poverty. Then, a former colleague Kingo (Akira Emoto) gives him an offer of bounty hunting two new settlers who injured a prostitute's face. Jubei reluctantly takes up fighting with the sword again to make a living. However, when they arrive at their destination, a post town, its leader (Sato), who rules the local people using violence and fear, confronts them.

The film's original, starring and directed by Eastwood, obtained four Academy Awards, including the best picture Oscar.

Watanabe and Sato, both popular and acclaimed actors, spoke about the new film and how they want to make films more exciting and interesting. The following is an excerpt of their talk.

The Yomiuri Shimbun: This movie was filmed in Kamikawa, Hokkaido, from late September to late November last year. Director Lee, 39, whose "Hura Garu" (Hula Girls, 2006) and "Akunin" (Villain, 2010) were much acclaimed, did not compromise, and had his cast and crew do the same scenes repeatedly until he found the takes satisfactory.

Ken Watanabe: I started performing for film in a way I'd never experienced. I usually have an outline image of my role in my mind beforehand and then get inside the character, but for this film, instead, I intentionally made my mind vacant to force me to struggle with my role. Mr. Lee didn't direct me showing his intentions clearly. Mr. Lee stood firm on his principals until what I was doing made sense to him.

Koichi Sato: As I know Mr. Lee isn't above explaining his ideas with words, I didn't want to force him to do so, so I, too, performed my role while almost saying nothing to him. However, I knew what he meant and why he used the style, so I followed them.

Yomiuri: Mr. Watanabe personally heard from Eastwood that while shooting his original "Unforgiven," Eastwood had questioned whether anyone would even want to see such a gloomy film.

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