The Xtreme Entertainment Network talks to Keanu Reeves and director Carl Rinsch about their epic new film 47 Ronin…
Based upon the Japanese legend of the 47 Ronin, the film of the same name is epic in every sense of the word, having been under production for over three years. Promising special effects that will dazzle and action scenes that will leave you breathless, 47 Ronin stars Keanu Reeves and a cast of Asian actors in a fantastical reimagining of the Chushingura – a story based upon the Japanese fable. We met Keanu Reeves and director Carl Rinsch to discuss how they brought the legend to life.
Carl, as the film’s director you are probably the best person to answer this – how did this all come about? How did it all start for you? Carl Rinsch – I knew the history of the 47 Ronin, but when I saw the script the thing that was really interesting about it was this take is so different. We in the west have to a certain extent a romanticised idea of Japan and I wanted to bring that to life in a way you haven’t seen before. So instead of it being a historical epic I wanted to turn it into a fantasy and bring a new world to life. I think that’s what we’ve doing really well and we’ve put together a great cast, so I’m very excited about it.
Can you talk about the cast? Who was the first piece in the jigsaw? Carl Rinsch – Well the first piece in the jigsaw was, Mr Reeves so we sat down and started hatching it out and just figuring things out. For his character, how does a westerner fit into this world? That’s really what we spent the most time working on in the very beginning. Then when we got through that we brought on everybody else.
Keanu, how that came around for you? What do you like about the project, and what do you like about the character? Keanu Reeves – I think of it as a story of revenge but also impossible love. Each character has a struggle; the struggle for love, the struggle for revenge, the struggle for honour, the struggle for the desire. Even though this is a kind of mythical world, I think people will be able to relate to it in terms of the struggles the characters face. I think there’s something in this story that has a historical past and tradition but some of the themes can also exist in the present day.
And what was it that attracted you about the story? Carl Rinsch – I’m attracted to this story because it has obviously the original Chushingura – it is a story of loyalty and honour and revenge really. I think these are things that we can bring over to the West. From the very beginning somebody came to me and said well how as a Westerner are you going to be able to do the film? You’re not Japanese, you don’t have PhD in Japanese or East Asian Studies, so how in the world do you do something like this? I said that’s important obviously but the thing that I can understand is, I can understand love, I can understand hate, I can understand revenge and these are ideas and these are emotions that translate not just in Japan but all over the world so these are universal ideas. I guess what I’m trying to say is that what drew me to Chushingura were these universal themes and these larger than life characters that I could relate to on an emotional level. I was drawn to the culture of Japan and I was drawn to and the tradition of telling Chushingura in your own way. The tradition of Chushingura is about making the story your own and that really excited me. How can we make this our own and bring a western point of view to it?
Keanu, once you received the offer to star in this film, what did you feel about it? Keanu Reeves – Really happy. I mean it’s a special situation in the sense of the story, the script, and how it’s going to be told. It’s the ambition of the film in scope and scale, in physical production but also in storytelling – for me is very exciting. And of course, it’s 3D…
Keanu, can you remember what your earliest encounter with Japanese culture was? Keanu Reeves – My earliest memory of Japanese culture. Let’s see. Earliest memory, Japanese culture. Yeah I, I think, Haiku. I grew up in Toronto and there’s Japanese culture there. Also probably through films too as a young person, you know like when you’re seven or eight and you’re watching television and some Japanese films like Godzilla. I first went to Japan in the early 90s for some promotion and that was fantastic, That was another world to me. The food, the people, the manner, it was something that I hadn’t experienced before coming from the socialist Toronto. It was fascinating.
This is a 3D release. Why did you decide to use this format and what was the biggest challenge for the production? Carl Rinsch – From the very beginning Universal Pictures were discussing shooting this in 3D. We wanted to give the viewer an event so it’s not just a traditional movie that you’re going to; this is something akin to a Broadway show. It’s huge, so we started playing around with different 3D and we looked at things like conversion and we had seen where it had worked in the past and where it had failed in the past – we wanted it to be cutting edge. It’s more difficult on the production, it’s a bit of a challenge – you know the cameras are as big as a Volkswagen – but it’s going to be great and it really gives you the highest quality for stereoscopic viewing. I think it ended up being a tremendous success.