On September 10th, it was announced that worldwide renowned Chinese actor Tony Leung Chiu Wai is going to star in his first Japanese movie. The movie is titled ‘1905‘ and will be directed by Kurosawa Kiyoshi, who also already made a name for himself around the world, especially as a master of the J-Horror genre.
This movie, however, will be a large-scale action production set in Yokohama in the year 1905, and the filming will occur both in Japan and Taiwan. It will also feature the Japanese actors Matsuda Shota and former AKB48 member Maeda Atsuko. Although it’s an ambitious Japanese production, around 90% of all lines will be in Chinese.
Concrete plans for this project were already made back in 2009, when Kurosawa and Tony Leung met and talked to each other for the first time at the Asian Film Awards. Soon after that the actor came to Japan and they were able to discuss their plans in detail. Distributor Prénom H revealed that they’ve actually been trying to get the Chinese actor on board of a Japanese production ever since they began distributing his movies in Japan with ‘Days of Being Wild‘ in 1990.
As the title suggests, the movie is set in 1905, a time where imperialism and globalism was taking over the world by storm. Asian countries like Japan and China felt threatened by Western European countries. While the Qing Dynasty was inevitably approaching its end through a revolution, many Chinese went to Japan to study their modernization, which lead to a great amount of overseas students and a deep cultural exchange between the people of both countries.
Set in such a historical setting, Tony Leung is going to play a loan shark by the name of ‘Yan Yunlong’. He has to go to Japan in order to collect the money from five men who have to repay their loan. Matsuda is playing “Kato Tamotsu”, a member of an ultranationalist group called ‘Houkokukai’. He was raised in Hong Kong and can speak Chinese, which leads to him being ordered to conduct the forced repatriation of five Chinese revolutionaries. Those happen to be the same five people ‘Yan’ is hunting in Japan and so they both end up working together in order to find all five of them.
The director explained that he wants to focus on all those people who suddenly were washed ashore in cities like Yokohama 100 years ago. He explained, “Their experiences, their despair and their hope, they are all directly connected with the problems we are still facing today and will continue to face in the future.” He continued, “The cast is like a dream come true for me. I still can’t believe that this is real. I think that those three wonderful actors will be able connect with each other beyond words, age, and gender. They’ll connect with their souls. Getting to work with such great people is more blessing than one director deserves.”
Tony Leung commented, “I always admire the works of Director Kurosawa, and am thrilled to have a chance to work with him. I will treasure the experience and enjoy every moment of it.”
Meanwhile, Matsuda revealed that he was literally shivering when he received the script. He said, “I was surprised by the sheer scale of this movie and its incredible cast, but at the moment when I received the script and realized that I will really be able to meet Director Kurosawa, I couldn’t help but feel extremely happy. I want to have confidence in myself and enjoy the shooting while keeping both a tense atmosphere and a relaxed feeling.”
For Maeda this is going to be a huge step forward in her career as an actress. She’s going to play a woman named “Onishi Miyako” who is preparing all the meals for ‘Yan’ at his place while he’s in Japan. She’s a brave and honest young woman, but she’s also difficult to deal with and doesn’t hesitate to speak her mind. She expressed, “Director Kurosawa is working everywhere in the world and I’m very excited that I’ll be able to participate in one of his movies. My character is a very charming woman and I’m going to put all my energy into my performance.”
Both Matsuda, who basically has to become fluent for his role, and
Maeda, who should at least become able to say a few things, are scheduled to go through some extra hard training in order to improve their Chinese as fast as possible. The filming is already scheduled to start in November and is expected to end sometime in January next year. Aside from Japan, the movie is already set for releases in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
‘1905′ will be co-distributed by Prénom H and Shochiku. It’s slated for a release sometime in fall of 2013.