The Western and Samurai genres have a proud history of twisting and remaking each others’ stories, thanks mainly in part to films such as The Magnificent Seven and Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars remaking Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai and Yojimbo, respectively.
Now that relationship seems set to take another turn with news coming from Variety that Ken Watanabe has signed on to star in a samurai period remake of the western classic Unforgiven, with Watanabe taking on the central role originally played by Clint Eastwood in the original.
Korean helmer Lee San-Il, who made 2010’s Villain, will direct the project, now titled Yurusarezaru Mono. Like the original, the film will be set in 1880 with the action now being transposed from Wyoming to the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.
Watanabe will play a Samurai with a somewhat violent reputation and morally questionable past as a master swordsman now living in peaceful retirement with his Ainu wife, until the promise of a large bounty lures him back into action once again.
Koichi Sato has been cast in the role made famous by Gene Hackman and Akira Emoto will take on the role originally played by Morgan Freeman, with filming set to commence later this year with a release set for sometime in 2013. No word yet on any international release dates.
Usually I would be crying out in agony at the thought of yet another remake of a classic film, but this particular one has colored me intrigued. The Western and Samurai genres are two of which it seems are more commonly related than most might think, with stories, characters and themes easily interchangeable between the two. To me, the prospect of a Samurai version of Unforgiven starring Ken Watanabe is something that I can easily get behind and more than look forward to seeing.
What do you think though? Would you want to see a Samurai remake of a true Western classic?